Last week, I decided to let one of my favorite and most underrated lenses get some quality time on my camera while exploring a new national forest (well, it was new to me). Lately, I’ve been falling back onto the safety of my wide-angle lenses and I began feeling creatively stifled. So, it was time to break out something different. The lens I’m referring to is the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135, mounted to my Sony a7R III. I’d wager that a 135mm prime lens wouldn’t be the first lens choice for a landscape photographer, but I was determined to make a go of it and I’m very thankful that I did.
The funny thing about longer focal lengths is that they really force you to see more critically. It’s easy to fill a frame using a wide-angle focal length and then crop down to taste (assuming you’ve got the resolution to spare). It’s also common to want to cram as much into a frame as possible. With longer focal lengths, though, you’re really put in a position where you have to see more critically and if you want to get those extra “things” in frame, it’s probably going to require you to reposition yourself farther away.
With that said, it is still possible to get “wide” photos even with a lens that has a focal length as long as the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135. The key is to set your camera on a tripod (ideally) in a vertical orientation and pan it across your scene. In effect, you’ll be getting bracketed photos to stitch into a panoramic composite during post, but the results are quite beautiful.
Fortunately, applications like Adobe Lightroom CC make it super easy to select multiple photos and merge them into a panoramic shot. Another advantage in this approach is that you get the best of both worlds: a wide-angle composition with the compression of a telephoto focal length. It’s a practice that I highly encourage you to try on your next outdoor shoot.
See more of Brian Matiash’s work at matiash.com.