Photography Tutorials

Best Lenses for Landscape Photography

We look at the best 3 lenses, their focal lengths and how they will help your landscape photography.

Today we are going to talk about the best lenses for landscape photography. There are not many surprises here, we’re talking about the holy trinity but I thought you’d find it useful if we talk about each lens and look at why and when we might use a particular lens and how that’s going to effect our landscape photography.

I am really keen for us all to start thinking about landscape as an art rather than a technical exercise and this is true with our lens choice too. The lens you choose for a particular image will tell the story differently so I think it’s important to understand why we are choosing a particular tool to create that narrative.

Wide Angle Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS

I chose this lens over the more expensive 2.8 because it’s still has great image quality, it’s lighter and it has IS which helps me for video. 

What this lets us do is to open up our field of vision and capture much more in the frame. It particularly lets us tell the story about relationship between the foreground and the background. This can be used creatively where we can get nice and close to our foreground and fill the compositions with it. A great example of this is rocks on a beach or a craggy mountain. When we do this be aware that the background will appear much smaller so a huge background is required. A sky full of colour or interesting clouds is perfect for seascapes or huge dominant mountains are also big enough to fill the background and look great. There are also times when you physically can’t move any further back and the wide angle still lets you get everything in…..caves are an example of this.

An important point to note, and something people often get wrong, it that focal length does not change perspective. A normal rectilinear wide angle lens does not cause perspective distortion. It increases the field of view but perspective is only controlled by the relationship between the camera itself and the subject.

There are two tests you can do to show this. Firstly set up an object and shoot it from a distance with both a wide angle lens and a telephoto. Crop into the wide angle shot so the object is the same size, and apart from a resolution loss, it will look the same. Now shoot the same object but make the object the same size in the frame for both shots. This time the perspective is wildly different and the images look completed different. This distortion in the wide angle shot is caused by the camera to subject distance, not by the wide angle. If it was the lens that caused the distortion then distant mountains would also appear distorted and they don’t.

Tamron 24-70mm

If I could only have one lens it would be definitely this one. This particular one is really decent, probably to the standard of the original Canon lens but the IS makes it great for video. Once Canon release a 2.8 version with IS then I will upgrade.

This focal range is just so useable and it’s why most kit lenses hit roughly this range. 24mm is plenty wide enough for the majority of occasions and 70mm can still get you in pretty close. It’s a perfect walk around lens for handheld shots and you’ll find yourself using the full focal range at some point or other. 

Not much more to say about this one. The focal length of our eyes fit into this range and I think most of us instinctively know what to do with this range.

Canon 70-200mm F/4

Canon has four lenses in this focal range so it can become quite confusing. This is the version without IS which I don’t need for landscapes and it is also relatively small and light. I use the 2.8 IS II when I shoot weddings……it’s probably my overall favourite lens but it’s just so damn heavy and completely impractical for landscape photography.

Now the 70-200mm range is really interesting for landscape photography. It lets us stand in front of a scene and really pull out the interesting elements. Get close in on the interesting light, the distant detail and essentially create a portrait of the landscape. It gives us control of the story too. When we are stood in a landscape, we see the whole thing with our eyes but it might just be the one distant element evoking the emotion in you. If you were to shoot this with a wide angle all the other irrelevant parts of the scene would enter the scene and distract the viewer from what you are trying to show them. You are the story teller and the viewer does not always need to know what is just out of the frame. Often a really good image would hint towards this anyway and spark the viewers imagination to fill in around the frame anyway.

There are also only so many amazing vistas in the world and we’re getting to the point now where they have all been shot in great light. This lens though gives us more room to be creative and capture something truly unique.

What's in my Camera Bag 2017 | Landscape Photography Edition

In this video I am still in Snowdonia and we delve into the depths of my camera bag to see what I am using to capture my landscape photography in 2017. 

Check out all my gear.

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My camera gear - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/my-gear/

What's in my Camera Bag?

One of the things I love about photography is the marriage of technology and art. It seems often the cool thing to do is to pretend you don't care about the gear. Whilst the gear are just tools I use to create my art, from time to time I really enjoy talking about my tools. I am not alone in this. I am contacted daily by people asking me what gear they should buy, what is the best lens for a certain situation, what filters I use etc etc. So on my recent trip to Snowdonia I took a few minutes to show exactly what is in my landscape photography bag. 

To see a full list of my camera gear please use he link above. 

Camera Bag

I also get a lot of questions about the bag itself. I am currently using the F-stop Sukha camera bag. This is an amazing photography bag that is perfect for the rugged mountain conditions I am faced with. It is was waterproof and provides great access to your gear that is stored in the ICU or internal camera unit. It is a big bag and has addition room for food, camping gear and more. 

Cameras

My main body is currently the Canon 5D Mark IV. It is truly an epic camera. I have reviewed it before in a big real world test. Hit the link below.

https://youtu.be/5HGxkQw5hto

I am also using the Canon 800D for vlogging. For well under a thousand pounds this is a great camera with superb video features and still ideal for landscape photography. You can see my recent review on the link below.

https://youtu.be/F9e4HymcZn4

Lenses

My current lens setup covers all the important focal range for capturing landscapes. Having a wide angle lens is important if you want to capture the big wide vistas. I use the Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens. Whilst it is an older lens it still provides excellent quality and can also be picked up for a bargain price. I have not felt the need to upgrade to a newer 16-35mm lens. 

Next I use the Tamron 24-70mm. Image quality is on a par with the original Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 but the Tamron also come with image stabilisation. Perfect for video. 

At the long end I use the Canon 70-200mm f/4 to capture the more intimate landscapes. I purposely use the cheapest version which is the f/4 because it is the lightest and easiest to lug around. I use the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS mark 2 for my wedding photography. It is a stunning lens but weighs more than an elephant. I do not want to carry it up mountains. 

Filters

As many of you know I do not use graduated filters. I prefer to use screw on filters. I feels they are easier to carry around and quicker to use. 

I carry a circular polariser for each of the lenses and Neutral density filters for long exposure photography. I have a 6 stop ND and a 10 stop. They can also be combined to give 16 stops of light reduction.

Accessories

What's in my bag accessory wise? Photography equipment is made up of accessories such as lens hoods, eye piece covers, memory cards, batteries and other stuff such as food and safety gear for the mountains. I no longer use a shutter release cable or an intervalometer as the Canon 5D Mark IV has it built in along with a bulb timer.