• Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z 6 - Why we should use long telephoto focal lengths to photograph cherry blossoms ?


I hope you read my last blog on Night time Cherry Blossom photography , this blog will now focus on Day time photography of the Cherry Blossom scenes at the various locations that I visited.

Do bear in mind that this is the 1st time I was photographing Cherry Blossoms AND also the very 1st time I had visited these cherry blossom locations without any pre-exploration of potential POVs.

So here are my Strategies & Tips of how using Longer Focal Lengths can help increase the variety of compositions when photographing the beautiful blossoms given the common constraints of time , lack of location knowledge , reducing distractions , being at the mercy of the ambient lighting conditions & not being able to get near enough to my main subjects during my sessions.

Strategy : Using a Long Telephoto Focal Range Lens (100mm to 300mm +)

1. use the effect of "Compression" to generate an image that a wide angle cannot produce

2. allows a narrow angle of view (zoomed in) to reduce distractions

3. get better bokeh

4. isolate interesting scenes better

5. advantage of photography from a distance to avoid being blocked

6. never worry about NOT getting close enough

7. more flexibility with isolation not only with subjects BUT also get better backgrounds

Tip : find a higher POV (Point of View)

A slight change in POV can generate significant impact in your image composition

For this image , I stood on a raised stone devider to get that elevated POV. This slight increase in shooting height allowed me to capture many more layers of the crowd with an appealing "vanishing point" type composition.

Advise : do not make a nuisance of yourself & draw attention by spending excessive time , get your shots quick. Don't stand out from the crowd , blend in !

ISO800 f10.0 1/250s 330mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Use Compression to increase Density

This image is very similar to the one above with the exception of the POV. This shot was captured at ground level - less layers if compared to above , lack of vanishing point effect.

1. The plus though is the way the "Compression" distortion at 400mm focal length increased the density of the Blossoms

2. The intentional point of focus on the Trees that are the furthest away to exaggerate the bokeh

ISO400 f5.6 1/800s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Pick the appropriate point of Focus to change perspective

The intentional point of focus on the furthest blossoms that are the furthest away to exaggerate the bokeh & create depth.

ISO640 f10.0 1/400s 100mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO640 f8.0 1/500s 155mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Easier to Isolate scenes with a longer focal length

When time is a constraint in addition to the contraint of being blocked by the huge crowds , using a telephoto zoom is a life saver in many cases. Move less - Shoot more

I found a nice "quieter" spot to stand , select the the appropriate cherry blossom trees to photograph and isolated the "best" blossom specimens to photograph.

ISO640 f10.0 1/200s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Select scenes at the appropriate distance to create variety

Another example of scene isolation & focusing on the furthest blossoms to create depth & uniqueness. Using a long telephoto focal range in this case 200mm+ does NOT mean large subjects.

In this example , the image looks like it was shot with a wider angle lens BUT it has the advantage of bokeh & compression that wide angle lenses have difficulty producing.

So remember subject distance plays a huge part on the variety of compositions you can photograph

ISO400 f8.0 1/500s 210mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Insights

A scene that can ONLY be captured at a distance to not disturb the bird !

The two shots below show two different birds captured at different distances to get two totally different perspectives.

ISO400 f8.0 1/320s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO640 f8.0 1/500s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Use OVEREXPOSURE to your advantage

Many of the images here are Over-exposed as most the scenes captured are back-lighted in one way or another. So do NOT be afraid to white-wash the sky when it is needed or appropriate to your composition & how you want to present your subject(s).

ISO640 f10.0 1/200s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

Tip : Isolate Interesting Details Better

More examples where using a long telephoto zoom lens & selecting the appropriate subjects at the appropriate distances can create different impactful compositions & communicate different stories.

ISO500 f8.0 1/500s 400mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO400 f5.6 1/640s 310mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO800 f8.0 1/400s 380mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO400 f13.0 1/800s 200mm focal length Blossoms at opposite Tokyo Tower

Insights

The Cherry Blossom image with a Mount Fuji background is another example where a 16-35mm or even a 24-70mm type zoom lens will NOT be able to capture.

It was unfortunate that the cherry blossoms around the 5 Lakes area were not blooming yet. I was too early but there were isolated single trees that started to bloom and this tree which i found was one of them.

It took me some time to figure out (like more than 5 minutes) how to include some cherry blossoms and get the appropriate background of a recognizable Mount Fuji. If you noticed I used an f-stop that I normally would NOT recommend. The use of f32.0 in this case allowed me to capture a recognizable Mount Fuji as a background even though the volcano was miles away vs. the cherry blossom was only like 10 feet away from me.

ISO1250 f32.0 1/400s 310mm focal length Single Tree Blossom with Mt. Fuji

Insights

Don't get me wrong though , I am NOT saying that the ONLY way or the BEST way is to photograph using very long focal length range focal lengths. My bottomline is that the photographer would be MISSING MANY OPPORTUNITIES if long telephoto focal lengths were NOT used !

The following series are some captures using the 24mm to 35mm focal length range. Enjoy !!

Insight

For this wide angle shot , I selected Front-Lighted cherry blossoms to preserve the blue sky details unlike the previous examples before.

ISO640 f10.0 1/1000s 35mm focal length Blossoms at UENO Park

ISO800 f16.0 1/1250s 28mm focal length Blossoms at opposite Tokyo Tower

ISO100 f8.0 1/1000s 24mm focal length Blossoms at opposite Tokyo Tower

ISO800 f8.0 1/4000s 35mm focal length Blossoms at opposite Tokyo Tower

ISO400 f16.0 1/800s 24mm focal length Blossoms at opposite Tokyo Tower

Hardware Used

1. Nikon Z 6

2. Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4.0S

3. Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 (f-mount)

Note: ALL images shared in this blog were captured HAND-HELD

Hope you like my sharing in this blog !!

So don't forget to include your long focal length zooms into your arsenal when you are doing Travel or Landscape Photography. To me the long zoom is more important then the wide angle zooms.

Till the next one ......... Happy Photography !

#CherryBlossoms #MountFuji #TokyoTower #Hanami #Sakura #NikonZ6

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