Minimalist Landscapes Using a Telephoto Lens

People jump to grab their wide-angle lenses when going out for a landscape photography trip. It makes sense—after all, photographing landscapes is about capturing wide vistas and the best bits of nature in a frame. But this doesn’t mean you cannot do landscape photography with a telephoto lens. Like photographer Michael Shainblum discusses in this video, you can take some fantastic minimalist and abstract landscape shots with a telephoto lens.

Shainblum takes us through his exciting photography walk in the sand dunes of Death Valley National Park using a telephoto lens. And as you can see in the video, the images that he takes are minimal yet insanely gorgeous. Had he worked with a wider focal length, it would’ve been pretty difficult for him to work in those situations.

A byproduct of wide-angle lenses is making objects in the distant less emphasized. They appear tiny—unless the subject in the distance is grand, you cannot highlight their key features. Wide-angle lenses also capture a lot of elements in the foreground due to their wider field of view. While this seems like a good idea, in practice, adding these elements can be distracting in the final product. Using a telephoto lens helps you to isolate the scene that would otherwise have gotten lost when using a wide-angle lens. You can thus isolate distant patterns and shapes, as Shainblum does with the distant dunes.

Background compression is another interesting feature of telephoto lenses. It gives a unique look to the image. Longer lenses pull the distant elements closer to the foreground and flattens the image, giving it a two-dimensional look. Depending on the scene you are photographing and your composition, this flat look can appear quite interesting.

You need to be wary about your depth of field when using a telephoto lens for landscape photography, however. As telephoto lenses have a shallower depth of field, you may need to focus stack for sharp results. Be sure to check your images for sharpness.

Have you ever taken landscape photos using a telephoto lens?

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