How2>> They’re not just for critters anymore Text And Photography By Terry Livingstone





hen it comes to long telephoto lenses, most of us think of wildlife

photography. After all, those 300mm, 400mm, 500mm or 600mm

optics are a necessity when you’re trying to photograph shy furry

or feathered animals. When you can’t get close to your subject, a

long lens is the only way to go. Personally, I don’t shoot nearly as

many wildlife photos as I do landscapes and scenics, but I’ve found that a long

telephoto zoom can be an invaluable tool for this kind of photography as well.

50 Outdoor Photographer

Tamron SP AF200-500mm ƒ/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

Optical Compression

When looking through a long telephoto

lens, you’ll immediately notice the way it

seems to flatten perspective—the compression

of foreground and background elements

creates the appearance that they’re closer

than they actually are. It’s the exact opposite

of a wide-angle lens, of course, which

Month 1997 XX

we typically use to exaggerate depth and

scale. Where a wide angle emphasizes

the distance between two planes, a long

telephoto does just the reverse; it creates

a closer relationship between physically

distant objects.

This visual compression can be a

powerful compositional tool for landscapes

and scenics. Distant mountains

appear to be stacked one right behind

the other, becoming a study in shapes

and lines. A tree standing by itself can

seem to be “pasted” against the distant

background or it can be isolated from

its surroundings to the point where it

fills the entire frame.

But the best part of using a long lens

is the way in which it magnifies distant

subjects, filling the frame with details

of a landscape. This allows for images

in which distant objects appear isolated

from their surroundings.

Creative Compositions

Using telephoto zooms makes it easier

to create a cleaner image from what

otherwise might be a cluttered landscape.

52 Outdoor Photographer



When you use a telephoto zoom,

you’re doing more than simply

getting more magnification on the

subject. The effect of a longer focal

length has some inherent qualities

that you can use creatively.


long focal length compresses the

image and makes the sun appear

very large on the horizon. If the

same shot had been taken with a

wider angle, the sun would have

appeared much smaller.

TREE IN FOG: In this example, the

telephoto helped to reduce a

distracting background.


perspective and shallow depth of

field helped to isolate the flowers

and the bumble bee.

LEFT: Anytime you use a long

focal length, a tripod is a

necessity, especially if you’re

using a very long shutter speed.


AF200-500mm ƒ/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

For those occasions when you

don’t want to or can’t work with a

tripod, the BushHawk BH-220D

Shoulder Mount helps to ensure

you get sharp photographs. Weighing

only 12 ounces, the mount uses your

own body to create a stable platform

when shooting with long glass.

An optional modified remote release

is available for specific cameras,

providing two-position triggering for

autofocus and the shutter release.

List Price: $99.95. Contact: BushHawk,

(800) 325-8542,

This is an advantage for photographers

because often the strongest

photos are the simplest ones.

To create a photo that speaks

to the viewer, one that says what

we want it to say, it’s important

to keep the message as simple as

possible. Looking at the photo,

there should be no doubt in the

viewer’s mind what the subject

is and to what the photographer

was attracted.

When composing a photograph,

the trick is to leave out

everything that doesn’t add to the

image. If something doesn’t help

a composition, it hurts it. Putting

a picture together becomes a matter

of subtraction then. In this

sense, a nature photographer’s

process is the opposite of what

a painter does: rather than start

with a blank canvas and add elements

to it, we start with visual

chaos and then subtract elements.

This is where a long zoom lens

really helps. Such a lens allows

us to exclude all but the most

important part of the scene, to fill

the frame with the “picture in the

picture.” Less is more, when it

comes to composition. And an

ultra-long zoom lens, thanks to

its extremely narrow angle of view, lets

us capitalize on that premise.

If there’s a patch of bright autumn

foliage on a wooded hillside, for example,

why show the entire forest? Use a

zoom to isolate and fill the frame with

that one area of brilliant foliage. Or when

shooting a sunrise or sunset, zoom in

on that one spot in the sky where the

most amazing color is happening. Or

after you shoot a gorgeous waterfall,

use a long zoom to photograph small

sections of the falls, capturing little

vignettes of rushing water and stones.

I’ve even used a 200-500mm to isolate

a particular bunch of flowers in a meadow.

The possibilities are virtually endless.

Optical Choices

In the old days (just a few years ago,

actually), long telephoto zoom lenses

were pretty much unheard of. A 200-

400mm zoom was such a huge, heavy

and incredibly expensive piece of glass

that it just wasn’t a practical option for

most of us. But modern innovations in

lens design and production have made

extreme telephoto zooms much smaller,


lighter, sharper and more affordable than

ever before.

Zoom lenses are often more affordable

than fast-aperture telephoto lenses

because their maximum apertures are

smaller and/or variable. Since most landscape

photographs are created with a

moderate to small aperture, however,

this isn’t the big disadvantage that it

might first appear to be. The light reaching

the viewfinder may be dimmer when

shooting under low-light conditions, but

if you’re shooting digitally, you can easily

evaluate your framing and composition

by reviewing your image on the

camera’s LCD.

I recommend using a tripod when

shooting with a long zoom lens. Not

only does the tripod assure me that there

won’t be any camera movement, but it

also gives me the freedom to carefully

fine-tune my compositions. With the

camera on a stable platform, I can study

the image in the viewfinder, carefully

checking the edges and corners of the

frame for visual distractions. Things like

bright highlights on foliage, out-of-focus

tree limbs or small pieces of litter have

a way of creeping into a photo. Working

from a tripod helps us avoid those

little surprises.

I’ve been working with the Tamron

SP AF200-500mm ƒ/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)

zoom lens since it was first introduced.

Not that long ago, a lens this long would

have been a heavy, clumsy monster, a

hardship to carry—the kind of glass you

only pull out of the case on special occasions,

and only when you’re close to

the car. But the Tamron 200-500mm is

actually light enough to leave on my

camera as I hike trails, and the integrated

tripod mount gives it a solid, balanced

feel. It makes shooting with an

ultra-telephoto a pleasure, rather than a

physical and logistical challenge. As a

result, I’ve been doing more and more

ultra-telephoto landscapes lately, and

I’ve found that it opens some intriguing


The next time you’re out shooting,

try creating a landscape with a telephoto

zoom. Experiment with the way it can

change your perspective or isolate small

portions of a distant scene. By narrowing

your angle of view, you may find

new ways to expand your vision. OP

Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400,

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines