photography from the ground up

Focal Lengths, F Stops, and Tripods, Oh My

This is a post about gear (particularly lenses) and why I chose it (them) to make a specific image. I teach a digital photography class at a nearby college and one of the things I cover in that class is the effect that the angle of view (the angle of coverage of the lens) can have on how the image is perceived by viewers. There are four categories: broad landscapes (wide angle), intimate landscapes (normal to short telephoto), compressed landscapes (mid-long telephotos) , and macro/close-ups (macro lens).


This image of a small wash full of water was made in the Rio Puerco Valley after a monsoon rain. It is an example of a broad landscape; the depth of the image from foreground to horizon is exaggerated. I used a wide angle zoom with an aperture of f 22 to give me the  depth of field I needed to keep everything sharp.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 @ 17mm; 1/30sec, f22, ISO 100, tripod


I made this image in Blue Canyon on the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona. It is an intimate landscape; the area covered, side to side and front to back, is relatively small compared to the broad landscape. There is a feeling of immediacy  or closeness about the image, as if it could fit in your living room. I used a medium telephoto zoom set at an aperture of f 11.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 28-70mm f2.8 @ 35mm; 1/25sec, f11, ISO 100, tripod


Using a telephoto lens causes an image to compress, so distant objects seem closer. A telephoto lens does not exaggerate the depth of the image the way a wide angle lens does. Instead, it causes elements to flatten, making the distance from foreground to horizon appear shorter, and making the elements in between appear more closely grouped.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 @ 200mm; 1/25sec, f8, ISO 100, tripod


There is something about the the world that lies right at our feet that is compelling. Although it is normally common and quite ordinary, given a little attention and a skilled eye it can become extraordinary. This is the world of close-up or macro photography. There is no need to travel to exotic locales when there is an unending source of interesting subjects to be found in your own back yard.

Nikon D300, Nikkor 105mm f2.8 macro; 1/60sec, f8, ISO 200, tripod.

16 responses

  1. Reblogged this on victormiguelvelasquez.


    January 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

  2. jennifer

    Spotted your amazing photo and would love to improve my landscape photography – looks like you could be just the person to follow!


    January 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

  3. Great and nice photos using, the light very well


    January 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  4. smackedpentax

    beautiful landscape…beautiful photographs!


    January 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm

  5. franzisofie

    Amazing photos! I wish I could photograph such a cool landscspe!


    January 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

  6. Some really lovely images as ever Jim and some excellent examples of the effects of different lenses. I’ve just bought an ultra wide Nikkor 14-24 f2.8. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and experimenting with it. Up until now I’ve been using the Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 almost exclusively.


    January 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    • Both are great lenses. I’ve played with the 14-24 (a friend has it). Happy shooting!


      January 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

  7. Well done Jim – I think you illustrated the different lenses beautifully and the photos are wonderful as always.


    January 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

  8. What a wonderful shots! The fisrt one is my favourite!


    January 22, 2014 at 5:46 am

  9. What an impressive collection!


    January 23, 2014 at 1:30 am

  10. Hi Jim, just diving into your content for the first time here. Your extra insights into the effect of focal length are helpful! I certainly like to shoot the appropriate lens for a situation. The idea of compressing distant objects with a telephoto is interesting – do you by chance have a side-by-side of a the same landscape shot with a wide-angle and cropped to the same FOV as a telephoto? I’ve never done that comparison, and am curious to see the difference.

    I’m also an obligate tripod shooter, because will shoot the slowest aperture needed to achieve f11 in any light condition. Tripods also mean maintaining a low ISO and less noise, which is a big benefit!

    Always looking for tidbits, and seems like you have lots of them. Will be perusing some more, thanks again.



    November 4, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    • Hi Ian, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I don’t have any side by side examples; the best way to explain the compression is by thinking of a bellows and the folds are the elements in the scene. With a wide angle lens, the bellows are expanded and each of the folds (elements) are farther apart from each other. With a telephoto lens, the bellows are compressed and each of the folds are closer together. Looking at the image I used as an example, each of the radio antennae are actually much farther apart than they appear to be in the photo due to the compression.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm

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