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The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs by David duChemin

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Lesson 13. Isolation: Use a Longer Lens

Telephoto lenses, anything over a 35mm equivalent of 50–60mm, have the opposite effect of a wide angle, and the longer they get (200, 300, 600mm) the greater the difference. As telephoto lenses get longer in focal length, they have tighter and tighter angles of view and greater and greater magnification. They excel at pulling far things near, compressing elements, and really isolating—not just to get that great shot of a duck, but to set that duck (or tree, or child on a swing) against its context and exclude all else. Photography is as much about what we exclude from the frame as it is about what we include. Every element in the frame exerts some visual mass, a subject we’ll talk more about later, and ...

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