In the September issue of Lifestyles, I wrote about what you can do if you can’t get close enough to the subject of your photograph. This time, I’m addressing the opposite situation. What if, particularly with landscapes, you are too close?

Most photographers specialize in a certain style or subject that can help limit the amount of gear they haul. For me, I’m excited by and interested in all subjects. My kit ends up needing a macro lens, a wide-angle lens and a very heavy, large telephoto lens, with accessories to boot.

All of that gear — just in case I find a fascinating insect, or breathtaking landscape, or, like I did one day, a mama bear and her two cubs (see Page X).

One drawback to an inclusive camera kit is the weight. Mine can exceed 30 pounds with lenses, accessories and the pack itself. Some days, this is OK. Some days, when facing a 7-mile hike, I am not in the mood for 30 pounds of gear.

On those excursions where traveling light is preferred, it becomes a question of which gear to leave and which to take. It’s painful to imagine encountering a an exciting subject and not having the proper lens.

One of the considerations I keep in mind with gear selection is landscapes. Generally, a wide-angle lens like my trusty Canon 24-70 would be my preference for its ability to take in the full view of a sweeping landscape. But almost inevitably, when it’s the only lens with me, I’ll encounter a furry or feathered subject so far away that there’s no point in trying to photograph it.

Wildlife holds a slightly higher level of interest for me than landscapes, so the choice almost always comes down to carrying my Sigma 150-600. Having made this choice often over the years — and, of course, often encountering irresistible landscapes — I’ve found a passion for taking telephoto scenic photos.

Even though it can feel too close for a landscape, a telephoto lens offers some unique advantages that a wide-angle lacks. Being able to isolate pieces of the landscape gives those areas more impact.

The flat depth of field can create a sense of scale as it brings foreground and background closer for comparison. Similarly, the bokeh (out of focus area) from the shallow depth of field can further isolate elements and draw attention to them.

The photography industry understandably brands equipment for specific purposes and makes a fortune selling a piece of gear for every situation. But don’t let that stop you from working with what you have on hand. Sometimes, this can lead to new ways of seeing things and more creative images as a result.

Steve Lenz can be reached at

Digital Design Manager

Steve Lenz is a photographer and the Union-Bulletin's digital design manager.

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