Landscape Photography with a Telephoto Lens

08 Nov 2015, Posted by Elliot Hook in Blog, landscapes
Landscapes telephoto lens

I’ve written about landscape photography with telephoto lenses before, but since making the jump to full frame earlier this year, it is something I’ve found myself doing even more.  As such, I’ve realised a few interesting points that I thought worth sharing, as well as some images from the last few months.

I’m sure I’ve seen it written that landscape photography is as much knowing what to leave out of the frame as what to include, and a telephoto lens is an excellent means towards that goal of simplification.  The field of view in the 70-200mm range is such that you can capture the point of interest that first drew you to a scene, without needing to include unnecessary distractions that can come with using wider focal lengths.

Also, I think some recent changes to my equipment forced me to more carefully consider my lens selection – for most of the year, I’ve had the option of either a 16-35mm or 70-200mm.  16-35mm, on full frame, is incredibly wide meaning that I’m finding it’s application much more limited that those kinds of focal lengths on a cropped sensor.  As such, I’ve been defaulting to using my 70-200mm as my go to lens and have really been enjoying the resulting images.

A few of my favourites from the last few months are below, but chosen to help illustrate something I’ve learnt along the way…

Shoot with a narrow depth of field

These were taken earlier in the year during the spring at one of my favourite woodlands.  Even though I’ve visited this spot many times, it still amazes me when the bluebells are in full bloom.


Both of these images, taken from virtually the same spot within minutes of another, were shot at f/2.8.  Rather than worrying about trying to get the whole image sharp at longer focal lengths, embracing a narrow depth of field helped elevate each image above the rest of the bluebell woodland images I shot that morning.

I love the softness of the bluebells in the foreground/background of the left hand image.  Similarly, the contrast between the crisp leaves in the centre of the frame, of the right hand image, versus the softer background add to the contrast between the areas of light and shadow throughout the frame.  Neither composition worked as well when trying to achieve front-to-back sharpness.

Corner Softness

A fantastic morning spent photographing around Lake Vyrnwy led me to shoot a lot of reflections of the trees on the side of the lake as they caught the morning sun.  The Nikon D800 is amazing for images like these as the detail captured throughout the scene is just incredible.

Lake Vyrnwy at Sunrise

What scenes like this do is highlight the weaknesses of any lenses you may be shooting with, especially in the corners.  When compare the centre of the frame with the corners, at 100%, corner softness becomes pretty obvious in scenes of high detail.  It’s not necessarily a problem depending on what you are going to do with the image (i.e. web res upload versus a large print) but it’s good to understand the limitations of your kit in order to workaround at point of capture, rather than being disappointed when you get back home.

The softness soon disappears as you move in from the corner of the frame, but it is still enough to irritate me if I want to crop in to an image, including one of the corners.  Now I know that it will be there, it is easily rectified by a small recomposition before taking the image, or taking a couple of images and then stitching them together to remove the reliance on the corner of a single frame.

Capturing the details

Telephoto lenses are perfect for capturing details within a scene, rather than the entire scene itself.  These four images are examples of just capturing small details within a scene.

Tracks - Landscape Details Frosted - Landscape Detail Skomer Seascape - Landscape Details Holme Fen - Landscape Details

That’s probably enough for now, but I hope they are some useful thoughts around shooting landscapes with telephoto lenses.  As always, there are more images on my Flickr page, and I’m sure more of my future uploads will be as a result of shooting with my trusty 70-200mm!

  • Bob
    September 16, 2016

    I have just spent a while looking at your images. A well spent hour if I may so.

    Quite inspiring to see some of your locations. I live in Herts and thinking all my decent photos are of somewhere a long way off and you have to travel many miles from Herts to find a good location.

    Finally I am, shall I shan’t I over a 20 – 200 2.8 lens, quite an expense for me and you have tipped me over the edge. Oh well no food is good for the figure. Thanks for some brilliant subjects and stunning images.


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