Camera Lenses: Wide Angle or Telephoto ?
By Geoff Harris •
Which Lens Should I Use?
Back in the days of prime lenses, when a photographer arrived at a location he would need to decide which lens to use for the subject at hand. Nowadays, with the preponderance of zoom lenses, the same decision remains – which end of the zoom to use? Should we zoom close in on our subject with a long focal length, or go to the wide angle end of the lens?
Lots of different factors will affect our decision. The main question is whether or not we want to show our subject within its setting.
If the setting will enhance the image, either because it is beautiful, or because it contains important information to “place” the subject, then we’ll choose a wide angle lens to include all it.
For instance, an old barn in the Yorkshire dales may well be an attractive subject in itself, but a photograph which includes the pattern of fields and drystone walls around it will provide more information, as well as perhaps being more visually satisfying.
I could have zoomed in tightly on this remote church in Iceland, but I chose to give a lot of space around it, partly to emphasise the feeling of remoteness, and partly to make the most of the fabulous sky.
On the other hand, if the subject is in surroundings which are unattractive, or which are unrelated to it, we might want to zoom in closer with a telephoto lens and isolate the subject.
For instance, if we saw a beautiful tree growing near a building site, we may want to zoom in on the tree, and exclude everything else.
At other times we may even want to zoom so close that we crop in to the subject itself. When I came across this tree surrounded by wildflowers, I saw that the left side of the tree had broken branches, and there were large areas of bare earth between the wildflowers.
So I decided to zoom in tightly, cropping into the tree, and only including the “best bits” of the scene in my photograph.
If you’re interested in learning more about composing landscape photographs, you might like to consider my 4 week course on Fine Art Landscape Photography.
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