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Photography Question 
Brandon Currey

Landscape Photography: The Best Lenses

I will be traveling to Colorado in about 6 weeks. I'm hoping to get some good pictures while I am out there, but I'm still learning how to operate my camera and would appreciate it if some of you can give me some tips. I have a Canon Rebel EOS with two lenses. One lense is a Sigma 28-80mm, while the other is a Sigma 70-300mm. Overall, are these considered good lenses? Is my 28-80mm good enough to use for landscape shots, or do I need to purchase a wide angle lense? If so, what's some good options? For large landscape shots, I will need to set my aperture high so that it will have a wider DOF. I was also planning to use 200 speed film. What should I have my shutter speed set at? If I use these settings, am I headed in the right direction? I know it is best to shoot in the morning, or late in the day. I also plan to have my tripod with me. Please let me know if there are some other things I should look out for, or if I need a different or better lenses. Thanks!

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4/23/2005 8:15:17 PM

Anthony Soares
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/3/2005
I think your lenses will be fine. Since you're shooting film, you don't have to be worried about the crop factor on digital, so 28mm should be fine for the landscapes. And you are covered on the zoom end for wildlife shots. You don't mention where in Colorado you will be visiting, but you will have numerous photo opportunities as Colorado is a beautiful state. If you don't already have one, I would suggest a circular polarizer filter. I shoot digital, but I have seen some images taken with Fuji Velvia, and they are truly amazing. It's expensive, I hear, but you might think about picking up a roll or two to try out. As for shutter speed, let the situation dictate - you may want to freeze the action in case of wildlife or soften the flow at a waterfall with a slow shutter and your tripod. Hope this helps, and enjoy your trip ... Tony S

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4/23/2005 9:28:29 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
To add to Tony's reply, a cable release would be nice to reduce camera shake. In Aperture Priority, you can set your aperture to, say, f/16, and let the camera set the shutter speed.
if you only take one speed of film, you'll be stuck - 200 might be OK for landscapes and waterfalls, but for low light or fast action, maybe 400 or 800.
Keep an eye on the weather: Some of the best color and cloud formations are right after a thunderstorm.
And ask around when you get there - the locals should know the best places. Don't forget to carry extra batteries, and plenty of film.
hth sam

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4/24/2005 10:19:33 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I would recommend that you purchase a 28mm wide-angle lens. Yes, the zoom you have will cover that range but a prime will serve you better. First, primes are better than zooms, especially at the wide and long ends of the zoom. Secondly, most zooms do not have a distance scale, which makes it hard to make use of hyperfocal focusing. If you are not familiar with this term, you simply set your lens at its minimum aperture (f/16 or f/22, whatever it is) and set the infinity mark at that aperture on your distance scale. This will give you the greatest DOF possible. Naturally, to do this, you will have to manual focus. Very little will appear to be in focus when you look through the viewfinder, but it will be. When shooting landscapes, try to have something in the foreground. It will give you a more dramatic photo and will put the enormity of those things in the background in perspective. For film, I suggest Velvia, as mentioned above, if you are shooting slides. For negative film, try Kodak Ultra. It is available in both 100 and 400 speed. It is fine-grained and has really great colors. It is expensive, but worth it for what you are going to shoot.

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4/24/2005 11:20:37 AM

Amanda Botterweck
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/20/2003
  Brandon, I would love to hear where you are headed in Colorado. I use the Digital Rebel and have taken a lot of shots throughout Colorado. Sounds like you are set with your equipment. Let us all know where you are headed...

Happy Shooting!!!!

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4/26/2005 5:27:38 PM

Brandon Currey   We will be traveling to a number of spots. We will arrive in Denver. Then we are going to drive down to Colorado Springs. After that we plan to visit Buena Vista, Vale, Estes Park and back to Denver for sightsighting, a baseball game, and our flight out of town. We are pretty much taking a big loop around the center of the state.

Unfortunately I don't have a digital Rebel like you Amanda. I would love to get one. After I get a little more accustomed to the regular one, I might move up to it. I'm excited about all the opportunites Colorado presents, but I'm also nervous because I don't want to come back with bad pics. I did get lucky with a lot of shots in D.C. and NYC last year, so hopefully I have learned some more techniques over the past year that will help.

Thanks for everyone's tips!

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4/26/2005 5:38:42 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  just a note brandon,
bad pictures,i have a ton,only if you learn from them will you become a better photographer.colorado or your back yard,worry is a disease,and will not free you from your goal.1/2 hour after sunrise,1/2 hour before sunset,that's my best advice.sam

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4/26/2005 8:14:05 PM

Maria Melnyk   Oh, gosh, Brandon, please follow at least a few of the following tips for more spectacular shots: 1) A 28mm lens is not always wide enough for dramatic photos. Please gather up $180 and buy a Tokina 19-35mm lens. Use it both horizontally and vertically. When using it vertically, be high up on a tripod and tilt the camera down so you get more land and less sky. Awesome. 2) A landscape photographer should own these three filters: a polarizer to darken the sky and saturate colors better, a split-neutral density filter (a 2-stop; get a soft grad for uneven landscapes or a hard grad if there are no hills or mountains), and a warming filter. Make sure your filters can handle wider angles (even 28mm) without vignetting. If your lens diameter is large, like 77mm or so, screw-ins will be expensive. Get Cokins. 3) Never put your horizon in the middle of the photo; it will cut your photo in half. Move it 1/3rd up or down. If you have a great sky, show more of that. If your sky is blah, show more landscape. 4) Use a small aperture. F/16 or 22 is preferred, but with wide angles (even 28) you can get by with f/8. Shutter speed is only important if there is a breeze, wildlife movement, or running water. Have you ever photographed wheat blowing in the wind? A tiger chasing his prey? Beautiful with a tad bit slower shutter speed, equally beautiful with the action frozen too. 4) What film? For prints, Kodak Ultra Color 100 speed (as suggested above), or a great cheaper alternative is Kodak High Definition 200, or Kodak Royal Supra 200 if you can find it. For slides, Fuji Velvia 50 or 100-speed. That's it. Don't use anything else. 5) Don't just get broad shots; zero in a pretty flower, nice rock, etc. You must have variety. 6) Every shot will look different at different times of day. Look for the sun to light your landscape from the side for more dimension. Therefore, noontime is the least desirable. Both early morning and late afternoon are great. 7) For the really professional look, always have a foreground (bush, rock, etc.), a middle ground, and a background (mountains, distant trees). And, your horizon MUST be level. It must. 8) Don't rush through it. Take your time to make it look good.

Now, some quick tips if you'll also shoot in black & white. 1) Filter it, or your photos will be dull and you won't see the clouds. Black & White must be filtered. Yellow is the best all-around filter. Red is more dramatic. Orange is in-between. Get at least a yellow filter. 2) Films: Kodak Plus-X or Tri-X, Ilford Delta 100 (it's better than Kodak, in my opinion), Petersen Acupan (200-speed, available from B&H Photo), and my absolute favorite for that Ansel Adams look: Fortepan 400-Pro (must be 400-Pro, not regular 400.)

Now have fun!

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4/27/2005 1:21:27 AM

Scott Pedersen   Modern zooms have the same quality as a prime lens. Your lenses will be fine.

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4/27/2005 4:05:09 AM

Scott Pedersen   Modern zooms have the same quality as a prime lens. Your lenses will be fine.

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4/27/2005 4:05:22 AM

Jennifer Hopper
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/30/2004
  I recently moved to Colorado Springs, and the hardest thing I have had to deal with is the STRONG light. We all know early morning and late afternon are the prettiest times of day, but in Colorado it seems to be a definite requirement. I guess especially because you are trying to take scenics--it's not like a portrait where you can try to find some shade. The sun is so bright here by 9 a.m. Also, Maria wasn't kidding when she mentioned a graduated ND and polarizing filter. You will definitely be more pleased with your results if you have or can borrow or purchase these. It's hard to get the dark pines on the mountains exposed and not lose the sky. Or vice versa, I guess. Anyway, have fun, and try to remember those rules you have learned along the way. When I first got here I couldn't help but just shoot away at all the breathtaking scenery, but when I got the pictures back they LOOKED like I had just snapped at any ol' pretty thing instead of thinking about the exposure. Those guys who make a living at this are really working for those shots. Hope you love Garden of the Gods here in the Springs. It is fabulous, especially early in the day, but bring a jacket no matter what the weatherman says--there is almost always a chilly breeze through there, especially in the morning. Weekends have lost of climbers which can make for some good images. Weekdays are more empty, so you can just get the rocks. Good luck!

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4/27/2005 7:41:25 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Scott, I have to disagree with you my friend. Modern zooms are much better and are closer in quality to primes, but they just aren't there yet, especially at the ends of the zoom.

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4/27/2005 8:26:15 AM

doug Nelson   The very best $1,000+ Canon "L" lenses rival primes, but even so, may show a bit of barrel distortion at the wide end. Zooms I can afford simply can't cut it compared to Canon, Leica or Nikon 24, 28, or 35's. But then, I do a lot of cityscapes, shooting through arches and doorways. Landscape is one instance when "shoe leather" zoom works. The 50mm works in many instances, and, with 25mm of extension tube and a tripod, can do macro. I like the 28 for landscape, and an 85 or 90 to pick out parts of the landscape. Among zooms, a truly good 80-200 seems fairly easy to design, as there are many good ones. Canon's are as good as any, especially the "L"'s. If you're out there in the sun, don't forget the proper shade for whatever lens you use. The morning and evening comment earlier is dead-on right.

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4/27/2005 9:49:52 AM

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