The image catalog in Adobe Lightroom is an interesting way to discover which lenses or focal lengths you tend to gravitate towards. In the library module, simply select the metadata tab at the top of the page and then set one column to lenses and another to focal length. With this, you’ll get a quick indication of your favourite lenses for a chosen time period, and also be able to drill down even further to find favourite focal lengths within a zoom range. You can also save the combination of metadata columns as a new preset for future usage!
Over the years, I’ve used this feature several times to influence decisions on new lens purchases, and decisions on selling gear that isn’t being used enough. Recently I took several sets of photos from landscape photography sessions in the last two years and compared their focal lengths and lens choices. The first thing I discovered is that the vast majority of my landscape images are shot at 24mm. Whilst many were shot using the 24mm end of my 24-70 f/2.8 L II, and some with the 22-24mm segment of my 16-35 f/4 IS, more were shot with my Canon 11-24mm f/4 L lens. A large amount of images also used the wider end of that 11-24mm lens’ zoom range as well, leading me to conclude that I could probably do half or more of my landscape work with that one lens.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but I hadn’t really sat down before to think about it specifically. That lens is a stunning performer, and given the same 24mm image from any one of my three lenses that include that focal length in their range, I can pick the one from the 11-24mm in a heartbeat. There’s something about the micro-contrast and fine detail that this lens renders, which is simply on another level compared to the other lenses.
The Surprising Second Runner
The second lens that I seem to use time and time again for landscapes is my Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS II. Whilst I’d also rate this lens highly in my wildlife photography kit, it seems I have something of an addition to long lens landscape work as well.
Within that range, 100mm, 200mm and 400mm seem to be my go-to focal lengths. This lens is a stellar performer throughout the zoom range, which is great because some wide range zooms have “no-go-zones”, particularly at the long end, where detail falls off. That’s not the case with the Canon, meaning you can simply concentrate on framing in the viewfinder, and not worry about where you are in that range. Long lenses are particularly good for compressing the features of a mountainous environment. Given that I live in the Coast Range of BC, and frequent either the Rockies or the Yukon seemingly every month, I guess this choice makes sense!
What I found interesting was looking at overall numbers from all my lenses and realizing that I had shot 80% or more of my recent work with focal lengths covered by, or very very close to, the range offered by these two lenses.
I do seem to use the 70mm end of a 24-70 quite often, but wonder if this is simply laziness, or good use of time in the field. When the light is changing quickly, I often don’t want to waste time swapping lenses. I suspect that if I’d had the 100-400mm lens on at that those points, many images could have been composed at 100mm instead of 70mm, by walking backwards or slightly reframing. Note that walking forwards is often much harder as I’m often on the edge of a lake, or a mountain…
But What About the FOMO?
All of this makes me think that on my next landscape trip I should simply gear up with two identical camera bodies – one with a Canon 11-24mm and one with a Canon 100-400mm L IS II. Whilst the numbers tell me that this should be fine, there’s definitely part of my brain that says “THAT WOULD BE CRAZY”. Would you do it? FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, and I’m sure all of us are a little guilty of over-packing our camera bags from time to time. Usually FOMO is used to describe a fear of missing out on a particular event, but I think I’m going to adopt it into the photographer’s lexicon because FONHTRL, fear of not having the right lens, just doesn’t really roll off the tongue does it?
I’m sure if I did this, there might be the odd couple of compositions for which I wish I had a lens in the middle of the range, but I suspect I might find other ones using these two primary lenses, that I’d otherwise miss if I was messing with a mid-range zoom like a 24-70.
Take a look at your own images and see what you can find out! Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what other people are using most often.