Telephoto lenses may not be the most popular landscape photography lens, but – when used correctly – they can produce consistently excellent results.
I do telephoto landscape photography all the time, and in this article, I share my top five reasons to use this long lens for shooting landscapes.
So if you’re ready to start capturing unique images, original landscape photos, so let’s dive in!
1. A telephoto lens helps eliminate clutter
Almost every landscape in the world requires decluttering.
After all, most landscapes feature power lines, street signs, patches of dirt, dumpsters and more – all of which distract the viewer from the main subject (i.e. the landscape itself). -same !).
Now, faced with a landscape full of distractions, you can try to adjust your position and angle by lowering yourself, moving closer, moving to the right or left, etc.
But in some situations, you won’t be able to move enough, change angles enough, or get close enough. You can stand on a lookout, work across a river, or shoot from the edge of prohibited property.
And when that happens, a telephoto lens will be madly useful. With a 70-200mm lens, for example, you can select the precise area of the landscape where all the essential elements come together. Then you can zoom in until everything else is eliminated.
That’s how I was able to capture this next photo, which features a castle surrounded by mountains and roughly nothing other:
2. A telephoto lens will effectively highlight the main subject
The best landscape images tend to feature a single main subject, such as a mountain, tree, waterfall, or building.
Now, if you’re doing wide-angle landscape photography, you’ll need to adjust your composition so that the whole scene emphasizes that main subject (using leading lines, picture-in-picture techniques, etc.). And while such an approach can work, it’s hard to pull off.
On the other hand, a telephoto lens will allow you to focus on the main subject so the viewer knows exactly what is the shot about.
Of course, you can’t just rely on the increased reach of a telephoto lens to achieve great landscape composition. The scope will help, yes, but you’ll have to be careful with your composition arrangement.
I recommend considering various composition methods, such as the rule of thirds, layering, and strong foreground elements; these will complete your telephoto approach to the landscape.
I also encourage you to experiment with different viewpoints. Standing up, for example, can create unique graphic landscape shots – and lowering down, you can shoot through flowers or grass for a beautiful foreground wash (especially if you’re using a large opening!).
Here I used a large aperture to blur the flowers and grasses in the foreground:
See how the beautiful flowers have created a stunning yellow wash that helps frame the main subject (the church)?
3. A telephoto lens will help you reach new subjects
The longer your focal length, the more subjects you can find.
So while a wide-angle lens will generally limit you to wide, panoramic shots of the landscape, a telephoto lens will allow you to get closer to individual elements of the landscape, such as trees, clouds, and even wildlife.
For example, imagine zooming in to photograph beautiful birds in their surroundings at 300mm. All of a sudden, you’re not just doing landscape photography anymore; you combine colorful and eye-catching birds with beautiful scenic background. That’s the power of a telephoto lens!
Keep in mind, however, that the further you zoom in, the harder it becomes to take sharp photos. At 200mm, 300mm and 400, even the slightest camera shake will be amplified – so if possible, use a lens or camera (or both!) with built-in image stabilization. And bring a tripod whenever an option!
4. A telephoto lens offers a new perspective
If you look at the cover of most photo magazines, you’ll see a lot of ultra-wide landscape shots, but you won’t see a lot of telephoto images.
And yes, wide-angle landscape photos are breathtaking, especially when done well.
But sometimes it’s good to go against the grain. Sometimes it’s good to be original, to find a new perspective.
And that’s what telephoto landscape photography can deliver. With a telephoto lens, you’ll get a different, more distant perspective that (usually) has a lot of compression and nice background blur. It may not be conventional, but it looks awesome!
Also, in my opinion, scenes often come to life when shot at 100mm and beyond!
5. A telephoto lens will help you find patterns
As I mentioned in the previous tip, telephoto focal lengths go hand in hand with a compression effect, where objects come closer together throughout the frame.
In most shots, a compression effect will not be evident.
But if you’re shooting a scene full of patterns, the compression effect will bring the lines and shapes together to create a stunning result:
My recommendation? When working with a telephoto lens, carefully scan the landscape through the camera’s viewfinder.
Thanks to the compression effect, the patterns should stand out. As soon as you find one, photograph it! You can also incorporate these patterns into larger compositions; zoom out slightly until you get an effect you like.
By the way, the models do not always reveal themselves immediately. Take your time, compose carefully, and if you can’t find interesting patterns at first, don’t get frustrated. Just keep an eye out, and very soon you’ll have a design (or three!) to photograph.
Telephoto Landscape Photography: Final Words
Well, now you have it:
Five reasons why you should shoot landscapes with a telephoto lens!
So grab your telephoto lens, get out there and start practicing. You are guaranteed to capture amazing images!
Now your turn :
What subjects do you plan to photograph with your telephoto lens? What lens are you going to use? Share your thoughts (and photos!) in the comments below.