Capturing Wide Angle Perspectives with a Telephoto Lens

St Anne's Beach | Laguna Beach, CA

St Anne's Beach | Laguna Beach, CA

I love wide angle photography. My go to lens is my Zeiss 21mm Distagon T*. I recently purchased the new Canon 16-35mm f4 lens and fell in love with wide angle photography all over again. I don't like getting too complacent with my methods though. I'm constantly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone into situations where I'm forced to learn and grow. I captured this wide angle perspective of St. Anne's Beach with a 70-200mm telephoto lens. It's a concept I never really gave much thought to until that evening at St. Anne's Beach. I was feeling uninspired by everything. The sunset didn't appear to be that spectacular at first, the shoreline wasn't rocky or interesting, the surrounding cliffs that define Laguna's coast were seemingly far away from the perspective of a wide angle lens. Rather than pack my bags and head home, which was very tempting, I figured what the heck do I have to gain by calling it quits for the night. I started experimenting with the different lenses in my bag and compositions they could bring to the table. I needed to figure out a way to create a more impactful shot from an otherwise dull experience.

The difficulty I found myself trying to overcome was that I was shooting with my new Canon 16-35mm f/4 lens for the first time and I really wanted to bring home something amazing to show for it. I was very impressed with the performance of this new lens but I just wasn't feeling a sense of satisfaction with the composition that I was capturing with my wide angle lenses that night. It was a problem that even my Zeiss 21mm lens couldn't have resolved. I was capturing a wide sweeping perspective with tons of detail, but there was too much and it was all too small.

Wide angle lenses are known for being able to capture a lot of detail in a single frame. You can stand very close to the subject area of what you're photographing and bring in a lot of detail. There comes a point though where the details become too small to take notice because the lens is zoomed out too far. If you were to stand much further back and capture the same subject with a telephoto lens, the longer lens would have a way of magnifying the subject while still capturing a wide perspective. This is due to your physical position from the subject area being further back.

Moving your physical location to zoom in and out is a concept that prime lens shooters are all too familiar with. Zoom lenses are typically purchased by those who don't want to have to move their physical location to zoom in and out.

When I captured this photograph I started off with my 16-35mm lens. While looking at the results, I noticed that the hills and surrounding landscape were all too small to be able to make any significant impact in the photograph. Wide angles lenses simply do not magnify the subject in the way telephoto lenses do. To experiment with this concept, I walked to the far end of the beach, away from everything. I then swapped over to my 70-200 lens and captured the same scene. The hill and surrounding landcape in this photograph resulted in a much more impactful presence. You get a much better idea here of just how large the hills are in Laguna when standing on the beach. Now, scatter houses all over those hills and you have one heck of a view that people pay a fortune for. Some day, maybe!

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