Ultra-wides & Landscape Photography

Castle Lake SM10-19

There’s a strange meme going around the internet to the effect that wide angle lenses, particularly “ultra-wide” angle lenses, are not really suited for landscape photography. Ultra-wides, it is argued, turn mountains into molehills and create perspective distortion issues. It’s best to use normal or short tele glass for ‘scapes. However, this seems to be merely to express a personal and therefore idiosyncratic opinion, good for a handful of photographers but bad for everyone else. What focal length one uses really depends on the subject of the landscape. One can really use just about any lens for landscape, given what it is you are trying to photograph. I’ve used everything from a 10mm fisheye to a 300mm telephoto (on an APS-C camera). The results are all that matter. Ultra-wide angles (i.e., anything wide than, say, 18mm on APS-C cameras) have their use, just as other lenses of longer or even shorter focal lengths do. I rounded up a collection of landscape photos taken at 12mm and can find nothing wrong with them. Indeed, in these photos, being able to go so wide obviously allowed me to capture interesting details in the foreground that otherwise would have been passed over:

Castle Crags SP11-19

Patrick's Point AU10-2

Glacier SM10-744

Kangaroo Lake SM10-64

Cascades SM11-428

These 12mm shots have a field of view of 99 degrees, which may seems as wide as one should go. But I have landscape shots taken with a fisheye that gives a 180º field of view:

Del Norte WI10-52

Cascades SM11-278

Crater Lake AU11-110

Ultra wides are useful in landscape where you have something in the foreground in which you want to get in the shot but can’t get otherwise; or when you’re in a particularly tight spot. They do a great job of emphasizing the foreground when that is necessary for the image to work. There’s no compelling reason to unceremoniously cast them out of the landscape photographer’s camera bag.