Our pro shares some techniques and kit tips, and rates two readers’ photos
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I used a telephoto for some landscapes, they lack a sense of depth. How can I change this? Donald French
That is rather in the nature of a telephoto lens: it flattens the perspective and draws everything in so subject and background are less
‘separated.’ If you are shooting portraits, the background blur is perfect for making your subject stand out and this creates some sense of depth, but I know what you mean when it comes to telephoto landscapes. A wide-angle shot has more foreground interest, leading to the middle and then far distance so these layers build up that sense of depth you are referring to.
I can think of some occasions of using a telephoto lens when that sense of depth is provided naturally. For example, the classic long-lens shot of receding mountains, where the more distant mountains are weaker in colour, conveys depth and distance. In art, this phenomenon is referred to as aerial perspective and painters will ensure that distant objects are more muted than those nearer.
However, we don’t always have Mother Nature on our side, so I came up with this example landscape photo that I shot with a telephoto lens at 100mm. At the time I liked the way my telephoto lens was pulling the church and the mountain behind together, but I wanted something in the foreground too. All I could see were some buttercups on the hillside nearby, so I lay flat on the ground and shot through them. I knew they’d drop out of focus but the splash of yellow would be good and the contrast between the out-of-focus foreground and sharper middle and distance would provide more depth.
I love photographing flowers and insects, but I would like to try animals too. Should I get a macro lens or go for something different? Craig West While a macro lens is a brilliant investment, especially for your love of flowers and insects, it’s not really going to help you much when it comes to photographing bigger animals and birds. I’d suggest that a macro lens is something you think about saving for in the longer run.
For now, I think you would be better off buying a lens like the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DX VR telephoto zoom. On your Nikon DX-format camera, Craig, this is equivalent to 82.5mm to 450mm, which will give you lots of versatility when it comes to your varied nature photography.
A macro lens isn’t the only option for shooting relatively small insects, like butterflies, as a telephoto lens will allow you to get some great shots. You won’t be able to reproduce the insect at life size: instead you’ll have to think about including some of the environment – but I much prefer insect shots where you have a sense of their surroundings.
The Nikon 55-300mm also has VR, which will be useful in low light when shutter speeds have to drop; and it will be perfect if you have your sights set on bigger subjects like hares, deer or seals on the coast. That 450mm focal length lets you sit back at a respectful distance and still get great shots.
You don’t need to feel as you can’t evoke depth in your landscapes just because you’re using a telephoto. In this shot, lying down to introduce some out-of-focus buttercups into the frame delivers a layered effect.