Wide-Angle Landscapes Might not be as Wide as you Think

That’s a long title for a blog post, let’s get right to it. A wide angle lens covering roughly 16mm – 40mm is the most popular choice for landscape photographers. For good reason of course, as it gives you the ability to portray the grandeur of the scene. Here is a classic example from Mt. Rainier National Park:

At the opposite end of the spectrum is intimate landscapes, which often involve using a telephoto lens. This intimate image from Yellowstone was shot with a 400mm lens on a cropped body:

What I want to discuss in this post is the point at which your wide angle lens just doesn’t quite cut it. On my recent trip to Grand Teton National Park I brought with me a Canon 10-22mm lens for my landscape shooting. I do a lot of backpacking and try not haul additional lenses into the backcountry. I was graced with a gorgeous sunrise at Schwabacher’s Landing, the most famous of the Teton photography spots. This is what I shot at the maximum of 22mm (equivalent to 35.2mm on a full frame body):

Notice how distant the peaks are in the scene. It forced me to use the trees and the reflection as more of a focal point. This is how the scene is typically shot:

Schwabacher’s Landing by Stephen Oachs

The photographer next to me was using a Canon 24-70mm lens, exactly what I needed in this particular experience.

Having learned this lesson, I was able to pick up a 24-70mm lens for a trip into the Glacier Peak Wilderness and Image Lake. It was a 45 mile hike, and while I didn’t fancy carrying extra gear, I shuttered at the thought that my 10-22mm might not be enough to capture the beauty of Glacier Peak reflected in Image Lake. What an incredible sunrise I was able to witness and here is my shot at 38mm on a cropped body (equivalent to 60.8mm on a full frame camera)

As you can see, 22mm would not have been adequate to capture the scene. There you have it, lesson learned and image captured! I have since sold the 24-70mm as it weighs as much a baby (well almost), and I have picked up a 35mm f/2.0 prime which is ridiculously light at 7.2 ounces. Make sure you are prepared when your wide angle lens doesn’t have enough reach!


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