Pro Secrets: how to use a telephoto lens for awesome landscapes

The secret to shooting telephoto landscapes

When you’re shooting landscape photography, the temptation is to reach for a wide-angle lens and try to include everything that your eye can see. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but for a more intimate view of the scenery you can add impact to your images by learning how to use a telephoto lens to pick out key features within the bigger picture.

The secret to shooting telephoto landscapes

Images by Mark Hamblin

By emphasising the most visually striking elements, you can add real impact to pictures and make them much stronger in terms of composition. When you use a telephoto lens for your landscapes, it’s a case of less is more. Keep it simple, cut the superfluous aspects and concentrate on what matters.

There are no hard and fast rules for when to shoot long rather than wide, and you’ll often do both during a shoot. Landscapes that work well with the telephoto approach are those that contain interesting compositional elements.

These could include a line of trees, a single isolated bough or building, dry-stone walls, meandering rivers, peaked mountains, interesting field patterns and colour contrasts, or simply a good play of light and shade.

The thing to look for is a strong feature that will form the focal point or primary visual impact of the picture. You can then use this to make an arresting composition.

So what equipment do you need? A telephoto zoom somewhere in the range of 70-300mm is ideal, and because the subject matter is static, the lens doesn’t need to be an expensive f/2.8 model.

You’ll need a sturdy tripod for good support (learn how to use a tripod the right way), and a remote release can be handy, although it isn’t essential. Now all you need is a suitable subject.

One advantage of using a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes is that the simplicity of the images makes it easy to find good subjects in almost any rural environment.

An oak in a wheat field shot with a 28mm may look awful with the clutter of farm buildings and a pasty sky behind it, but use a telephoto lens to zoom in and isolate the tree and suddenly you’ve made a great picture from almost nothing.

Keep this in mind when you’re travelling around locally, and make a note of anything that might work well. Then return when the weather or lighting conditions are at their best.

PAGE 1: Why you should use a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes
PAGE 2: Lighting your telephoto landscapes
PAGE 3: How to find and compose the perfect telephoto landscape
PAGE 4: 6 tips for using a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes


The 10 Commandments of Landscape Photography (and how to break them)
The landscape’s greatest challenges: free photography cheat sheet