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The two essential lenses for landscape photography

How many lenses do you think you need for landscape photography?
Do you know the typical expression of the “holy trinity”? The three lenses cover the maximum focal range from wide-angle to telephoto. When we talk about the “holy trinity” of lenses, we refer to the three lenses that, working together, can give you all the flexibility to shoot any situation efficiently. Those three lenses are a wide-angle zoom lens (16-35mm focal length), a standard zoom lens (24-70mm focal length), and a telephoto zoom lens (70-200mm focal length). The benefit of having these three lenses is that you won’t need any other lens as they cover mainly any focal length.

But I think you can capture everything you need in landscape photography with just two lenses: a wide-angle zoom lens (16-35mm focal length, for example) and a telephoto zoom lens (a 70-200 focal length or a 200-400 focal length). You don’t need a mid-range lens. In this way, there is no repeated focal length.

Especially in landscape photography, it is essential to travel as light as possible to arrive at fantastic landscapes such as the top of a mountain. The less you carry, the more it is also easy to be creative.
Generally thinking, the more gear you carry on your back, the more you start to strain, and the harder it is to climb the next ridge to arrive at a beautiful lake where you decided to take landscape photographs.

Everything that discourages and demotivates you from getting to fantastic places where you can take better images will be a bad idea and negatively impact your landscape photography.
Also, arriving at a place out of breath, with your heart pounding and your back hurting, affects your vision and your ability to think clearly when you are on the field to take landscape images.
The most creative and compelling images come from a calm state of mind and a clear vision. On the opposite side, being out of breath and tired restricts your capacity to really let the landscape speak to you. The less tired you are, the more accessible it will be to arrive at the place where you want to take images, the much better you feel when you get there, and the easier it will be to create compelling landscape photographs.

Show the world in a different way

When you are shooting a scene doing landscape photography, you attempt to capture the frame in a way that engages the photograph’s viewer as much as possible. So it would help if you made the viewer connect to the mood of the images and see everything with different eyes, in a way he/her is not used to seeing the world he is looking at in your photograph.

How can you show the world the viewer will see in your images as perceived with different eyes? First, consider that our eyes, the way we usually see the world, is roughly the equivalent of a 50mm focal length on a full-frame sensor camera, and we are also used to seeing everything from the eye level. Also, on social media, we see a lot of images taken with mobile phones, which capture images with a 26/28mm focal length.

So we are mainly used to connecting and seeing the world with those mid-range focal lengths: the 50mm focal length of our eyes and the 26/28mm focal length of our mobile phone.
With landscape photography, we can try to show the world differently, which will be the first step to engaging the viewer visually.

Using a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens, you share something people are not used to seeing or haven’t seen before. As a result, you will get more engagement and interest in your images.
Especially the wide-angle lens will give you a completely different perspective of the world you are capturing in your landscape images. Everything, from the foreground right up in front of your camera through the epic sky you can find on the field, will look entirely different to your eyes. We are not used to seeing the world in that panoramic wide-angle view. And this other way to see offered by an image captured with a wide-angle lens is part of its power, which makes the photographs captured with wide-angle lenses so compelling.

Composition with wide-angle lenses

It is more problematic to compose with a wide-angle lens because much more stuff will be in the frame. But when you get a good composition for your landscape photograph captured with a wide-angle lens, the image will be much more compelling because of how you perceive reality through this lens. In addition, the picture will look much more dramatic when captured with a wide-angle lens.
Also, using the rule of thirds is more difficult with a wide-angle lens compared with a mid-range lens. Again, there will be more things in the frame, and giving some order to the composition will result in a little bit tricky. Nevertheless, the rule of thirds is probably the essential guideline about composition in landscape photography.

The rule of thirds is relatively easy to understand. For this reason, both beginner photographers and professional photographers use this rule a lot. Through the rule of thirds, you broke the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The photograph result is composed of nine frames with four intersection points given by the intersection of the four lines you draw on the image. Look at the photograph below to have an example. If you are interested in knowing more about the rule of thirds, you can click here and read this article.

Good reasons to use a wide-angle lens to take landscape photographs

With a mid-range lens can be challenging to capture the immensity of nature doing landscape photography. With a wide-angle lens, you can catch the foreground in front of your lens and all the unique landscape you have in the background. In fact, with a wide-angle lens, everything will fit into the frame easily compared with a mid-range lens.
You can get close and low to the foreground with a wide-angle lens. And shooting low gives you another entirely different perspective of the world to show to the photograph’s viewer. We are used to seeing from eye level, and if you put the camera low, closer to the ground (two or three feet), it will completely change how you see.
The wide-angle lens will make you feel you can step into the frame. It really pulls you into the landscape photograph.

The telephoto lens

On the other side, a telephoto lens will give you an altogether different perspective on a scene: different from a wide-angle lens and a mid-range lens. Therefore, it would be best to have a telephoto lens because you can use it whenever the wide-angle lens doesn’t suit the landscape scenario. There are occasions when the wide-angle lenses don’t work to capture the landscape. For example, every time the sky is dull, flat, without any clouds. Or, whenever you don’t have any element in the foreground or leading lines to use in your composition, a telephoto can get the job done. In this kind of scene, you need to change the way that you think and the way that you see the scene, and a telephoto lens will be your best friend for this purpose.

The telephoto will give you a radically different point of view over the landscape, and you will take a completely different kind of photograph to the one you can get with a wide-angle lens.

A telephoto lens is any lens that has got a longer focal length than 50mm on a full-frame sensor camera or 35mm on a crop-sensor camera.

The telephoto lens brings the scene closer to you rather than pushing away as a wide-angle lens does. You start to notice this magnification effect at a focal length of 70/80mm on a full-frame sensor camera (or 55/60mm on a crop-sensor camera).