Longest Lenses Aren’t Necessarily the Best

Otter Along Flat Creek

I have a few good friends who occasionally allow me the opportunity to plug in to their longer lenses. During this time, it’s tempting to get as much as I can from one of those lenses, even if it might not necessarily be the best lens for the specific scene.

Prior to today, winter had seemed to be put on hold as temperatures were unusually warm, rising into the 20s and 30s, melting what little snow was already on the ground. Flat Creek in the National Elk Refuge was certainly no exception. Normally completely frozen over, an area just outside of town was mostly thawed out, attracting many birds and smaller wildlife that normally move to more open water. Otters in particular have been spotted fairly regularly now, attracting a growing fondness from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Animals like these are particularly tempting to use the longest focal length on, but as you can see from the above image, wouldn’t make nearly as interesting a photo.

The above image was taken at 320mm on my Canon 7D, using a 100-400mm lens. Had it been taken on a 600mm, it would have completely cropped out the entire top portion of the photo, which is one of the key factors that makes this photo so interesting. The otter itself might not be as big as it would be in a 600mm, but there’s still plenty of information for you to see what it is, as well as put it into perspective of its habitat.

Before you plug into a larger lens, check a few compositions to make sure it’s the right lens.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Good point Mike that looser framing often allows more of a sense of place – especially important with images of wildlife in their natural environment.

  2. Good point Mike that looser framing often allows more of a sense of place – especially important with images of wildlife in their natural environment.

    1. Thank you, Russ! It often does make the more compelling image.

  3. A good thing to reiterate, I sometimes find myself worrying when I don’t have at least 500mm of reach, but sometimes 300-450 is plenty when putting the wildlife in context with the environment!

    Cheers,Ben

    1. Thank you, Ben! I completely understand. It’s very easy to get caught up with wanting to get as close as possible.

  4. Do you mean to tell me that 500mm f/4 I bought was money wasted?! πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I find that I’m usually much more drawn to wildlife images when the animal is shown in the context of the landscape, such as the image you posted here. Β The exception is when the animal is wearing an adorable expression or there is a scary intensity in their eyes.

    1. Absolutely, Bret! A great expression is worth capturing always.

      As for that 500mm of yours, yes it was totally wasted. You can hand it off to me and I’ll find a good use for it πŸ˜‰

  5. Do you mean to tell me that 500mm f/4 I bought was money wasted?! πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I find that I’m usually much more drawn to wildlife images when the animal is shown in the context of the landscape, such as the image you posted here. Β The exception is when the animal is wearing an adorable expression or there is a scary intensity in their eyes.

    1. Absolutely, Bret! A great expression is worth capturing always.

      As for that 500mm of yours, yes it was totally wasted. You can hand it off to me and I’ll find a good use for it πŸ˜‰

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