Raise your stan­dard

How to shoot land­scapes and wildlife with a kit zoom

NPhoto - - Feature -

Stan­dard 18-55mm DX kit zooms are no-frills lenses that de­liver the equiv­a­lent view to a fo­cal length range of 27-80mm on a full-frame FX cam­era (when you take the 1.5x DX crop fac­tor into ac­count). Mod­er­ately wide to mod­er­ately long, it brings a nat­u­ral look to pic­tures that, un­like ul­tra-wide and super-tele­photo lenses, doesn’t draw at­ten­tion to the lens that was used to take them.

That be­ing said, it’s easy to feel dis­heart­ened when faced with a sweep­ing land­scape or a stun­ning in­te­rior and the lens doesn’t zoom wide enough to take it all in. It’s also easy to feel the lens doesn’t pro­vide enough reach to make sports, wildlife and other dis­tant sub­jects look any­thing other than pokey in the frame.

Get cre­ative

The an­swer is to see this fo­cal length re­stric­tion as an op­por­tu­nity to come up with cre­ative pic­tures, rather than as a brick wall. For ex­am­ple, you might not have a 300mm or 400mm lens, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shoot sports. In­stead of a frame-fill­ing shot of a foot­baller, why not zoom to the lens’s short­est fo­cal length and show them small in the frame as part of a wider sta­dium shot?

If you can’t get that close enough to an­i­mals and birds for fear of spook­ing them, you could try a wider en­vi­ron­men­tal shot in­stead; if you have a Snap Bridge-equipped cam­era such as the D 5600( re­viewed on page 104) that al­lows you to con­trol the cam­era from a smart­phone, then that opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of re­mote pho­tog­ra­phy too.

Fail­ing that, there’s al­ways the op­tion of crop­ping the im­age in soft­ware. The 24MP imag­ing sen­sor in the D3400 cap­tures a huge amount of data, so un­less you’re print­ing above A3 size, you’ll be able to crop dra­mat­i­cally and still get de­tailed re­sults.

When you’re shoot­ing land­scapes, again there are plenty of ways that you can think out­side the box to make the most of a stan­dard lens. For a start, although you can’t squeeze a dra­matic view into a sin­gle frame in quite the same way that you can with an ul­tra-wide 10mm lens, why not do the op­po­site: use the nar­row view at the long­est fo­cal length to iso­late in­ter­est­ing pat­terns and shapes in a scene? The com­pres­sion ef­fect cre­ated by the long end of a zoom will make forests look more densely packed with trees, and dis­tant hills look more dom­i­nant.

If one frame isn’t big enough to cap­ture an ex­treme view, why not shoot sev­eral and stitch them to­gether? You don’t have to stick with a hor­i­zon­tal panorama – try a ver­ti­cal one to em­pha­sise the height of trees and moun­tains. Or com­bine both hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal tech­niques for a shot that has scale with­out be­ing let­ter­box shaped?

To cre­ate this type of shot re­quires con­sis­tency: use man­ual ex­po­sure, fo­cus and white bal­ance to en­sure con­sis­tency be­tween frames. Use a tri­pod to main­tain con­sis­tent sharp­ness, too, and al­low around a third of a frame over­lap be­tween each frame. Use Light­room or Pho­to­shop (File>Au­to­mate>Pho­toMerge) to merge and stitch im­ages seam­lessly.

If you can’t zoom the lens in far enough to cap­ture frame-fill­ing shots of wildlife, you’ll need to en­cour­age the wildlife closer to the lens. Al­ter­na­tively, you can try shoot­ing a wider ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal’ por­trait in­stead

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