13 Suggestions for Taking pictures Sharp Panorama Pictures with a Telephoto Lens

Panorama images is commonly related, and even equated, with the usage of wide-angle lenses, nonetheless, this will result in formulaic compositions. Telephoto lenses might 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 pictures of my photobook Our National 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 usually beneath a dramatic sky. Photographers corresponding to Galen Rowell would embrace that esthetic. His most used wide-angle lens was a 24mm, with the occasional 20mm, however since then the brief finish of the 16-35mm lens has turn out to be a regular, with focal lengths of 14mm, and extra just lately 12mm pretty widespread at a large finish of a zoom.

Broad-angle images was one of the main reasons I turned to a large-format camera – 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 may even see, naturally creating a way of depth. Then again, they shrink the backgrounds, for instance diminishing the influence of big mountains and inserting the emphasis on foreground parts which are extra widespread than these mountains. If, as well as, you course of them the identical approach, pictures can find yourself all trying the identical.

Telephoto lenses are heavier to hold and more difficult to make use of than wide-angle lenses. Compositions have to be extra exact, as small modifications have better results. You must look more durable for them, as they type solely a small portion of your subject of view.

That latter level is possibly what makes telephoto panorama images so compelling: while you choose up a small portion of the scene, you direct the viewer to one thing that you simply 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 provide comparable pictures 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 nearly every picture needed to symbolize a distinct location. Our National Monuments had extra room, and I may use a number of pictures to symbolize single places. In two instances, I repeated pictures 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

In the course of 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 principle mountains within the monument, Silver Bell and Ragged High. Nevertheless, 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 solely totally different, conveying a way of splendor slightly than of house. The attitude appears to be like 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 National Monuments.

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

In Our National Monuments, there’s a second pair of pictures 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 identify, however as I neared the summit, I discovered a panorama nonetheless rising from the winter. Photographing in the direction of the south let me embody north-facing slopes with some snow.

The comparability between this picture (web page 83), and the next is much more hanging as a result of the 2 focal lengths usually are not that totally different. The vast picture was photographed at 54mm, which by right this moment’s panorama images requirements is kind 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 pictures 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 could have been ill-advised to use a “dehaze” correction.

Technical Challenges

Right here’s a technical element that illustrates the depth of subject points with telephoto lenses. Once I photographed the Ragged Peak picture, I assumed that the cactus within the foreground have been far sufficient that they might be topics at infinity, just like the mountains. I subsequently 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 regarded sharp sufficient, however when reviewing the picture at 100% on a pc display screen, it turned out that the mountain was a bit comfortable due to inadequate depth of subject.

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 appears to be like acceptable, however my daughter was capable of inform the distinction between two take a look at prints seen side-by-side.

Utilizing this Depth of Field calculator with the circle of confusion 10 microns applicable for the Sony a7R IV 61 MP full-frame sensor (2.5 instances the pixel pitch 3.76 microns as defined here), we discover a hyperfocal distance of 1,450 meters for 340mm and f/8. The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you’ll be able to deal with and nonetheless have good infinity focus.

Learn additionally: What is Hyperfocal Distance and How Do You Find It?

All because of this on this case, to get good infinity focus, I’d 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 might help you make totally different panorama pictures, however they current many challenges. Not solely do it’s a must to pay extra consideration to compositions, but in addition they require a extra cautious approach. As we’ve simply seen, depth of subject is proscribed, notably so with high-resolution sensors, so focusing needs to be very exact, and despite the fact that the closest factor could appear far at a whole bunch (or possibly 1000’s) of toes away, superior methods might 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 explicit order for overcoming this problem. All pictures 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. Examine Sharpness

Photographs can look nice at a look on the LCD, however end up 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 shifting on to the following one is all the time a good suggestion to forestall disappointments. That follow is all of the extra necessary in telephoto images as a result of there are such a lot of the explanation why telephoto pictures might lack crucial sharpness. If you happen to discover that pictures usually are not sharp, then it’s time for a number of the changes described beneath.

Tip #2. Thoughts Focus and Depth of Area

One cause why it is more difficult to get sharp pictures with telephoto lenses is that the depth of subject space is a lot smaller than for regular and wide-angle lenses. Any imprecision in focusing exhibits up. Guide focusing at 100% magnification is probably the most dependable strategy to proceed, however when you use autofocus, however certain to examine whether it is good.

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

Tip #3. Take into account Focus Stacking

At an extended focal size, getting a foreground and background each in focus may be inconceivable. Stopping a lens right down to f/22 just isn’t 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 gradual shutter velocity makes the seize extra weak to vibration. A helpful various is to merge exposures made with totally different focus factors at f/11, a characteristic automated by Photoshop.

Tip #4. Time for Higher Air Readability

Air readability is an missed subject with telephoto images. Usually with these compositions, even the closest topics may be far sufficient that picture degradation as a result of air high quality is kind of noticeable. On a sizzling afternoon within the desert, trying within the viewfinder of a telephoto lens, you’ll be able to see distant parts vibrating as a result of air convection.

Even in windless situations, when you take an image in these situations, nothing at a distance comes out sharp. Within the cooler temperatures of the morning, the air is commonly extra clear, and that’s usually the perfect time for telephoto work. As well as, at daybreak and nightfall, when the solar just isn’t out, haze is far diminished.

Tip #5. Use a Polarizer

Haze consists of particles within the air that mirror 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 notably helpful for telephoto pictures.

Tip #6. Use a Sturdy Tripod

The principle cause for unsharp telephoto pictures is undesirable digicam movement. Handholding a telephoto lens with profitable outcomes is tough. These lenses are sometimes giant and heavy. Small digicam actions have an effect on the composition. You want sooner shutter speeds for sharp pictures, with the overall rule that you simply want an publicity time in seconds sooner than 1/F, the place F is the focal size in millimeters. That is tough to achieve in low mild, notably when you cease down and use a polarizing filter.

Within the slightest of breezes, even a tripod that works high quality for regular lenses just isn’t sufficient to stabilize a telephoto lens. Sometimes, I take advantage of a sequence 2 tripod and a medium-size ball head. Nevertheless, 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 prefer to hike an excessive amount of with that setup, it really works high quality for roadside images and brief 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 cut back the pressure on the lens mount attributable to a heavy lens with an extended lever arm. That may be a adequate cause because the pressure may lead to long-term misalignment of the lens mount. The problem related to this text is that and not using 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 fee, whereas earlier than I usually struggled to get sharp pictures. Nevertheless, by way of weight and bulk, the distinction with the higher Sony 100-400 turned minimal.

Tip #8. Stabilize the Tripod

Though a lightweight tripod just isn’t optimum for telephoto images, generally that’s all you bought. You possibly can by some means 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, corresponding to your digicam bag or a buying bag that you simply load with rocks.

One other associated approach is to use downward stress to your tripod. The simplest is to press on the highest of your digicam with a hand, however you may also step along with your toes right into a strap connected to the middle column or platform. Word that whereas these options tackle the shortage of mass of the tripod, they don’t tackle its lack of rigidity, therefore the “by some means”.

Tip #9. Use a Distant Launch

Except you utilize an especially 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 applicable. The issue is that fairly a bit can occur throughout these 10 seconds, together with a gust of wind choosing 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 notably delicate to the wind due to their bodily measurement and magnification. If you happen to take note of the wind sample, you’ll discover that it’s virtually by no means uniform. There are gusts alternating with calmer durations. Attempt to launch the shutter throughout a lull. It may take a whole lot of endurance, however such lulls usually occur.

Tip #11. Shelter from the Wind

Not solely the wind just isn’t uniformly distributed in time, however the identical additionally applies in house. Once I stepped up on the summit ridge of Dona Anna, the wind hit me with full pressure, however by descending a number 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 normally leads to decrease wind velocity, so simply decreasing your tripod might help, with the extra profit {that a} decrease extension means greater rigidity. Apart from profiting from terrain configuration, you’ll be able to shelter your digicam along with your physique. Amongst many different helpful functions, an umbrella makes a wonderful wind shelter. For roadside pictures, I’ve used my automotive as a shelter, both by pointing it in the direction of the wind and standing behind the rear hatch and even by taking pictures from a seat.

Tip #12. Crank Up ISO

In case you are not capable of get out of a stiff breeze, until you might have the beefiest tripod, there are all the time going to be some vibrations. The shorter the shutter velocity, the lesser their influence. All the things else being equal, you may get shorter shutter speeds by growing ISO. Rising the ISO from base 100 to 400 within the daytime doesn’t lead to vital 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, you could not have the time to examine at 100% magnification that the pictures are sharp, possibly as a result of there are fast modifications to not be missed, such because the solar cresting above the horizon. That may be a case the place making redundant exposures may be helpful to extend the prospect that you simply received a usable shot.


In regards to 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 Thought 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 characteristic articles, solo gallery and museum reveals throughout the U.S. and overseas. You will discover extra of his work on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This text was additionally revealed here and here.

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