Creative Field Technique - Why I Love My Telephoto Lens for Landscapes

Landscapes often lend themselves to wide angle views, especially when there are striking clouds and color in the sky, such as the image above. That image was shot in Badlands National Park and illustrates the smorgasbord of rock formations and color sweeping across the landscape to infinity. With the dramatic clouds and sun lit rocks, a wide angle shot served well. 

But what struck me most about the Badlands was how easy it was to pick out pieces of the intriguing rockscapes and view them as single images standing out among their surroundings. Here's what I mean by this. Take a look at the image above. To capture it, I used a wide angle lens and zoomed in to 24mm on a cropped sensor camera (36mm equivalent to full frame sensor). To me, the image was 'so-so', not quite capturing the intricacies of the Badlands, nor was it a sweeping landscape. I examined the scene further, some distant rock peaks caught my eye. They reminded me of a castle on a mountain - I outlined them in red in the image below.

At 36mm, the castle rocks were lost in the distance. Instead, I wanted them to be more prominent in the scene. I put the telephoto lens on the camera, zoomed in, and captured another scene at 105mm (full frame equivalent), as you see below.

The rocks are more noticeable, but not yet what I wanted. I zoomed in more and filled the frame with the castle rocks. The final result was captured at 225mm (full frame equivalent).

What a difference from 36mm to 225mm! It's important to note that all of these images were shot from the same perspective, meaning my position to the rocks was constant. The only thing that changed was the focal length.  Below is another example where varying the focal length offers a variety of compositions using the same subject. With the telephoto lens, I captured the three images below from the same position. I only changed the focal length or the position of the camera (the first image being vertical vs horizontal). Focal length values are full frame equivalent.

I could spend many days photographing in Badlands National Park and never get bored. I attribute that mostly to my telephoto lens because the composition possibilities are endless. I've illustrated this using the wide angle shot above and framing a distant scene within it as shown below. As I scan the wide angle scene, I see several more interesting compositions that can be captured with a greater focal length.

Now that you see the possibilities, begin to train your eyes to zoom in on distant scenes. Use your fingers and thumbs to frame the view to help you visualize the scene. Or better yet, look through a telephoto lens, scan the distant landscape, zoom in and out, try vertical and horizontal. Have fun with your telephoto lens!

Please check out these previous blogs and videos that provide more detailed information about using the telephoto lens.


Telephoto lens advantages for landscapes and differences between telephoto and wide angle lens.

Differences between telephoto and macro lenses.

Photographing Badlands National Park.

Working the scene with a telephoto lens.


Telephoto lens for panoramic shots

Telephoto vs macro lenses

Example equipment similar to what I used for zooming in on distant scenes.

Tripod Induro carbon fiber

Gimbal head NEEWER

Telephoto lens Sony 100-400mm F mount for mirrorless camera

Camera Sony a7riii mirrorless

Thanks for looking on and if you are in the south Florida area, please consider taking a workshop, individualized and scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time. Check out my website and feel free to contact me at