Every landscape photographer gets a special tingle when they start talking about using their widest angle lens. Shooting at 11mm or 14mm with a field of flowers in the foreground and a stream winding through the scene with beautiful mountains, clouds and light filling up the background is enough to make any us want to print up a 40×60 inch print to hang on the wall.
While very wide lenses are awesome, here is a little secret. Many of my best landscape images are taking with my mid range zoom of 24-70mm and if not with that lens, something longer like my 70-200 or now recently added 100-400mm lens.
Being able to compress the landscape and focus in on the nooks, crannies and other nuances of light have saved my bacon more than once on an outing into the field. This morning up in Rocky was no exception and I was more than thrilled to rack out my 100-400mm lens to capture some interesting light that would have otherwise been to far away.
To make a long story (and blog post) short, my morning up in Rocky Mountain National Park started with an inversion or low lying cloud layer of the park. As is usually the case, when an inversion is present, I try to get above it. This morning is was up Trail Ridge Road and then a few miles out on the alpine tundra and Ute Trail to get an interesting vista.
The only problem was, these inversions layers can be quite fickle. The rise and fall like a wave but also ebb and flow just like a tide. This morning, the beautiful layer of clouds that filled Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park and Forest Canyon below me had moved on out to the east by the time I arrived at my vantage point.
Sunrise was beautiful but there were almost no clouds left and for the most part, much of the landscape while spectacular and beautiful, was not all that interesting from a photography perspective.
There was one exception however. The Needles across the valley in the Lumpy Ridge section of Rocky had some awesome light beams coming down as the sun rose over RMNP. Even better, some fog and clouds hung over the lower peaks.
Off went my 24-120mm lens and on went the 100-400mm lens. At 400mm, I was able to compress the landscape to accentuate the light beams, capture the fog and clouds around the Needles and come away with dramatic light. If I only had my 70-200mm on me I would not have been able to compress the scene enough to keep it interesting. Even so, one more time my long lens landscapes with my 100-400mm saved my bacon!.