Using Telephoto Zoom Lenses for Better Landscape Photography

Telephoto Zooms can completely change the way you look at landscapes and they can create much more intimate images.

When we think of landscape photography and the gear we need to use, we almost always feel that we need to use wide-angle lenses so that we can capture sweeping hills, huge mountain ranges, and stunning vistas. But sometimes there can be so much going on in an image that it can be hard to take in. What if I told you that you can break away from the norms and that you can create much more intimate landscape images by using telephoto zooms? Sounds crazy, right? Trust me; it’s not. Join us after the break and see why you should bring along that 70-200mm (or longer) lens of yours when you go out on your next landscape photography trip.

landscape photography
Captured with the Rokinon 12mm f2 with and the Fujifilm X-T3

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a massive fan of using wide-angle lenses to capture landscape images; in fact, it is something I have been doing for many years. My favorite lens for landscape photography over the years have been trusty Rokinon primes like the 12mm f2 (Fujifilm X mount), or the 14mm f2.8 (Canon EF). However, there is something to be said for telephoto zooms and just what they can do when it comes to this genre of photography. When we are out and about and we want to capture and share the stunning scenes we are witnessing first-hand, our thought is to capture the splendor of the whole scene, but when we do this, we can miss out on small, intimate moments of beauty that can get lost in an image that has it all.

Captured with the Fujifilm X-T3 and the Fujifilm 55-200mm

Why You Should use Telephoto Zooms for Landscape Photography

Captured with the Sony A9 II and the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM

I was recently sent a Sony A9 II, along with the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master and the new Sony 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS from the fine folks over at Lens Rentals, and while I was out with my family on a hike, my wife asked me why I was shooting landscapes with such a long lens, and well, here we are. Now, you can, of course, use any camera and any telephoto zooms that you choose. If you don’t own any telephoto zooms, you can, of course, rent one to see if you like it before dropping some serious cash. There are images in this article that were taken with other cameras and lens combo’s too, and they will be noted.

Sometimes, when we are on our adventures, we can come across singular items of beauty that either simply wouldn’t come across in an image with a wide field of view, or are just too far away to capture with a wide lens, and this is where telephoto zooms can come in to play.

Here’s an Example!!

Take a look at the image above, which was captured with a wide-angle lens. It’s a great picture that tells the story of fall, but there is so much going on; some individual elements of the image get lost quite easily. There was one tree that caught my eye though, because it looked so majestic but knew that unless I could isolate it, it simply wouldn’t pop.

By moving my position over to the right, attaching the Fujifilm 55-200mm to the X-T3 that I owned then, and focusing just on that one tree, I would be able to capture it in all of its glory. It, by itself, tells the beautiful story of fall without all of the distractions of the wider image, and it is a much more intimate picture. Another characteristic of telephoto zooms that you can see is compression.

telephoto zooms
Captured with the Fujifilm X-T3 and the Fujifilm 55-200mm

What is compression? Compression is an effect of the distance between your camera and your subject. Essentially, the way that compression works is that the further you are from your subject, the smaller the gap appears to be between it and objects in the background when telephoto zooms are used. Look at the wide scene above, and you can see the trees that stretch across the river are quite far behind the first tree.

In the image with the tree as the main subject, the tree line that’s farther away appears to be closer. Compression can make distant objects appear to be much closer to you, and it can alter the feel and perspective of the whole image. The more you embrace this effect, the better as you will be able to create some surreal images.

telephoto zooms
Captured with the Sony A9 II and the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM

The image above is a simple one, but thanks to the lens I was using (the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM that Lens Rentals had loaned me) I was able to pick out this beautiful piece of detail that would simply have been lost in the forest had I used a wider lens. Telephoto zooms allow you to zero in on a key feature or element effortlessly, and thanks to this versatility, I was able to capture the magnificent colors of these leaves as the morning sun illuminated them in an otherwise dead/dormant forest that was resting for winter. Being able to capture details like this makes carrying telephoto zooms very worthwhile.

How to Capture Intimate Landscape Images with Telephoto Zoom Lenses

There really is no secret to be able to capture intimate landscape images. All you need is your camera, a tripod, and of course, some telephoto zooms. As mentioned above, if you don’t own telephoto zooms, and you would like to try this out, simply rent one to see if you like what you can do with them.

Now, when it comes to capturing intimate landscape images, it’s really just as easy as slowing yourself down, stopping, and looking at the details of a scene rather than taking in the grandeur of everything. Look at where the light is falling, look to see if rays of light are hitting an object, see how the shadows are falling, or look to see if there is something of interest in the distance that you could bring forward by using the effect of compression.

The image above, is again, another simple one, but I just love the way the last light of the day is hitting the grassy bank of this lake. This detail would have been lost if I had shot an image of the lake with a wide-angle lens.

telephoto zooms
Captured with the Sony A9 II and the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 GM

The biggest tip I can give to any photographer who has wondered about using telephoto lenses for landscape photography is just to do it. Forget about what lenses ‘should’ be used for a given genre, and go out there and shoot whatever you want, with whatever lens you want. Sure an 85mm lens is designed with portraits in mind, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for street photography. The same goes for telephoto zooms lenses too. The great thing about photography is that it gives you the freedom to create whatever you want, with whatever gear you want.

Telephoto zooms will force you to see the world in a new way. They will open up your eyes to details in landscapes that often go unmissed; details so incredible that they are good enough to be an image on their own. They will also allow you to get up close with objects or buildings that are otherwise unreachable, so the next time you head out and are planning to shoot some landscapes, grab a telephoto zoom and take it along with you. If you don’t own one and want to give it a try, head on over to Lens Rentals and pick one up for a few days. You’ll be glad you did.