Lenses For Landscape Photography


Many photographers think wide angle lenses are necessary for landscape photography. When they want to pursue landscape photography, those are the lenses they buy. When others want to take up landscape photography, those are the lenses they recommend. When they head out to do landscape photography, those are the lenses they bring, and keep on their cameras.

This trend has perhaps become even more emphatic in recent years, as lens technology has made extreme wide angle lenses less expensive, and more common.

It’s true that wide angle lenses tend to work best for showing everything from right in front of your feet to the distant horizon, and up high into the sky, in one shot; and they also are generally better choices for getting both near subjects and far subjects within the depth of field. Choosing a wide angle lens for that kind of landsape photography is a good choice. I use wide angle lenses for landscape photography, often.

That said, I find it unfortunate that many people only think of those near-far shots when they think of landscape photos, and unfortunate that many limit their landscape making to near-far pictures with wide angle lenses. I use every focal length from extreme wide angles to extreme telephotos for my landscape photography. Scenes I want to photograph come in every size and distance – so I don’t limit myself to using just one kind of tool to make just one kind of landscape. In fact, I have no particular lens preferences for landscape photography, and use most of my lenses about equally for it. I don’t even prefer wide angles to telephotos for landscapes.

In my opinion, all focal lengths are good for landscape photography. I photograph distant scenes with “flattened” layers as much as I do near-far scenes which start right in front of me. Both wide angles and telephotos have their advantages. Wide angles are great when you want to show everything; telephotos are great when you want to pare down to the essential details. People often assume, when making photographs of a splendid scene, that showing as much as they can is best. However, it’s actually often best to exclude the extraneous details, increasing emphasis on the main elements of interest.

All focal lengths are good for landscape photography.

Morning, Tenaya Lake © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 24 mm focal length


Bristlecone Pines, White Mountains © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 35 mm focal length


Weathered Bristlecone Pine © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 45 mm focal length


First Light, Mono Lake © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 55 mm focal length


Mount Whitney Through Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, California © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 65 mm focal length


View East From Tioga Pass, Near Yosemite, California © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 200 mm focal length


Rebel Tulip, Mount Vernon, Washington

Photographed at 300 mm focal length

Upper Yosemite Falls and Pines, Yosemite National Park © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 420 mm focal length


Setting Sun, Half Moon Bay, California © Mike Spinak

Photographed at 1,200 mm focal length


Consider all of your lenses landscape lenses, and photograph landscapes with whatever lenses you have.

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

  • Michael Russell - I agree – but this was not, for some reason, what I anticipated when I started out either. While I am happy I bought a 10-22mm lens (on a crop sensor), I use it less frequently than I expected. I often just don’t want to “get it all in” as not all of the scene is that interesting. I have also been surprised how frequently I have been using a 70-200mm for landscapes – I had expected I would be using the longer end of it for wildlife etc. almost exclusively.ReplyCancel

  • naturography - Michael, I think a lot of people go through this same thing. While it’s always good to have a wide angle lens, hopefully this article will help people see that any lens they have is good for landscape photography.ReplyCancel

  • Robert - Good points about the use of various length lenses. While I tend to wide angle shots myself, I will occasionally use a short telephoto lens. Funny though, my widest lens, an 80mm Schneider, is the lens I probably use the least, even though it is my favorite.ReplyCancel

  • Candice Cossel - I love your landscape work! I would be really interested in knowing what aperture these are at. Oh and I am especially impressed with the sun shot, as having been to Half Moon Bay just getting to see the sun is lucky :) ReplyCancel

  • naturography - Thanks, Robert.
    Thank you, Candice.
    1) f/16; 2) f/22; 3) f/16; 4) f/8; 5) f/16; 6) f/8; 7) f/8.ReplyCancel

  • G Dan Mitchell - Michael Russell’s comment brings up an interesting point – namely, the number of landscape photographers who will tell you that the 70-200mm zooms are their most useful and favorite lenses.

    I also wrote a post on some of the landscape lens myths at my blog some months back, and it might be regarded as complementary to your post: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2010/10/24/photographic-myths-and-platitudes-landscape-photography-lenses-part-i