There was a thread recently that asked about uses for 135mm focal length lenses on full frame cameras. I suggested landscapes. That got me thinking. I know that conventional wisdom is that short lenses are appropriate for landscapes. I did a study of the focal lengths that Ansel Adams used for some of his most famous images, and that sort of bore out the point, except that AA’s short lenses weren’t generally thought of as really short today.
But I contended then, and repeat now, that you can use just about any focal length for landscapes, not just short ones. To make my point, I posted a group of images in the post that I linked above. At the risk of selling past yes, I offer the following set of images, all shot from the same location on a full frame camera, with The Otus 55 and 85, the 135/2 Apo-Sonnar, The 180/3.4 Apo-Telyt-R, the 280/4 Apo-Telyt R, the Nikon 400 mm f/2.8 and 500 mm f/4E, and even one with the 500/4 and a 1.4x TC. This is a wider range than I was using at the time of the previous post on this subject.
Kirk Thompson says
I would suggest that the conclusion follows from the premise that landscape photographers are people who want to clone Ansel Adams images. That was what they did up to about the 1970s –
rather a long time ago – when the New Topographics abandoned long lenses for a personal stance involving a range of focal lengths that approximated the angle of view of the photographer’s eyes as he or she stood and viewed the scene. The viewer, in turn, was nudged to identify with the photographer’s point of view, to ‘be there now,’ as was not the case with the earlier monumentaliizng style. The emphasis of landscape photography, both urban and wild, has thus become more personal and social than objective/abstract/formal. Emphasis has shifted noticeably from the abstractly Sublime and Beautiful to the more realistic circumstances of nature and the environment. When a nature/landscape photographer does use long lenses – for example Burtynsky or Salgado – now it’s more likely that he or she is making a statement about human interaction with the planet. So my conclusion would be the one you initially questioned : few contemporary landscape photographers are using long lenses, for the good reason that they distance the photographer and viewer from the subject matter and turn nature into abstractions.
Sorry to disagree about this one point! I’ve followed your GFX explorations with great benefit and thank you so much for them!
Kirk’s criticism and entire argument seem founded on a fundamental misperception. The mean 35mm equivalent focal length for the Ansel Adams images that Jim analyzed was 48mm, which is in the range that is generally considered the focal length equivalent of human vision – hence the use of the term “normal” lens. This is not consistent with Kirk’s premise that Ansel Adams mostly used long lenses.