Photography Tip—6 Techniques To Help You Use a Wide-Angle Lens To Shoot More Powerful Landscapes, Part 1
- Landscape Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography
- Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
- The Digital SLR Expert Landscapes
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide
- The Landscape Photography Workshop
- The Landscape Photography Field Guide
Digital photographers quickly discover that a wide-angle lens is an essential piece of equipment to capture the splendor of landscapes. Typically, these lenses are 24 millimeters or wider for full-frame 35mm. Having the right size lens for landscape photography is, of course, no guarantee that you’ll come home with the kind of spectacular images that you’ll want to share with your friends online, enlarge and frame to display in your home or office or give as gifts. The secret is to know how to use that wide-angle lens effectively to cause your landscapes to jump from the screen or print. This PhotographyTalk.com article presents 6 techniques that will help you achieve better landscapes with a wide-angle lens.
Move Closer to Your Subject.
This is one of those universal digital photography tips that apply to almost every subject, object or scene you’re photographing. Now this doesn’t mean that if your landscape is a mountain range, you should run to the base of the mountains. Your subject may be a smaller landscape: a meadow filled with wildflowers, a short distance of rippling stream or an isolated tree in an open field displaying its brightest fall colors. Wherever you’re standing when you spot what could be a great landscape photo, move significantly closer before taking any pictures.
How close you move toward your landscape subject will depend on what it is and how close you can be, but remember it’s virtually impossible to be too close with a wide-angle lens. Don’t be surprised that you need to move half the distance or more between you and your subject to create a dramatically creative image. Moving closer doesn’t necessarily mean from your original line of sight. Move around the landscape too, if possible, because there may be better pictures closer to the opposite side of a tree, for example.
The Real Interest Is in the Foreground.
The first technique above is important because it naturally leads to the second. Generally, what makes the best landscape photos is a distant background, such as mountains or a forest, and a complementary or contrasting subject/object in the foreground. A wide-angle lens makes this easier to capture. A horizontal photo of just distant mountains, as marvelous as the sun reflecting off the snowy peaks may be, looks like any tourist snapshot. Use a wide-angle lens to frame a digital photo that draws primary attention to an interesting foreground composition with the distant mountains as the background and now you have a quality picture that will receive many more compliments.
For examples, think of a small group of very colorful wildflowers (maybe all the same color) against the dark green and muted background of a pine tree forest. One of the classics is the skull of a steer laying on a sandy desert or bare pasture with a stark, lifeless background stretching into the distance.
Keep Those Lines Vertical.
If you’re new to wide-angle lenses, then shoot some practice shots just so you can recognize how naturally vertical lines become bent and distorted in pictures photographed with a wide-angle lens. Otherwise, you’ll discover that what you think is wonderful landscapes are ruined because you didn’t pay attention to those not-so-vertical vertical lines. Some photographers use this as a creative effect, but those opportunities are very limited.
The easiest technique to keep vertical straight is to frame your landscapes, so there is only one dominant vertical line and not a series of them. A second solution is a tilt-shift lens, although this is an expensive option; a major manufacturer’s model cost approximately $2,000. You can also rent a tilt-shift lens if you will be shooting landscapes in an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime location. The lens elements are able to move in many directions to help correct verticals and all other types of lines and patterns that converge or diverge. A shift-tilt lens will also help you stitch together a series of photos in the camera to create panoramic images with a naturally looking curve. This means less editing on your computer, but many software programs are also very useful tools for correcting verticals.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for the last 3 techniques to help you use a wide-angle lens for more powerful landscape photos.