The Telephoto Eye

You often hear about having the 'eye' in photography, and being able to 'see'. Thing is, there are different eyes for different things. Each lens requires an eye and being able to see with it. Landscape photographers have to develop their wide angled eye and be able to see wide. Portrait lenses require being able to see in a different way. Some photographers develop many eyes and can see through many lenses.

When you realise that looking through a camera lens changes how you view the world, this makes sense. A 50mm lens, or a zoom lens at 50mm, most closely resembles how your eye sees the world, so this tends to be a favourite focal length for many as the images are close to how we all view life naturally.

When you look through a wide angle lens at 10mm, how you see the world changes dramatically. Learning to see wide takes time. The more you use your lenses, the more comfortable you become at seeing the world with a different eye.

I guess most think that telephoto lenses are for zooming in close to wildlife and sports action, as with this photo of an arctic tern.

This is probably the most useful way to use a telephoto, but it isn’t the only way. A telephoto can completely change the way you see life.

My favourite lens is my telephoto zoom. When I’m out for fun, it’s usually my long telephoto I take with me. Sure, I shoot a lot of wildlife while out and about with it, but for me the real joy in using a long lens is being able to see into a completely new world. How many times do you stop to look at seaweed lying on a beach? A good fast telephoto can transform the mundane into something fascinating.

The telephoto world for me isn’t just a world of close ups of wildlife, it’s all about gorgeous creamy bokeh. I love the wildlife as well, but that’s simply using your gear to get close. The telephoto eye is so much deeper than just zooming.

Backgrounds are crucial to the telephoto eye. Get all the clutter out and compose shots that will produce gorgeous bokeh. When you can see bokeh, that’s when the fun begins. Open your eyes, this isn’t just a photo of apple blossoms, it’s a photo of light and bokeh.

Have you ever looked closely at a stream as it bubbles over sand? The telephoto world is a whole new universe for you to explore.

To develop a telephoto eye, don’t look at what’s in focus, look at what’s out of focus in the background. Seeing the bokeh is the key to seeing with a telephoto eye.

Would this photo be so pleasing if the background was a mess? Backgrounds are just as important as subjects in the telephoto world and I had to fill the frame with the red petals to make this image work.

 One day I was walking along the beach and ate my subject. Could any lens other than a fast telephoto have captured the moment?

To me the real joy of being able to see with a telephoto eye isn’t simply being able to zoom in close to things, but learning to use the exceptional depth of field that telephotos produce to create gorgeous bokeh.


Credits -  All photos copyright George Maciver all rights reserved.