Most people think of shooting a scenic as a grand landscape. Many photographers from urban areas escape the city to photograph the huge areas of the west. There are a lot of gorgeous landscapes that are made in Montana whose state motto is Big Sky Country. There's a developing theme to these italicized words. Grand, huge, big—with these words in mind, I offer to you to get out the "Big Glass" to photograph landscapes. I realize it goes against the norm to capture a scenic with a wide angle, but just because everyone else does it, it doesn't make it gospel. I'm sure you've heard the following words from your parents—'If everyone else was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?' So, stay dry and strap a long lens on your camera and go out and make some scenics. To meet the guideline, the focal range for which this article is geared is 200mm and above.
Camera Technique: Telephoto lenses increase magnification. Commensurate with this increase is the magnification of mistakes necessitating careful picture taking technique. It goes without saying it's essential you use a sturdy tripod. The longer the lens, the sturdier it needs to be. The use of an electronic cable release will save the anguish of realizing you should have used one if you didn't. The simple pressing of the shutter button imparts movement to the image. The use of an electronic cable release cures this problem. Use a camera with mirror lock-up. This comes in especially handy with shutter speeds between 1/ 2 and 1/ 30th of a second. When the mirror inside the camera goes up which enables the light to strike the sensor, this causes mirror slap. The shutter speeds to which I just referred are most prone to imparting mirror slap movement.
Use a Telephoto to Show the Grand Landscape: The quintessential subject example of the grand landscape shot with a telephoto is layers of mountains shot in early or late light. It shows the compression of ridges making them appear stacked. The effect is a layering of compositional elements whose separation is implied via density changes of dark to light as the peaks recede in the distance. The ridges in the foreground are darker and more prominent and become lighter as they get more distant.
Isolate: Look for the photo within a photo. Somewhere within almost every scene lies another. Use a telephoto and glass the environment to find these hidden gems. With telephoto landscapes the saying, less is more, certainly holds true. The same rules for composition, light and balance apply, so don't overlook them just because you zero into a portion of the overall scene. In actuality, scenes photographed with telephotos have an advantage as the clutter that may exist in a wide-angle photo can be eliminated. In each of the accompanying images, I used a long lens to make the shot. By no means do they depict the iconic image of each location, but each stands alone on its own merit. The next time you journey out to make grand scenics, bring along the long zoom. You'll be surprised with what you may capture.