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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Different Lens, Different Expressions: Landscape & Nature Photography

2023-03-06
9
2.15 k

Are your landscape and nature photographs not turning out the way you desire? Sometimes, all you need is to change your framing and composition. The lens that you use and how you use it plays a huge part in what’s possible! Here are some inspirations on how to use your current lenses better and which lens to get next.

In this article:

Wide-angle lenses and what to do with them

Wide-angle lenses


1. Tilt the camera to accentuate depth

EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM @ 18mm 
Photo by: Toshiki Nakanishi
More details in: How I Nailed this Shot: Adding Impact to a Grand Forest Landscape

Tilting your camera makes the signature perspective exaggeration effect of ultra-wide-angle lenses (full-frame equivalent focal length below 24mm) more obvious. Perspective exaggeration makes nearby objects look nearer and faraway objects look further, and the scenery looks deeper and grander as a result.


RF15-35mm f/2.8 IS USM @ 15mm
Photo by: Edwin Martinez
More details in: RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM in Landscape Photography

Exaggerate perspective even further by shooting close to something in the foreground.


Improve your wide-angle composition skills with the tips and exercises in:
24mm Close-ups: 3 Simple Exercises for Mastering Wide-Angle Perspective

Also see:
Decisions in Landscape Photography: High Angle or Low Angle?


2. Take a wide-angle macro: move closer to small subjects

RF24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM @ f/1.8
Photo by: Chikako Yagi
More details in: Lens Review: RF24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM in Nature Photography

Move your lens closer to plants and other details! Some wide-angle lenses have semi-macro capabilities, where even small subjects appear relatively large in the frame. For example, the image above was shot at a magnification ratio of around 0.5x, or half-macro—perfect for capturing the praying mantis together with its natural surroundings.

Also see:
Lens FAQ: What Images Can I Get with 0.25x or 0.5x Magnification?


3. Over-under shots: Capture two worlds in one

RF16mm f/2.8 STM @ f/9

The beauty of wide-angle lenses is the amount of context they can capture. This makes them ideal for over-under shots, which show the underwater world and land or sky in the same frame! Why not attempt this unique type of shot the next time you go diving or out to the beach? Note: You’ll need underwater housing for this since your camera will be submerged.

Find out more about how to achieve and elevate over-under shots in:
Over-Under: A Split Underwater Photography Concept
Capturing Both the Underwater and Terrestrial Worlds in a Single Shot


4. Stitch a panorama: Starscapes with a fisheye lens

EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM @ 15mm, f/4, 20 sec, ISO 6400/ 3-shot panorama
Photo by: Mitsunori Yuasa
More details in: EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM: My Go-to Lens for Photographing Starscapes

Fisheye lenses are a special type of ultra-wide-angle lens. They offer the widest angle of view in the market: up to 180 degrees on the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM! You can now capture more of the starry sky without leaving out fascinating elements in the sea or on the ground! (Click here for some astrophotography techniques to try.)

This is true even if you are not a fan of the unique fisheye barrel distortion: simply take multiple shots to stitch into a panorama. There are a few different effects possible depending on how you shoot and stitch.

Recommended wide-angle lenses

Recommended wide-angle lenses

The wide-angle end of your standard zoom lens (24mm on a full-frame camera) should be enough to achieve images with the exaggerated wide-angle perspective. But if you want more of that dynamic wide-angle look, consider getting an ultra-wide-angle lens. Remember to factor in the 1.6x crop if you are using an APS-C camera!


On a budget


Professional grade

Standard lenses and how you can get creative with them

Standard (normal) lenses


5. Discover unique new camera angles

RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/5.6
Photo by: GOTO AKI
More details in: 50mm Landscapes, My Style: The Lens that Inspires Adventure

Small prime lenses like the RF50mm f/1.8 STM are designed for mobility—perfect for exploring and making new discoveries. Having a fixed focal length also puts your composition skills to the test! With its natural perspective, 50mm (full-frame equivalent) is one of the easiest focal lengths to work with, as GOTO AKI shared in the above article. If you’d like something wider, you can try 35mm.

Want more flexibility to compose? You can use a compact standard zoom lens like the RF24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM, which is around the same size as the RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM.


Tip: The 1.6x crop mode on a full-frame camera gives you 2 focal lengths in 1

If you are using a full-frame EOS R camera, use the 1.6x crop mode for additional flexibility with the angle-of-view*. APS-C camera users can also use the following table as a guide on the effective angle-of-view on your cameras.

Full-frame focal length With 1.6x crop
16mm 25.6mm
24mm 38.4mm
35mm 56mm
50mm 80mm

*Only part of the image sensor will be used for recording.

Also see:
Prime Lens or Zoom Lens: Which Should I Buy?


6. Replicate the wide-angle look

EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 67mm/ Other accessories: Graduated ND filter
Photo by: Yoshinori Takahashi
More details in: Lens Technique for Landscapes: Imitating the Wide-Angle Feel at 67mm

Wide-angle images are usually associated with:
- A larger depth of field
- A greater sense of spatial depth
- Exaggerated perspective

Longer focal lengths may not be able to capture the same angle of view, but with the right technique, they can also create images that look like they were shot on a wider lens. Click into the article linked above for more details on how.

Recommended standard/standard zoom lenses

Recommended standard/standard zoom lenses

The kit lens that came with your camera is most likely a standard zoom or superzoom lens, and most cover the standard to medium telephoto focal lengths at the very least. But here are some other options if you want more versatility, whether it’s in the form of a greater zoom range, a constant aperture (see Key concept (3) in Lens Basics #1: Zoom Lenses), or a smaller body.


Greater zoom range: A superzoom lens


Constant aperture: Professional lenses


Small and fast: Compact prime lenses


Small and versatile: A compact zoom lens

Telephoto lenses: Use them creatively, not just for close-ups

Telephoto lenses


7. Create abstract images by isolating details

EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 200mm
Photo by: Toshiki Nakanishi
More details in: Handling Natural Light: A Corridor of Light on an Autumn Forest

Instead of trying to get everything in one frame, look for interesting patterns or details and take close-ups of them by using a telephoto lens. For example, the 200mm close crop above draws our attention to the dramatic light-shadow contrast highlighting the conifer tree canopies in this forest.


8. Portraits of small objects

Besides faraway scenes, telephoto lenses can also capture very interesting close-ups of smaller things around us from a comfortable distance away! Lens specifications that make a difference: closest focusing distance and maximum magnification ratio.

RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM @ f/1.8
Photo by: Chikako Yagi
More details in: Lens Review: RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM in Nature & Landscape Photography

The RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM is known as an outstanding portraiture lens because of its sharpness and beautiful f/1.8 bokeh. Why not use it to take unique portraits of nature?

A telephoto focal length also helps you to reach subjects in places out of your reach, such as leaves on trees or spiderwebs near the ceiling. 


RF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 200mm
Photo by: Chikako Yagi
More details in: Lens Review: RF70-200mm f/4L IS USM in Natural Landscapes


RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM @ 200mm
Image by: Takashi Karaki
More details in: Lens Review: RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM in Landscape Photography


9. Dreamy bokeh art

EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM @ f/2.8
Image by: Yukie Wago 
More details in: Handling Natural Light: Telephoto Macro Flowers in the Evening Light

Long focal lengths naturally have a shallower depth of field: you can get nice bokeh even without a large maximum aperture. Make use of this by creating bokeh art! The soft, dreamy bokeh in the image above makes us think of the soft delicateness of flowers.

Also see:
Telephoto Lens Techniques – Creating Multiple Layers of Bokeh


Super telephoto


10. Make background objects appear larger

EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 380mm
Photo by: Toshiki Nakanishi
More details in: Composition Technique: Creating the Illusion of a Larger Moon

The telephoto compression effect “pulls in” objects in the background and makes them look nearer. It’s more obvious on a longer focal length, especially in scenes with depth! Make use of it by incorporating lots of foreground.


11. Compress perspective

RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM @ 223mm

Telephoto compression also has a flattening effect, which stacks the layers of cherry blossom trees together into an abstract pattern in the image above. This can also be used to achieve creative effects or immerse a viewer in the scene.

Also see: Super Telephoto Landscapes: A Mysterious “Cave” in a Moss-Covered Gorge

Recommended telephoto and super telephoto lenses

Recommended telephoto and super telephoto lenses

Landscape photography often involves travel and long hikes. You might find the focal length flexibility of a telephoto zoom lens more worth the effort than a telephoto prime lens!

Having said so, if you are going to be shooting in dark conditions and compositional flexibility is less of a concern, you might appreciate the wide aperture of a fast telephoto prime lens. Some of them also have macro capabilities that let you get close to tiny subjects.

600mm is too long for most natural scenery, but you can consider it for capturing close-up details of faraway subjects, or birds and wildlife that you might encounter.


Super telephoto zoom lenses


Professional telephoto zoom lenses


Budget telephoto zoom lens


Telephoto/Medium telephoto prime lenses


Other things to consider when choosing a lens for landscape photography


Weather-sealing
Canon’s L-series professional lenses are dust- and drip-proof, which helps your lens to withstand outdoor elements such as snow, a slight drizzle, dusty air, or spray from a waterfall. They complement a weather-sealed camera. While they cost a lot more than non-L lenses, in the long run, they are the more durable investment for frequent outdoor shooters.

Maximum aperture
Bokeh effect aside, a lens with a large maximum aperture lets you use a faster shutter speed and lower ISO speed setting when shooting in dim or dark conditions. These include sunrise, sunset, at night, or in a dense forest.

Weight and portability
Fixed aperture zoom lenses give the most flexibility even in low light, but they also tend to be heavier. Fast prime lenses work well in low light but offer less compositional flexibility. Lightweight zoom lenses offer more compositional flexibility, but are usually “slower” in low light especially at the longer end. What are your priorities?

Backlight performance
Ghosting and flaring tend to occur when a strong light source like the sun is in the frame. For cleaner images, choose a lens designed to reduce ghosting and flaring, such as one that features Canon’s anti-reflective ASC (Air Sphere Coating).


You may also be interested in:
4 Lens Concepts to Revolutionise Your Photos
Getting Started in Landscape Photography: 5 Things to Know
Minimalist Landscape Photography with the Sky
3 Camera Features for Fine-tuning Your Landscape Shots to Perfection

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