The telephoto zoom is a best friend

JJWP325The picture on the right was taken at a lake. I was probably half a kilometer away. The whole lakeshore vista was filled with boats and numerous fish pens. From a distance I saw this canoe and zooming in with my telephoto lens I saw a man and a child. Quickly, I had to isolate other distracting subjects. Further zooming in I was able to include in the frame only a part of the fish pen and the canoe and its passengers. I liked the result. For DSLR users without an all-in-one 18-200mm lens, they usually have an extra, dedicated telephoto zoom lens for shots like the one I’ve mentioned. Powerful digital compacts and point and shoot cameras nowadays have from 10x up to 50x optical zoom. In 35mm terms, 50x is equivalent to a staggering  1200mm in zooming power. A separate DSLR lens with that capability will cost thousands of dollars. A built-in telephoto will more or less do the job without “breaking the bank.” What is the importance of being able to zoom in from great distances? Not all photographic situations allow us to physically move in and get close to our subjects. We’ve tackled the topic “filling the frame” in a previous post. That is the ideal shot, get close or zoom in to have the subject fill the camera’s frame, isolate distracting elements that do not contribute to the point of interest, and to highlight the subject.  What are the practical applications of zoom lens? If you are into wildlife photography, its critical. You cannot get close to birds, bears, lions, elephants and other wild beasts. There is no point in approaching them or disturbing them in their natural activity and habitat, for your own sake. You are an intruder in their territory. Your zoom lens will do the job of capturing them up close, hopefully without them knowing it. What are the creative applications? As I mentioned earlier, being able to isolate your subject and eliminate unessential elements in the frame without you getting personally up close (probably because of natural barriers like a body of water) is in the capability of your telephoto lens. With such feature, you have a wide berth of playing and adjusting your composition, as I did with the picture above.  Photographer David Peterson who is also founder of online site Digital Photo Secrets, gives an informative overview in his article When and How to use a Telephoto Zoom Lens. In it, he explains the types of zoom lens, how to use them, and things to consider when using them. I have said before that its not the gear but the photographer who creates images. But sometimes creativity is aided when we have the right equipment to pursue it.


3 responses

  1. So very true. Naturally, when I see a nice vista, I tend to pull the wide angle out but a lot of excellent images (like the one above) are taken with telephotos for the reasons you explain as well as for foreground to background perspective compression. This perceived proximity may make some images.

    January 15, 2013 at 4:26 am

    • Junsjazz

      Thanks sph3re! That’s why even compact cameras now have long zoom capabilities…its a handy feature and sometimes make for interesting images.

      January 15, 2013 at 9:06 am

  2. Pingback: This Telephoto Zoom Lens

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