Capturing the Intricacies of Beautiful
Landscapes with G Master Lenses
By Yeo Wee Han & Charmaine Yap from Tripeaksimagery
Chasing the Northern Lights with the SEL24F14GM
Braving through the cold as it seeped through our mittens and branded hand warmers was truly worth the reward that comes after – a glimpse of the elusive Aurora Borealis.
It is impossible for this natural phenomenon to go unnoticed. Seemingly appearing as a long cloud, the Aurora Borealis flaunts a wispy, multi-coloured cloak of green, purple, red and even white, depending on the climatic factors.
Faster shutter speeds (ranging from 2 – 4 seconds) come into play to capture the snaking patterns of the Northern Lights. Long shutter speeds will cause the green shapes to blur and though it can be a captivating image itself, nothing beats having the wavy lights or vertical bars in distinct clarity.
That is precisely the reason why the FE 24mm F1.4 GM (SEL24F14GM) is our lens of choice for night landscape photography. It is compact, lightweight, dust and moisture resistance, plus it produces sharp image quality even with the aperture is wide open. Further, the lens’ 2 extreme aspherical elements remove sagittal flare, a common problem found in low-light landscape photography.
Mechanics-wise, the lens touts a very smooth yet tactile manual focusing ring that allows quick focusing operation, even with our thick mittens on. With the lens’ large aperture of 1.4, we can easily manual focus on stars, distant or foreground objects through the EVF or LCD Screen. We also turned on peaking when focusing for added accuracy. The time saved from fiddling with our equipment is very important because the lights change as quick as a blink of an eye.
When photographing in low-light outdoor conditions, it is very easy to put our equipment through rough handling. The SEL24F14GM has a lens hood lock that prevents accidental detachment of the hood while wading through deep snow or when setting up. Additionally, the lens is a wide-angle lens for comprehensive shots with very minimum distortion; the image taken in Abisko, Sweden reflects very little to no distraction despite capturing a broad scene.
Apart from being a great lens for night landscape photography, the SEL24F14GM is suited for portraiture and filmmaking as well. With the lens’ large aperture, we achieved a beautiful shallow depth of field, and even captured the Aurora Borealis on video!
Alpha 7R III | FE 24mm F1.4 GM | 24 mm | 1.6 sec | F1.4 | ISO 3,200
Adding more depth with the SEL1635GM
Wide-angle lenses seem to be the staple amongst landscape photographers and without a doubt, they should be. With the plethora of wide-angle lenses on the market, the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM (SEL1635GM) is our favourite wide-angle zoom due to its ultra-wide angle option.
Similar to the Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS (SEL1635Z), the lens is devoid of distortion issues and produces sharp images throughout the frame. It also has a Nano AR Coating that suppresses reflections that can cause flare and ghosting in backlit and other challenging conditions. That being said, the lens boasts the most up to date features of what a landscape lens need to be with constant F2.8 aperture - something SEL1635Z is without.
Alpha 7R III | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 16 mm | 1 sec | F14 | ISO 100
Landscape photography is not as straight forward as capturing whatever is in front of you. A captivating shot requires some forethought, and that usually requires some foreground elements.
Alpha 7R III | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 16 mm | 2.5 sec | F16 | ISO 100
The SEL1635GM is just the lens in this approach, boasting an optimum resolution at any focal length to maximise details in all frames. This includes intricate foregrounds such as patterns of frozen ice, rocks in water and flowing currents in a stream. Find the ideal height and angle first before mounting the camera on the tripod because being able to scout for angles freely allows you to maximise creativity.
Depth of field and the element of motion both run the aesthetics of an image. That is why understanding how both elements affect your picture will help you get the most out of the landscape. If a slow shutter speed is desired, we use Neutral Density filters to slow it down. A remote cable is always useful as well.
Here’s a pro tip: Instead of shooting at eye level, try going low, close to the ice, or close to the waters. This will create a dynamic foreground in your shots.
Alpha 7R III | FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS | 133 mm | 1/1250 sec | F6.3 | ISO 1,250
Beyond landscape photography with the SEL100400GM and SEL70200GM
While wide-angle lenses are a go-to for landscape photography, we also rely on telephoto lenses such as the FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS (SEL100400GM) and FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS (SEL70200GM).
These lenses allow us to isolate parts of a scene in a way that encourages us to see landscapes in an abstract matter. For instance, mountains need not be captured as a whole, but instead we can draw attention to patterns made by earth-tone rocks and white snow, or zoom in on the details of an aged rock formation reflecting in an ice fjord. Intimate landscapes, as we like to call it.
In other words, telephoto lenses serve more than just a “magnifier”. They bring a whole new perspective to the scene by reducing background clutter and compressing layers in landscape.
While most telephoto lenses face resolution fall-off due to axial chromatic aberration, the SEL100400GM and SEL70200GM escape unscathed with their special glass elements strategically for exceptionally clear and well-defined images.
Alpha 7R III | FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS | 100 mm | 1/500 sec | F11 | ISO 160
Above photo is taken from within the Arctic Circle in deep winter, just moments ago, a local hunter sled down the hill we were on and made his way through the frozen lake. The snow cover was at least a metre deep but he was moving fast. The plan was to include him within the landscape and with that sense of scale, the length and size of the lake is apparent. Despite having just a few minutes, Wee Han was able to get plenty of frames, in a variety of compositions, thanks to the versatile range of the SEL100400GM.
Travelling with the SEL2470GM
The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM (SEL2470GM) covers the range between the wide-angle and telephoto lens and we keep that as a third lens in our kit. This is also the lens we bring for scouting and recce trips, and also long hikes and treks
If you can only bring one GM lens on board, the SEL2470GM is ideal given its broad range. Furthermore, the lens produces top-notch image quality, where its 2 ED and 1 Super ED glass elements prevents resolution fall-off. It comes with a wide aperture of F2.8 too, which helps in low-light conditions such as in a dark ice cave.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.