The wide-angle lens is very well known to be “the” landscape photography lens. That being said, it can be a little hard to figure out how to use it in the beginning. Here are five tips.
A wide-angle lens is defined as a lens with a focal length smaller (or wider) than 35mm on a full-frame camera. All photographers know there is a huge difference between photographing as 16mm and photographing at 35mm, however, these tips ought to work very well for everything shorter than 35mm.
Although not always necessary, I personally prefer to have a focal point in my photos. A focal point is generally where the eye tends to rest or “go-to” in a photo and generally, that is where you would want to place your main subject. In this article, you can see plenty of photos, where the subject is the focal point. The drone photo below with the tree on the field is a great example of a single focal point. Yes, most drones actually has a wide-angle prime lens installed.
Sometimes you can have several focal points. It increases the complexity of the photo and you will have to use other guidelines to avoid the photo being too chaotic. In the below photo, I would argue the sun is the main focal point as it draws the eye in the most. The foreground boat also works as a focal point, but by lining the boats up the create a natural flow towards the sun, which further emphasizes that is where the eye goes.
What a wide-angle is really good at is “distorting” the world. It shows a broader perspective of the world than the human eye. This results in the foreground looking bigger than the background and emphasizes depth. In the above photo, which is photographed at 12mm there is a strong sense of depth. The rule of thumb is, the wider you shoot, the more you emphasize the depth.
Just because you photograph very wide, does not automatically mean you get a strong sense of depth. A kind of foreground is important. In the below photo, I use the rye field as a foreground to the big sun halo in the background. In the video above, you can see I have the 12-24 wide-angle zoom lens very close to the rye. This highly emphasizes the foreground, creates a strong sense of depth, and makes it feel you are standing in the rye field looking at the beautiful natural phenomenon.
For these kinds of photos with a strong foreground, you generally want to have everything in the scene in focus. This means you need to close down the aperture, as that gives you a bigger depth of field. I usually shoot at f/16 for these kinds of photos, as that gives me the best balance between sharpness and depth of field. Usually, the three smallest apertures of your lens are less sharp due to “diffraction” which is an optical phenomenon where the light is shattered more through the lens and results in soft photos. You will need to test the threshold of your own lenses. Alternatively, you can photograph at the sharpest aperture of your lens and focus stack the photo. Generally, in both cases, I would recommend a tripod. Besides the aperture, I recommend to photograph at base ISO and let the shutter speed be the variable exposure factor. If you lack light, you may need to up the ISO a bit.
To me, the best landscape photos come with interesting weather conditions. This includes light. I usually prefer to avoid strong mid-day light. In the above video, I emphasize sunset photography, simply because the light and colors are more interesting. In the drone photos, the shadows are longer, in the boat photos the sunset lights up the clouds and deliver some beautiful soft light, and the sun halo speaks for itself. However, I actually often prefer sunrise photography as it is more likely to come with atmospheric conditions such as mist and fog, which is something I absolutely love in my photography. The below photo is from a very atmospheric morning in a local forest.
Be sure to check out the video above to see how I approached the different scenes. Do you have more tips to share for wide-angle landscape photography? Be sure to share it in the comment section below.