After an absence, it is indeed good to be back with Macfilos and hopefully contributing something from a Fuji point of view. I have missed contact with the special community of Macfilos contributors and readers, as well as with our editor Mike Evans. Renewed good wishes to all.
Stuck in a rut
When taking landscape images I have usually relied on my 16mm f/1.4 wide-angle lens and then perhaps grabbed the 50-140mm for images which required greater reach. This year it occurred to me that I was stuck in a landscape rut and it would be interesting to go out shooting solely with the 50-140mm lens, even occasionally adding the 2.0 Teleconverter for good measure. So I did. Taking the crop factor into account, of course, the effective focal length of the lens is 75-210, or 150-420 with the converter.
First, I have a confession to make. All my landscape images are taken handheld, albeit with as much assistance as possible from nearby gates, walls, stones, trees or anything else able to offer support. I do not like carrying or setting up my (lightweight) tripod. I know that using a tripod is almost mandatory for landscape photographers, but I don’t use one and so that is that. Joe Cornish will therefore retain his crown and, in truth of course, for a host of good reasons in addition to his use of a tripod.
Sky and cloud detail
As an admirer of great skies and cloud detail, I have perhaps hitherto undervalued the advantage a telephoto lens affords in being able to completely exclude the sky from an appropriate image. It is obvious but worth stating that featureless grey skies are rarely inspiring and clear blue skies can also pall. In any case, removing the sky as a compositional element during framing puts unequivocal focus on your subject. Of course the decision to exclude the sky is not an end in itself, being only one of the decisions in framing an image. Anyway, here below are some examples of images in which I believe the absence of sky is beneficial.
The stone barn
The above stone barn is a favourite of mine. It is hundreds of yards away down in a steeply sided valley and so the sky excludes itself without much decision on my part. The telephoto shot nicely compresses the barn against the woody hillside and even allows some foreground interest. The small trees in the foreground are also a very long way from me.
One of the reasons I am enjoying telephoto landscapes is that when using the wide angle 16mm I would sometimes allow potentially good shots to “get away” because I had no suitable foreground interest and/or didn’t choose to walk to find some. I know that’s lazy but it sometimes happens.
There were also some shots which were genuinely out of the compass of the 16mm. Using the 50-140 more intensively means that the ratio of shots to walking has adjusted in favour of photography.
It is also tempting with a wide angle lens to “try and get it all in.” Even when fighting this urge, it is not always easy to compose tightly. A tele lens, however, positively demands that you review the part or parts of the panorama which are potentially good compositions. Less can indeed be more. I find it exciting to see how many striking shots are then discoverable from within the same panorama. Options for shots multiply.
Whereas a wide angle lens has the effect of making the background seem further away, a tele lens has the effect of making objects in the landscape appear closer than they are in reality. This ability to juxtapose elements of the landscape, as if they were closer together, opens up creative possibilities. For example, in the image below, the dark mountain “just behind the tree-line” is in fact miles away. The bend in the canal is a hundred yards away.
Another aspect of the telephoto perspective I like is the opportunity to showcase some of the magnificent trees which punctuate the countryside so gracefully.
Handling depth of field
Although depth of field with a telephoto lens is much reduced compared with a wide angle lens (when related to the same scene), this is not as restrictive as it sounds since depth of field increases with the distance between camera and the subject. This means when shooting distant objects with a tele lens (often the case) it is possible to use mid apertures such as f8 and f/5.6 to good effect, right in the sweet spot of the lens.
In conclusion I have thoroughly enjoyed extending the range of landscape pictures I shoot with the Fuji 50-140mm telephoto lens. This means that I am now using the wide angle lens for a more restricted role. But, arguably, this benefits the pictures I obtain from both lenses. The chief learning points have been around shot selection, composition and subject isolation and the beneficial attributes of simplicity and compression. More to the point,I now feel that I’m now out of my landscape rut and that is important and interesting for me.