Five months ago, I bought my first ultra-wide lens — the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 — after holding out for years. I’ve always flirted with the idea of such a crazy perspective, but I kept finding reasons not to purchase one myself. A 24mm lens had worked well as my widest angle for years, and I rarely found myself wanting anything more. Now that I’ve seen the other side, though, have my attitudes changed? After going on two major trips with the 14-24mm f/2.8, the insane perspective has started to grow on me, but I still have plenty of reservations. Here’s how I’d sum things up, including my recommendations for anyone else considering making such a leap for themselves.
If you’re a landscape photographer, you care about lenses. Even if you don’t know that you care about lenses, you do — a good lens is arguably the most important piece of equipment you can own. In fact, lenses matter even more than the camera you use. While cameras make it easier to set the settings you want, lenses change the inherent composition of your photos. So, how do you pick the best lens for your own landscape photography needs?
Say that the sun just set, and you’re trying to take photos of the blue glow that now sits on the horizon. Seems like the perfect backdrop for a beautiful landscape, doesn’t it? But in order to capture the photo you want as well as possible, there’s one piece of camera equipment that is absolutely essential: a tripod. Landscape photography and tripods go hand in hand, but there’s a lot of important information about them that many photographers don’t know. In this article, I’ll cover the ins and outs of tripods, including what you need to know if you’re buying one yourself.
It’s almost midnight and still bright outside. I’m in Iceland during the summer solstice, when the sun never really sets. I’ve packed all the camera equipment I need for an overnight trek through amazing scenery, along with food, water, extra clothes, and other miscellaneous gear. How much does my fully loaded bag weigh? Eight kilos (eighteen pounds). This might not seem very lightweight, but, for a photography-centered expedition, it isn’t bad at all. So, how does that look in practice?
Landscape photographers often deal with the dilemma of choosing between different types and brands of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters for use in high-contrast situations such as sunrise and sunset, where their cameras might not have enough dynamic range to be able to capture the entire scene. While we are not going to go over each and every brand to see which one performs better, we do want to show the difference in sharpness between glass and resin filters. For this particular test, we used three 0.6 (2 stop) filters from three different manufacturers – NiSi (glass filter), Lee (resin) and HiTech (resin). The latter two are probably the two brands that are used the most among photographers in the field.
For the past couple years, I have thought of myself primarily as a “telephoto” landscape photographer. A majority of scenes that catch my attention look best with a telephoto lens, and I tend to keep a 105mm or 70-200mm on my camera most of the time. However, a recent trip to Zion and Death Valley National Parks changed my mind.
When one thinks of landscape photography, one more often than not imagines dramatic, sweeping grand landscape scenes, which are almost exclusively taken with ultra wide-angle lenses. While these scenes can be quite stunning (and beautiful… and a lot of fun to shoot!), it is nice to make use of the drastically different perspective afforded by a telephoto lens. A telephoto lens, as you may know, is used to capture frame-filling images of faraway subject matter. This is because it has a much narrower angle of view than a wide-angle lens. While a wide-angle lens exaggerates differences in both the size of and the distance between near and far objects, a telephoto lens effectively reduces those differences. This means that a telephoto lens causes a close object to appear more similar in size relative to a further away object, even if the closer object would actually appear larger in person, and it means that a telephoto lens can cause the apparent distance between near and far objects to appear smaller, which creates a nice compression effect.
What are the best Nikon lenses for landscape photography? After I posted my last article on “Best Nikon Lenses for Wedding Photography“, I have been getting many requests from our readers to also talk about lenses for photographing landscapes, nature and wildlife (another post on best Nikon wildlife lenses will be published soon). In this post I will not only talk about which Nikon lenses I believe are the best for photographing landscapes, but also when I use a particular lens, along with plenty of image samples from each lens. Please keep in mind that the information I present below is a personal opinion based on my experience so far, which is subject to change. No third party lenses are presented either, although some Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron and Samyang lenses are phenomenal for landscapes. If you have a favorite lens of yours for landscape photography that is not listed below, please feel free to add a comment on the bottom of the page with some information and links to pictures (if you have any that you would like to share).
While I was photographing the beautiful scenery of the Glacier National Park at sunrise, I realized that some filters are pretty much required to get good results when photographing landscapes. While many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software, while others help in getting even better results in post-processing. If you do not know what filters are and what they are used for, I highly recommend reading my “lens filters explained” article before you continue to read this one.