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Why You Should Use a 100-400mm Lens for Landscape Photos

Photographer Michael Shainblum is known for some truly impressive landscape images and in previous videos has strongly advocated for the use of telephoto lenses. In this 10-minute video, he shows how he captured two days worth of images with mainly a Sigma 100-400mm.

Before the pandemic last year, Shainblum had the opportunity to visit Yosemite just after a snowfall which gave him the opportunity to shoot snow-dappled images of one of the most photogenic National Parks in the United States. After revisiting that shoot recently, he realized that he went the entire day shooting almost exclusively on a Sigma 100-400mm zoom lens.

Part of his goal in these images was to capture the look of being there — that is to say, the atmospheric conditions.

“The way the fog has moved every few minutes, the scene changes, and new compositions get revealed,” he says. “There is just some beautiful atmosphere.”

In the several images Shainblum discusses, the lighting he captures and isolates thanks to framing is only made possible thanks to the extended zooms he has at his disposal.

“I think it’s easy to get into the mindset of ‘well this place has been heavily photographed, is there anything else I can say about the place?’” Shainblum says. “There are tons of images that exist of Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most famous places for landscape photography. It’s easy to take a look at that and say ‘I just want to go somewhere that hasn’t really been photographed or that isn’t very popular so I’ll be able to take images that are more unique and more interesting.’ And while I do enjoy exploring new places, I don’t think you always have to do that to create interesting and unique photographs.”

Part of what makes using a zoom lens so beneficial for landscape photography is that it forces you to see environments in ways others have not. Wide-angle landscape photography is much more common, so detail shots like the ones Shainblum shares here are wildly compelling because of how unique they are.

“Try not to have those preconceived ideas of what a place is supposed to be about,” Shainblum says while discussing how photographers might come to a location thinking that all the photos that could be taken of a place, have been. “Create your own experience with the place, and I think you’ll be able to tell better stories.”

Michael Shainblum is an excellent resource for landscape photography inspiration. For more from him, make sure you subscribe to his YouTube Channel.


Image credits: Photos by Michael Shainblum and used with permission.

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