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13 Ideas for Capturing Sharp Panorama Photographs with a Telephoto Lens


Panorama images is commonly related, and even equated, with using wide-angle lenses, nevertheless, this will result in formulaic compositions. Telephoto lenses could look like the province of wildlife images, however alternating with them brings new artistic alternatives for panorama images.

That is illustrated by the 2 opening photographs of my photobook Our Nationwide Monuments, in comparison with their wider counterparts.

For a few years, I used to be closely influenced by the near-far compositions of David Muench: a graphic and impactful foreground topic, with mountains within the background, all typically beneath a dramatic sky. Photographers reminiscent of Galen Rowell would embrace that esthetic. His most used wide-angle lens was a 24mm, with the occasional 20mm, however since then the quick finish of the 16-35mm lens has change into a typical, with focal lengths of 14mm, and extra just lately 12mm pretty frequent at a large finish of a zoom.

Large-angle images was one of many essential causes I turned to a large-format digicam – which is severely restricted for telephoto lenses. There’s a lot to be stated for this strategy. It helps place the viewer into the scene, depicting every little thing that somebody standing there might even see, naturally creating a way of depth. Alternatively, they shrink the backgrounds, for instance diminishing the influence of big mountains and inserting the emphasis on foreground components which are extra frequent than these mountains. If, as well as, you course of them the identical manner, photographs can find yourself all trying the identical.

Telephoto lenses are heavier to hold and tougher to make use of than wide-angle lenses. Compositions have to be extra exact, as small adjustments have better results. It’s a must to look tougher for them, as they type solely a small portion of your discipline of view.

That latter level is perhaps what makes telephoto panorama images so compelling: while you decide up a small portion of the scene, you direct the viewer to one thing that you just discovered fascinating however they might have missed. This makes these pictures intrinsically private.

A gaggle of photographers standing on the similar scene with a wide-angle lens is more likely to supply comparable photographs than in the event that they have been utilizing a telephoto lens.

Even with near 500 pages, packing 60+ nationwide parks in my photobook Treasured Lands was such a problem that just about every picture needed to signify a special location. Our Nationwide Monuments had extra room, and I might use a number of photographs to signify single areas. In two instances, I repeated photographs taken on the similar time from the identical viewpoint, trying in the identical path and differing solely by the selection of the focal size.

Instance #1: Our Nationwide Monuments Cowl

Through the afternoon I spent at a petroglyph web site in Ironwood Forest Nationwide Monument, apart from close-ups of petroglyphs and flora, most of my compositions consisted of wide-angle images with etched rocks within the foreground. At sundown time, I made yet one more such {photograph} on the widest setting of my 16-35mm lens (web page 247). The foreground consists of the primary mountains within the monument, Silver Bell and Ragged High. Nonetheless, being situated greater than 20 miles away and solely about 4,000 toes excessive, they seem tiny on the horizon.

Due to my consciousness of that mountain, I nonetheless observed the distinctive profile of Ragged High, the crown jewel of Ironwood Forest Nationwide Monument. Between two wide-angle pictures, I zoomed into the height with the 100-400mm lens for a single shot at 340mm. Though the ensuing picture is only a crop of the earlier picture, it’s fully completely different, conveying a way of splendor fairly than of area. The attitude seems pure sufficient that with out comparability, I think you wouldn’t have recognized it was made with a super-telephoto lens. A little bit of cropping enhanced the picture’s symmetry, making it a wonderful cowl picture for Our Nationwide Monuments.

Instance #2: Our Nationwide Monuments Half-Title Web page

In Our Nationwide Monuments, there’s a second pair of photographs the place one is a crop of the opposite. They have been photographed from the summit of Snow Mountain in Berryessa Snow Mountain Nationwide Monument. Throughout my spring go to to the monument, the low-elevation hills have been lush with an explosion of verdant grass and wildflowers. From the trailhead, it didn’t look like Snow Mountain would stay as much as its title, however as I neared the summit, I discovered a panorama nonetheless rising from the winter. Photographing in direction of the south let me embrace north-facing slopes with some snow.

The comparability between this picture (web page 83), and the next is much more placing as a result of the 2 focal lengths aren’t that completely different. The huge picture was photographed at 54mm, which by at this time’s panorama images requirements is sort of lengthy, and the telephoto picture was photographed at 240mm. The graphic high quality of the latter made it a good selection for the half-title web page, the primary picture contained in the ebook. One of many challenges with telephoto lenses is to create a way of depth, as the angle that helps create it with wide-angle photographs is now compressed. On this case, depth is created by atmospheric perspective, the drop off in heat and distinction occurring naturally with distance, and it might have been ill-advised to use a “dehaze” correction.

Technical Challenges

Right here’s a technical element that illustrates the depth of discipline points with telephoto lenses. Once I photographed the Ragged Peak picture, I believed that the cactus within the foreground have been far sufficient that they’d be topics at infinity, just like the mountains. I due to this fact used an aperture of f/8. On the Sony a7R IV, diffraction begins to restrict sharpness after f/6.7. On the LCD, the picture appeared sharp sufficient, however when reviewing the picture at 100% on a pc display, it turned out that the mountain was a bit smooth due to inadequate depth of discipline.

Making use of Topaz Sharpen AI labored however necessitated doing it selectively, because the software program over-sharpened the mountain crest. You’d suppose that the distinction wouldn’t be noticeable on a ten×12 inch print (the scale of the ebook), and certainly the unique picture seems acceptable, however my daughter was in a position to inform the distinction between two check prints considered side-by-side.

Utilizing this Depth of Area calculator with the circle of confusion 10 microns acceptable for the Sony a7R IV 61 MP full-frame sensor (2.5 occasions the pixel pitch 3.76 microns as defined right here), we discover a hyperfocal distance of 1,450 meters for 340mm and f/8. The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you may give attention to and nonetheless have good infinity focus.

Learn additionally: What’s Hyperfocal Distance and How Do You Discover It?

All which means on this case, to get good infinity focus, I might have needed to focus near a mile away! Would stopping right down to a sharpness-degrading f/22 have helped? The hyperfocal distance would nonetheless be over 800 meters, or half a mile.

Telephoto lenses may also help you make completely different panorama photographs, however they current many challenges. Not solely do you need to pay extra consideration to compositions, but in addition they require a extra cautious method. As we’ve simply seen, depth of discipline is restricted, significantly so with high-resolution sensors, so focusing needs to be very exact, and though the closest component could seem far at a whole bunch (or perhaps hundreds) of toes away, superior strategies could possibly be mandatory. Since they amplify the consequences of vibration, even in a small breeze getting a pointy picture can take fairly a bit of labor.

Beneath are 13 sensible ideas in no specific order for overcoming this problem. All photographs within the article have been photographed with the Sony FE 100-400 lens for Our Nationwide Monuments, however not used within the ebook.

Tip #1. Verify Sharpness

Pictures can look nice at a look on the LCD, however prove unusable in print as a result of they weren’t sharp sufficient. Checking the digicam LCD at 100% magnification to see in case your shot was sharp earlier than transferring on to the subsequent one is all the time a good suggestion to stop disappointments. That follow is all of the extra essential in telephoto images as a result of there are such a lot of the explanation why telephoto photographs could lack essential sharpness. Should you discover that photographs aren’t sharp, then it’s time for a number of the changes described beneath.

Tip #2. Thoughts Focus and Depth of Area

One purpose why it is tougher to get sharp photographs with telephoto lenses is that the depth of discipline space is a lot smaller than for regular and wide-angle lenses. Any imprecision in focusing reveals up. Handbook focusing at 100% magnification is essentially the most dependable technique to proceed, however for those who use autofocus, however certain to test whether it is good.

For a sign of how slim the depth of discipline space might be, confer with the above instance through which we noticed that with a 340mm lens on the Sony a7R IV, even at f/22, the depth of discipline space together with infinity begins half a mile away, that means that you just can’t have any object nearer to half a mile and infinity in good focus on the similar time.

Tip #3. Contemplate Focus Stacking

At an extended focal size, getting a foreground and background each in focus might be unimaginable. Stopping a lens right down to f/22 will not be optimum as a result of it leads to degraded picture high quality as a result of diffraction. As well as, the requirement to make use of a sluggish shutter velocity makes the seize extra weak to vibration. A helpful various is to merge exposures made with completely different focus factors at f/11, a function automated by Photoshop.

Tip #4. Time for Higher Air Readability

Air readability is an missed situation with telephoto images. Typically with these compositions, even the closest topics might be far sufficient that picture degradation as a result of air high quality is sort of noticeable. On a sizzling afternoon within the desert, trying within the viewfinder of a telephoto lens, you may see distant components vibrating as a result of air convection.

Even in windless circumstances, for those who take an image in these circumstances, nothing at a distance comes out sharp. Within the cooler temperatures of the morning, the air is commonly extra clear, and that’s typically the perfect time for telephoto work. As well as, at daybreak and nightfall, when the solar will not be out, haze is way diminished.

Tip #5. Use a Polarizer

Haze consists of particles within the air that replicate mild, lowering distinction and desaturating colours. A polarizer makes the haze disappear as a result of it cuts reflections. The extra distant the topic, such because the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from its Northwest rim, the extra haze there may be, which makes a polarizer significantly helpful for telephoto pictures.

Tip #6. Use a Sturdy Tripod

The principle purpose for unsharp telephoto photographs is undesirable digicam movement. Handholding a telephoto lens with profitable outcomes is troublesome. These lenses are sometimes giant and heavy. Small digicam actions have an effect on the composition. You want quicker shutter speeds for sharp photographs, with the final rule that you just want an publicity time in seconds quicker than 1/F, the place F is the focal size in millimeters. That is troublesome to realize in low mild, significantly for those who cease down and use a polarizing filter.

Within the slightest of breezes, even a tripod that works effective for regular lenses will not be sufficient to stabilize a telephoto lens. Sometimes, I exploit a sequence 2 tripod and a medium-size ball head. Nonetheless, that mixture is commonly inadequate for a telephoto. On highway journeys, I pack a sequence 3 tripod and a full-size ball head. Whereas I don’t wish to hike an excessive amount of with that setup, it really works effective for roadside images and quick hikes. I’ve discovered it makes a major distinction for telephoto lenses.

Tip #7. Use a Tripod Collar

Tripod collars are sometimes used on telephoto lenses to scale back the pressure on the lens mount brought on by a heavy lens with a protracted lever arm. That may be a ok purpose because the pressure might lead to long-term misalignment of the lens mount. The difficulty related to this text is that with out a tripod collar, the offset of the middle of gravity degrades the soundness, and the lever arm of wind pushing the lens is bigger.

Most high-end telephoto lenses include a built-in tripod collar. Lesser telephoto lenses don’t, however you should purchase a third-party collar for them. As soon as I added a tripod collar to the Sony 70-300, I observed a better success price, whereas earlier than I typically struggled to get sharp photographs. Nonetheless, by way of weight and bulk, the distinction with the higher Sony 100-400 turned minimal.

Tip #8. Stabilize the Tripod

Despite the fact that a light-weight tripod will not be optimum for telephoto images, generally that’s all you bought. You possibly can one way or the other make it right into a heavier tripod. Many tripods include a hook on the backside of the middle column or the platform, from which you’ll be able to grasp weights, reminiscent of your digicam bag or a buying bag that you just load with rocks.

One other associated method is to use downward strain to your tripod. The simplest is to press on the highest of your digicam with a hand, however you too can step together with your toes right into a strap connected to the middle column or platform. Notice that whereas these options tackle the dearth of mass of the tripod, they don’t tackle its lack of rigidity, therefore the “one way or the other”.

Tip #9. Use a Distant Launch

Until you utilize a particularly sturdy tripod, urgent the shutter will lead to some digicam vibration. For regular lenses, with a self-timer delay of 5 seconds (however not 2 seconds!) the vibration dies down sufficient, however in my expertise, for telephotos, 10 seconds is extra acceptable. The issue is that fairly a bit can occur throughout these 10 seconds, together with a gust of wind selecting up. And there are these conditions when the shot must be timed, as an example for a wave. A distant launch alleviates these points.

Tip #10. Time for the Wind

Telephoto lenses are significantly delicate to the wind due to their bodily measurement and magnification. Should you take note of the wind sample, you’ll discover that it’s virtually by no means uniform. There are gusts alternating with calmer intervals. Attempt to launch the shutter throughout a lull. It may possibly take plenty of endurance, however such lulls typically occur.

Tip #11. Shelter from the Wind

Not solely the wind will not be uniformly distributed in time, however the identical additionally applies in area. Once I stepped up on the summit ridge of Dona Anna, the wind hit me with full pressure, however by descending a couple of meters the downwind aspect of the summit, I discovered sufficient shelter to {photograph} at sundown. Even a tree can provide sufficient shelter.

Getting decrease to the bottom often leads to decrease wind velocity, so simply decreasing your tripod may also help, with the extra profit {that a} decrease extension means increased rigidity. In addition to benefiting from terrain configuration, you may shelter your digicam together with your physique. Amongst many different helpful purposes, an umbrella makes a wonderful wind shelter. For roadside pictures, I’ve used my automobile as a shelter, both by pointing it in direction of the wind and standing behind the rear hatch and even by capturing from a seat.

Tip #12. Crank Up ISO

In case you are not in a position to get out of a stiff breeze, until you’ve got the beefiest tripod, there are all the time going to be some vibrations. The shorter the shutter velocity, the lesser their influence. Every part else being equal, you will get shorter shutter speeds by rising ISO. Growing the ISO from base 100 to 400 within the daytime doesn’t lead to important noise and loses solely minimal element, nevertheless it divides your publicity time by an element of 4.

Tip #13. Take A number of Exposures

In some conditions, it’s possible you’ll not have the time to test at 100% magnification that the pictures are sharp, perhaps as a result of there are fast adjustments to not be missed, such because the solar cresting above the horizon. That may be a case the place making redundant exposures might be helpful to extend the prospect that you just obtained a usable shot.


Concerning the writer: QT Luong was the primary to {photograph} all America’s 62 Nationwide Parks — in giant format. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the writer. Luong was featured within the movie The Nationwide Parks: Americaʼs Greatest Concept by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. His images are extensively revealed and have been the topic of large-format books together with Treasured Lands (winner of 10 nationwide and worldwide ebook awards), many newspaper and journal function articles, solo gallery and museum displays throughout the U.S. and overseas. Yow will discover extra of his work on his web site, Twitter, Instagram, and Fb. This text was additionally revealed right here and right here.



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