It's the start of a new year and I'm excited for what 2018 has in store; I'm sure there will be many amazing moments that I'll capture on camera and I'm looking forward to sharing it all with you.
2018 marks 10 years since I first took up photography, and the skills I have picked up from those 10 years of experience have enabled me to get to a level where I can call myself a fairly competent photographer. Throughout 2018 I will be sharing with you some of the tips and tricks I have picked up along the way and I hope you will find these blogs both interesting and useful. With these posts, I am not trying to preach to you and tell you that this is the way it should be done; the wonderful thing about photography is that really there are no rules and you should do what feels right for you. These tutorials will simply give you insight into what I have found works for me, and if they help you improve your skills then I'll be delighted.
In this post I will be showing you the power of using a telephoto lens and by how simply zooming in on a particular part of a landscape, you can actually produce more mood and atmosphere to a shot, proof that on many occasions, "less is more."
When I first started landscape photography, I would mostly try to include as much of the landscape I could see in front of me in the images. I had this misconception that including as much as I could would create amazing photographs. I carried this mindset along for a few years until I realised that my work lacked the atmosphere and mood of other photographers' work I'd seen in magazines and books. With this realisation, I started experimenting; rather than cram as much landscape in the shot as possible, I'd zoom in on a portion of the scene. Straight away I could see an improvement in my work. I'd get home from a photography session, upload my work onto the computer and compare my old method to the new one. The zoomed in shots really did create much more atmosphere and I felt much more connected to the scene. All the details, tones and textures would really stand out and draw you in, in a way that the vast landscape shots could not.
I still take big landscape shots, particularly when there is an amazing sky to include, but this technique of homing in on a subject is incredibly effective when you have strong leading lines (lines that lead to the main subject of the image) in the scene. I use this technique for the majority of my tree-lined photographs.
Below are some examples of this approach.
This first example is taken from a tree-lined path in Abington Park, Northamptonshire. In the first image I have the lens set at 22mm. It's a lovely image, showing the warm autumnal colours. I particularly like the leaves in the top left of the shot, however I personally feel that there is too much distraction in the scene, notably the fence to the right and the sky through the trees.
In the 2nd image the focal length is at 61mm. By homing in on the scene, I have removed the distractions that were drawing my attention away from the path and surrounding foliage. Notice how much more defined the branches are. The autumnal colours stand out a lot more as well. By zooming in, the mood and atmosphere of the scene have been enhanced.
Here is another example taken at Harlestone Firs, Northamptonshire. I wanted the viewer's focus to follow the snow covered path through the picture. Again, this image is beautiful in itself and has some pleasing aspects but there is so much going on that the image has no flow. My attention is immediately drawn to the footprints and tracks in the snow towards the bottom of the scene, and the distraction from the sky at the top and the trees in the background to the left are taking focus away from the path. A nice wintry image with just a little too much chaos.
In the 2nd image, the focal length is set at 53mm and the shot has much better direction. The trees to the left stand out much better and the footprints are now not in shot. The subtle mist that was present when taking these shots has been enhanced by the longer focal length. The man walking down the path was a classic example of "right place, right time" and gives the shot a great sense of scale against the huge trees. Again, by using a longer focal length we have simplified the scene and enhanced the mood.
In this next example you'll see how a longer focal length can, again, enhance colour and clarity. Taken at Kingston Lacy, Dorset in the spring, the colours were simply stunning. The blue sky against the fresh foliage and carpet of wildflowers was a perfect spring setting. In this shot, I had the lens set at 21mm as I wanted to include as much blue sky as I could, but in doing so the impact of the blanket of wildflowers was reduced. It's a lovely image but I knew that using a longer focal length, and almost forcing the viewers' attention down the path toward the beautiful flowers would produce a more impactful shot
The lens in the 2nd shot is set at 50mm and as you can see, the colours of the wildflowers have really come to life. I particularly love the daffodils towards the bottom right of the image. Yet again, the tones and textures have been enhanced, giving the shot more of a wow factor.
My final example shows how this technique can also work when not under the cover of trees. Castle Ashby has a mile long avenue leading up to the House. In this shot I wanted to try and show the viewer the scale of this driveway, but as with the examples above, by trying to include more I've reduced the overall impact of the image. In this instance, the lens was set at 35mm.
At 85mm you'd think that eliminating so much of the driveway from the scene would ruin the sense of scale but, amazingly, it doesn't and the added detail and clarity from this example actually strengthens the objective I was trying to achieve here.
I hope you've found this blog of interest and I hope it inspires you to get out and practise this simple technique. Please post your examples on my Facebook page as I would love to see them. It helps to have a camera with a zoom lens but even using the zoom on your camera phone would enable you to practise what I have discussed above. All you need to remember is that, sometimes, less is more :)
Thank you for reading.
Northamptonshire based nature photographer