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Tips for shooting landscapes when you're not into wide focal lengths?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by kadamnation, Aug 18, 2014.

  1. kadamnation

    kadamnation Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2013
    Boston, MA
    I have the pleasure to head to Iceland soon for a trip with some friends, but after discussing the trip with some coworkers who have been there, I appear to have an unexpected challenge: I almost exclusively shoot standard or wide tele focal lengths, and all they're talking about are the sweeping, wide-angle vistas!

    I'll be bringing a PL25, sigma 60, and 14-42ii (my "wide" option, at the 14mm end), plus the BCL fisheye. The kit's set, we think; however, I was hoping that my forum-mates might have some tips on creative landscape photography, or advice/resources on how to frame with such a wider field of view if I do need to go out to 28mm to "get it all in".

    Any help at all would be appreciated!
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    You have the perfect lenses for Iceland. Ultra-wide angle lenses aren't always ideal for landscapes; they can certainly capture wide vistas, but often everything just blends into a single melange of scenery. Good landscape photos isolate a specific feature that warrants attention, yet far too many people feel that you need an ultra-wide lens, when a short telephoto would do a better job. Also, longer focal length lenses are better for creating panoramic shots, even if it only involves three photos (don't forget, panoramas can be vertical as well as horizontal).

    Go with what you have, look at each scene for what catches your eye, be it a waterfall, rock feature, chasm etc, and take the photos with that as your prime target. Everything else is just a framework to highlight that feature. Sometimes you want to get rid of all the distractions surrounding that feature, other times you want to use them as reference point, but not as the main subject. Some of the best landscape photos I've seen have been taken with short telephoto lenses.
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  3. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    Enjoy yourself, first and foremost. You'll be fine !

    If you're interested in going wide consider a good photo-stitcher app if you want to go panoramic in post-production when you return.

    If you're interested in the northern lights or night-sky shots consider a lightweight tripod or support.

    Not specifically land-scape related, but forum-members have got a bunch of Iceland threads which might help give you some ideas -




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  4. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    The problem with wide landscapes is usually that there's nothing in the foreground to give the sense of depth you need. Try to have something in the foreground, flowers, sheep, a house, a wall. And remember the tip with stitching: three shots with the 25mm, held vertically, overlapping by about a third, will give a good panorama. Most landscapes don't move :) , but wind can create problems (leaves and branches waving, sea waves). Enjoy yourself!
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  5. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Although I enjoy shooting wide I have never been one to fall into the "wide lens for landscape only" mindset. Depending on the subject even a tele lens can be used for landscape. Keep in mind that with a long lens you will get some compression. This can be both frustrating trying to get the true depth of the scene but can also come in handy making things looks closer together than they really are.

    You could also concentrate on the little details instead of the big picture{or the wide picture as it may be}. Just because the landscapes are awesome there does not mean you have to do like every other photographer. You could also try the stitching method as already suggested.
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  6. I'm pretty guilty of going for the 12mm or even the 7.5mm FE, but sweeping vistas can actually look kind of boring without an interesting focal point or some frame of reference for scale. In the grand scheme of things I actually find that a lot of my better landscapes in m4/3 have been shot with the PL25, O45, O40-150, and even the O12-50 on the normal/telephoto end. I've also done some stitch panoramas using the O12-50 at 12mm, but in the vertical orientation, having a lens that 'only' goes to 14mm would be fine for such a purpose.
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  7. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    Many people keep searching for a magic trick that solves all problems. Sadly there is no such thing. No camera, no lens, no special setting that instantly makes every pic great. Notions like wide angle for landscape are one of the products of that desperate hope...

    A wide can be useful in landscapes; it emphasizes the big close foreground, and still shows the wide beyond. It creates distance, makes a landscape bigger. And it can get it all in one view when the step back is not an option.
    But a tele can isolate subjects, and it brings back- and foreground together. It allows clear lines and composition, and with a tele it is often easier to make sense of a chaotic environment. And of course it can be the only option when getting closer is not possible...

    In my experience, with bigger landscapes, I tend to need tele's more than in our rather small scale Limburg (hilly part of the Netherlands). Here, a view is often a couple of 100 yards, seldom a mile. When I go to Noway, thay valley on other side of the fjord is 20 miles away. That is no wide angle territory...

    And when push comes to shove, don't forget the pano-option...
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  8. PMCC

    PMCC Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 18, 2013
    IMO landscapes with a wide FOV vs. normal / tele are just different. The former is about highlighting how 'grand' the scene is. The later is about picking the most visually pleasing part of the scene.
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  9. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Get rid of "Vista eye", which is the normal mode we use when presented with great beauty stretching all the way across our field of view. Instead, force yourself to do what you've BEEN doing, and use the "narrow eye" that is more often found with medium to short tele focal length. Look for the things that a guy with 'vista eye' is gonna miss.

    I know this is one of those responses that make people go, "DUH!". But the natural inclination is to use the vista eye in these situations regardless of the gear we've got with us. Before you shoot, ask yourself, what is the one thing that if it were missing, would ruin the photo, then try to see if you can shoot only IT.
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  10. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    ultra wide angles are great. But if you haven't had practice with them they are a bit tricky to deal with as what you see will be totally different then what is captured. It's mentioned in here that that tele isolates, well kind of but UWA's do to in a very different way. The UWA lens 12mm and below, will absolutely isolate what's in your foreground because what is closest to the lens appears larger in comparison to what's in the background and becomes an anchor of a great shot, or a bland space of negative space that makes the picture junk. The shorter the focal length the more that effect is emphasized. If you want that grand vista shot of mount whatever, or something aways off use the largest FL you can get to frame the composition so you don't "shrink" the mountain in comparison to the foreground. If you have a great anchoring element, or your subject is right in front of and the view is sweeping, or you can layer in some elements in to the background, that's the time for the uwa.
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  11. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    First of all you've gotten excellent responses from everyone already.

    People love to stand at wide open vistas, but in general they don't like photos of wide open vistas. Someone earlier in the thread coined "vista-eye" - what a great term. That is a dread disease for a budding landscape photographer. Ultra wide angle is about the foreground and not the vista. Nothing ruins a vista faster than an UWA lens.

    25 would be a great working prime for a number of landscape shots and as others said great for stitching panos too.

    The 60 is I understand a wickedly sharp lens. Will be great for picking out interesting compositions when your at a vista and others are ruining there photos trying to vacuum it all up!

    And of course the 14-42 is just a good workhorse zoom.

    The BCL fisheye is a good way to explore UWA. Something like that forces you to understand the focus is the foreground.

    Again - be careful. Good photography is usually about keeping things out of your composition rather than packing more in.
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  12. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    Some really good tips. One of the things I've picked up from this forum (and other places online) is that, with a wide, you can cram more 'stuff' in, or you can get really close to something and make an intimate environmental portrait (as others have suggested - a point of interest).

    For example, a leaf in an enormous forest, some moss in a tundra, a pebble on a wide beach etc.
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  13. kadamnation

    kadamnation Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2013
    Boston, MA
    Thank you for the awesome tips and suggestions, everyone! It's definitely encouraging to get such support for playing to the FL's I'm most comfortable with... It's an intuitive instinct, but (as with many of us on this forum!) I definitely went through a "should I get a 12mm? Or maybe the 12-35mm?" phase before I decided to just go with the kit I have, and focus on how to use it better. With that locked in, your tips for looking for the most indispensable part of a scene, leveraging tele length to compress a vast space, and generally trusting myself are very much appreciated.
  14. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    Ultra Wide Angle shots do work, but they do require Ultra Wide Canvas for it.

    So unless you plan to print a canvas/photo what is like 200x75cm, then it is very hard to get looking good.

    I probably would not go wider than 17mm, even that I love working with 12mm or 7.5mm fisheye and I plan to get Olympus 7-14mm on day when it gets released, but they requires work way more.

    I bought cheaply a 17mm f/2.8 lens (89€) just to replace my other beloved 15mm f/8 Body Cap Lens what I loved to use for B/W relaxing photography combined with 128MB memory card.

    And I have found myself using that lens often for landscape instead awesome 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro. There is something in the size, as even when set the Pro for 17mm, its longer length makes composition different.
    What got me to idea, why not buy a 17mm f/1.8? But then again 25mm f/1.8 would be for me more versatile, the 46° angle of view is awesome. It allows to pick details from landscape and then get wide enough.

    But I love 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye as it allows me to really bring something small as big in foreground. Twist the perspective with curved edges.

    I can see many focal lengths to work, but at least to me it has been harder to get a nice trip shots with wide than normal. As most photos gets to computer/TV screen and then printed to normal photos and few very large prints.

    And when I do photo presentation, half of it is the story, the leading to end etc. And that can't be done revealing everything at once to viewer, trying to seek the interesting point or searching something else too.

    I am more again suggesting to casual photographers to stick in 17mm and 25mm as their offered angle of view supports almost everything. Throw there a 60mm f/2.8 Olympus Macro and set is there.

    The reason why I love primes is that they force to think the view. Move around and get around limitations, just I don't take more than two lenses with me to keep choices narrow. Like 17mm and 60mm.
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  15. kadamnation

    kadamnation Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2013
    Boston, MA
    We leave Reykjavik for the Golden Circle today, so as thanks for all the useful advice I thought I'd share a few of my photos from out time in the city! I really appreciate all the responses; the kit zoom really is a great walk-around lens; I'm glad I brought the sigma 60 for distant subjects, but I'm even more glad I left the longer zooms at home; and the good old standard prime has been ace for Reykjavik street scenery. There's a lot you can do with a smaller kit!

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