January 11, 2016 at 8:24PM

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Lenses for Landscape Cinematography

What are the best kind of lenses for landscapes? Would a wide angle lens be good for the job? Thanks for the help!

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Wide-angle lenses tend to be most useful for establishing shots. A big difference between still photography and cinema is that the former invites the viewer to let their eyes wander on their own, whereas the latter really attempts to lead them through the subject material and/or action.

The movies Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi are all great examples of creative landscape-like cinematography and well-worth studying. That said, I think a general rule for landscape cinematography is to use wide angle shots just enough to keep the viewer informed as to the context of what they are seeing, and the real action will be the judicious selection of telephoto and/or macro shots that give character and color to the details imagined but unseen in the wide shots.

Here's an example of great modern nature/landscape cinematography: https://vimeo.com/90373546

January 12, 2016 at 5:34AM

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It really all depends on what the landscape is. If it's all sagebrush you can make it interesting by having a super wide lens and getting the camera low. The point is...fill the frame with the good stuff. If the sky isn't that great, don't go super wide. If you do, don't point the camera up and let the boring sky fill the majority of your frame.

If the sage brush is interesting, get close to it and let it fill most of the frame.

Sometimes you have a lot of cool things and you want to focus on several of them. IMO it's better to get a longer lens and step back a ways. This way you get the landscape on a similar plane and you can fill the frame with more objects.

I personally have used anything from a 11-16 Tokina to a 70-200 Canon L. A "wide establishing" doesn't always have to be from a wide lens. The idea is...you're establishing a location and you can do that with a longer lens by finding the right vantage point.

January 13, 2016 at 3:30PM, Edited January 13, 3:30PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
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