Summer Leisure

When we stand enjoying a beautiful vista, it is tempting to select a focal length that will fit the entire view in to one framed shot. We adjust our go everywhere zoom to its lowest focal length, thereby maximising our field of view and... 'click', job done. This may yield us a great photograph but perhaps we should consider for a moment, is there a different image to take? How about that silhouetted tree over there, what would it look like set against the distant mountains as the sun begins to set? If we look for a different image within the panorama, can we find an interesting perspective?


Using a telephoto lens can compress the apparent distances between objects, changing our perception of the view and emphasising the scale of certain elements within the image. Consider the two photographs below:


View from a Hide

The photo above is taken from RSPB Ynys Hir looking along the Dyfi to its estuary at Aberdyfi, some 3.5 miles away by line of sight.  It is taken at a focal length of 15mm (on an APS-C crop factor SLR). The distance to the coastline is obvious and the setting sun isn't much more than a spec on the horizon.

The photo below, was taken 3 minutes later, from the exact same spot (in the RSPB's fab bird hide - do visit if you have the chance). It is taken at an extreme focal length of 1000mm (on a full frame SLR). The setting sun becomes a massive fireball dominating the sky above Aberdyfi. Whilst the FOV is greatly reduced, everything from foreground to distant sun is also compressed into an apparently much closer proximity adding drama to the scene.

Had I stood on the shoreline near to Aberdyfi and used a wide-angle lens to include much of the harbour / seafront - then the sun would again be seen as a small distant object.

Coastal Fireball

The next photograph is an instance where sunlight, during an autumn storm, highlighted one mountain in the distance. By utilising a long focal length, it was possible to pull that mountain forwards in the composition, giving it a dramatic overbearing of the foreground farm.

Craig yr Aderyn

Craig yr Aderyn

Craig yr Aderyn (Bird's Rock) highlighted by late autumn sun whilst a storm brews in the mountains beyond.

Of course, there are assorted reasons why one might use a longer focal length anyway. For example, as a simple matter of reach for wildlife or to record additional details in a stitched landscape / panorama (as below).

And then there are the occasions where the exact opposite effects are desired & so a wide-angle lens is truly called for.

In summary, remember to consider focal length not just as a matter of convenient framing but also, when combined with moving your own position, as a powerful tool in the perspective composition of your image.

Love on the Rocks

A pair of Cormorants stand peacefully together on a seaweed strewn rock as the waves surge around them.

Snowdonian Frosting

Above Capel Curig - The nightly frost begins to thaw in morning's golden sunlight. Meantime, mists meander across Llynnau Mymbyr and the Snowdon Horseshoe stands tipped with snow.

Craig Yr Aderyn and Love on the Rocks - both taken at 700mm focal length

Snowdonian Frosting - a stitch of multiple frames, each taken at 70mm focal length.

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