For Landscapes: wide angle or telephoto lens? How about both!!

An easy assumption to make, when shooting landscapes, is to use a wide-angle lens. After all, most landscape photographers favor wide-angle lenses for a reason: They naturally give you the widest view and allow you to get the full landscape into the frame, from the foreground to the horizon.

Wide-angle lenses also have the widest depth of field, so you get the whole landscape in focus. And their distortion enlarges objects in the foreground, letting you show off close-up details. The same distortion also emphasizes leading lines, enhancing your compositions and giving your image a more dynamic feel. But when you default to wide-angle glass, you miss many hidden opportunities offered by telephoto lenses.

Field of view: The whole and its parts

This is the most basic difference between the two lens types:

Wide lenses give you a wide view; telephoto lenses give you a narrow view.

And while landscapes look great in their entirety, it’s a good habit to take a moment and look for details. These details are beautiful elements of the landscape that might get shrunken or ignored in the expanse of a wide-angle image. This is where your telephoto lens comes in. Its narrow field of view is perfect for trimming the extra elements and for focusing on small, beautiful scenes like the curve of a mountain, a reflection in a far-off pond, or the silhouette of a tree.


In the two images above, you can see this in action. They were both taken from Olmstead point in Yosemite National Park, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a telephoto.

In the first image, the wide-angle lens shows off the total landscape. It includes both sides of the valley, the up-close textures of the rocks, and the far-off peak of Half Dome. In the second image, the telephoto lens brings the eye right up to the mountains, showing off their shapes and the details of the geology.

Another pair of images (below) shows this effect even more dramatically. The first image is not just a wide-angle image, but an aerial shot as well, taken from a small airplane over the Okavango Delta in Botswana. From this vantage point, all of the individual elements of the landscape become incredibly small and your eyes pay more attention to their arrangement than their individual shapes. In the second image, also from the Okavango area but this time on the ground, a telephoto lens is used to draw attention to the beautiful curves of a single Acacia tree.


Depth of field: Focusing the eye

The second major difference between wide-angle and telephoto lenses is the innate size of their depth of field.

Put succinctly, the higher the focal length, the narrower the area of focus. In practice, this means that when shooting wide, it’s much easier for you to get everything in focus, from the grass at your feet to the ridge on the horizon. This is especially true when you’re trying to use your lens’s sharpest apertures (the so-called sweet spot).

However, a narrower depth of field is much better for isolating your subject from the background, and this is where your telephoto lens comes into play. Try shooting a close-up detail at a wide aperture, using the landscape as a nice, creamy bokeh backdrop.


The two images above are perfect examples of this effect. In the first image, the wide-angle lens brings the whole landscape into focus, from the close-up sunflowers to the far-off mountains.

In the second image, shooting with a telephoto blurs out the flowers and mountains in the background, turning them into a nice soft background for the main sunflower.

Depth compression: Playing with size

It’s no secret that wide-angle lenses expand the sense of depth in an image by enlarging elements in the foreground and shrinking those in the back. This is great for creating images that make you feel like you could step right into the frame.

On the flip side, you run the risk of making towering, awesome mountains in the distance look like puny hills. Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, compress depth, causing objects near and far to appear more similar in size. A compressed sense of depth is great for abstracting a scene and bringing out its graphical qualities. Colorful forest canopies, layered mountain ridges, and curving sand dunes are all great subjects for this kind of shooting.


In the left image above, notice how the wide-angle lens exaggerates the size of the flowers in the foreground at the expense of the mountains in the background. The mountains are so tall that they’re shrouded in clouds, but the lens keeps them from looking quite as grand.

Pull out a telephoto lens, and you can zoom straight in on the mountain, showing off the contrast between the rugged outline of the peak and the soft wispy form of the cloud (right).


Here are two more images, both taken at the same location in Big Bend National Park, that show off this effect. In the first image, you can see that the wide-angle lens increases the size of the plants and rocks in the foreground while shrinking the large desert mountains in the background. In the second image, a telephoto lens flattens out the depth of the many desert ridges, calling attention to their graphic patterns and outlines.

Summary: Space versus object

Have a hard time remembering all these details? Here’s an easy way to summarize it with a simple idea:

Wide-angle lenses show off space, telephotos show off objects.

The wide-angle lens’s big field of view, ease of uniform focus, and depth-distorting abilities are great at showing off big, expansive landscapes. However, they take focus away from individual elements within the landscape in favor of showing the whole. Telephoto lenses are naturally the opposite: they’re great at showing off the size, shape, and intricacy, of detail of individual elements within the landscape. But their narrow field of view, small depth of field, and depth-compressing qualities make it hard to capture the landscape as a whole.


You can analyze this pair of images to see exactly how all of these techniques work together. Starting with the photo above, you can see how the wide-angle lens fits the whole landscape into the frame, from close-up rocks to far off peaks and sky. Because of the lens’s large depth of field, the whole landscape is in acceptable focus as well. The lens’s depth distortion is readily apparent, as well: the foreground rocks look very large, creating a pleasing sense of depth, and emphasizing the leading lines that draw the eye from the edges of the frame to the center. Overall, you get a very good sense of the space and the expansiveness of the valley.


This image was taken in the same place, but the use of a telephoto lens captures it in a very different way. The photo brings out a single element of the landscape; look closely and you can see this peak in the previous image on the top right. It allows the viewer to appreciate its subtle details.

Because of the telephoto lens’s narrow depth of field, the sky is slightly out-of-focus while leaving the details of the peak itself perfectly sharp. And most of all, the compressed sense of depth flattens the image, showing off the rocky mass of the mountain, and calling attention to the beautiful curve of the ridgeline. Overall, you get a great sense of the mountain as a solid object, rather than a bounded space.

When to shoot what?

The best way to know which lens to use is to get out there, look, and think. What part of the landscape are you most drawn to? Does the landscape’s expansiveness give it its character? Are there stunning details surrounded by less photogenic elements? Are you shooting spaces or objects?


That said, my personal strategy is to just shoot both, because almost any landscape has enough beauty that just one type of lens isn’t enough to get to all of it.

The post Wide Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Beautiful Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Will Crites-Krumm.

How, Why, and When to Use Polarizing Filters

I am a person who likes to create and make the photos look good during the actual time I press the shutter release button on my camera. So many people take a photo and then go to Adobe workshop and “fix” their problems. Granted, I love Lightroom. Lightroom in post production let’s you do things like take the haze out of the sky so that you can have a photo without the ugly dirty air causing my photo to look so blah. And that is almost all I use, and found that to be most worth what I pay for that service. But, if you can make it work the first time, why do any post production work? And the most valuable tool you can own is the polarizing filter. If a good landscape artist is not using this, I question his skill level, it’s that important.

Here is a great article from Digital Photography School explaining the polarizing filter. Hope this helps you.

Polarizing filters are one of the most useful accessories a photographer can own. They are small, inexpensive, and make a significant impact on your photos.

Post-processing allows you to make many alterations to the photos you take. But no post-processing software can mimic the effect of polarizing filters. Using a polarizer cuts down on reflections, haze, and scattered light. They also boost color saturation and contrast.

Many imaging programs have tools to control color saturation and contrast easily and effectively. Some have dehazing tools. But none (so far) have the ability to remove glare and reflections the same as polarizing filters can.

polarizing filters over a blue sky
© Kevin Landwer-Johan Nikon D800 | 55mm | 1/400 sec | f/16 | ISO 400 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering

What is a polarizing filter?

The most common polarizing filters are circular and consist of two glass pieces sandwiched together. They go on the front of your lens, so you need the correct size to fit your lens diameter (or an adaptor).

Once the filter is on the lens, you can rotate the outer layer of the filter. As you turn the filter, the effect it has on light entering your lens changes. At different angles of rotation, the amount of light that’s filtered out will vary. This depends on where the sun is and which direction you’re pointing your camera.

The most noticeable effect of a polarizing filter is when it’s rotated at a ninety-degree angle to the sun.

Here, you can see the effect the polarizing filter has on the reflection of the wood surface it is resting on. The glare coming off the wood is almost totally removed by the filter.

circular polarizing filter
Kevin Landwer-Johan Nikon D800 | 55mm | 1/125 sec | f/3.5 | ISO 800 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering

Why polarizing filters are useful

At times, reflections can enhance a photograph or even be the main subject. But they can also be unwanted and distracting.

When you are photographing:

  • glass
  • chrome
  • water
  • or other reflective surfaces

it can be challenging to create a clear representation in your photos. Reflections from these types of surfaces can invade your composition. They are not always possible to avoid without using a polarizing filter. Even with a polarizing filter, you may not be able to completely eliminate reflections from a surface.

Skies and clouds photographed with a polarizing filter can take on a whole different look. Compare the two images below. For the first one I used a polarizer, and for the second one I did not.

Neither image was post-processed. You can see the difference in the detail of the clouds and in the saturation of the blue sky.

Blue sky with clouds using polarizing filter
With a polarizing filter. © Kevin Landwer-Joahn Nikon D800 | 55mm | 1/200 sec | f/11 | ISO 200 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering
blue sky with clouds
Without a polarizing filter.© Kevin Landwer-Johan. Nikon D800 | 55mm | 1/640 sec | f/11 | ISO 200 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering

When photographing at the beach or beside a lake, a polarizing filter is especially useful. Being able to control the strength of reflection in the water makes a significant difference in your photos. The added saturation boost also makes water and skies look more appealing.

How to use circular polarizing filters

Polarizing filters work by stopping some light waves from entering your lens. Light waves reflect off uneven surfaces in different directions. A polarizing filter only allows light to enter the lens that’s coming from certain directions.

As light waves vibrate and bounce off different surfaces, the direction and rate of the vibration is altered. This is why colors are also affected by polarizing filters.

When light reflects off a flat surface, using a polarizer will have a more uniform effect on it. This is because the waves are primarily moving in a similar direction. So the reflection of a window will be influenced differently by a polarizer than that of a surface that’s not flat.

sky and mountains reflected in a window
Kevin Landwer-Johan. Nikon D800 | 35mm | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 200 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering

When the reflected light reaches the filter, some of the waves will be blocked from entering the lens by the coating on the filter. This dichroic coating has chains of molecules lined up in one direction. Waves of light parallel to these chains are blocked by the filter.

As you rotate the outer ring of a polarizer, you can see how the effect of the filter changes. This is because you are altering the direction of the lines of the filter coating in relation to the light waves.

Putting it into practice

Using a polarizing filter is best done by turning the filter and observing what’s happening. Either by looking through your viewfinder or at your rear LCD screen, you will see the image changing as you turn the filter.

There are techniques you can read about that rely on scientific breakdowns of how these filters work. They will tell you in which direction you’ll see the most effect. But, in reality, every scene you photograph is different. It is impossible to predict correctly how the light gets blocked by the filter.

If you use a polarizer often, you’ll get more used to how it works and how you can use it to manage reflections in your photos. At times, you’ll be able to virtually eliminate reflections; in other situations, the filter will make little difference.

papaya leaf
Without a polarizing filter. © Kevin Landwer-Johan. Nikon D800 | 35mm | 1/200 sec | f/10 | ISO 200 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering
Papaya leaf
With a polarizing filter. © Kevin Landwer-Johan. Nikon D800 | 35mm | 1/200 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 200 | Manual Mode | Pattern Metering


Experimenting with polarizing filters is the best way to make use of them. I usually carry a few in my bag of varying sizes. These fit my 55mm, 35mm, and 105mm lenses, which are the lenses I use the most.

Using a polarizer with a wide-angle lens can create some weird results because of the broad field of view.

If you’re making a series of photos to stitch together as a panorama, take your polarizer off. The edges of your photos may not join seamlessly if you’re using a polarizer.

Remember to attach polarizing filters to your lenses when you want to boost the color of a blue sky or reduce the reflection off a shiny surface. As you’re getting used to using this filter, take some photos of each scene with and without the filter.

That way, you’ll quickly begin to get a feel for the differences it makes.

The post How, Why, and When to Use Polarizing Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Here is some more examples of what a polarizing filter can do:

The photo on the left= no polarizing filter. Photo on the right= polarizing filter.
Polarized filter on the right. Notice the reflections on the water are gone.
Polarizing filter used on this photo. Photo by Lanny Cottrell Photography

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Forests of our world!

We live in a world of varying degrees of landscapes. In some countries, it is mostly sand and desert. Other places, it’s mostly grass and shrubs. And then other places around the world are the most important thing for us to survive with on this planet, and that would be our amazing forests. They produce all the oxygen in this world, and without them, we wouldn’t be here. So, I would like to pay tribute to the beautiful forests of the world, whether great or small. Enjoy these photos!

witch standing on a road with a pumpkin in her hands
Photo by Thirdman on
nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on
bright countryside dawn daylight
Photo by Pixabay on
abandoned forest industry nature
Photo by Snapwire on
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nature forest trees fog
Photo by Jaymantri on
nature forest trees park
Photo by veeterzy on
photo of snow covered trees
Photo by Jan Kopřiva on
bright daylight environment forest
Photo by Skitterphoto on
photography of dirt road surrounded by trees
Photo by Mohamed Sarim on
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woman wearing red sleeveless dress standing near fern leaves
Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on
red trees
Photo by Artem Saranin on
trees during day
Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on
photo of a man sitting under the tree
Photo by Samuel Silitonga on
beautiful blur bouquet carefree
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on
silhouette of trees at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on