Skip to main content

Travel Photography

Lesson 9 of 32

Gear: Lenses

John Greengo

Travel Photography

John Greengo

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

9. Gear: Lenses


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:11:45
5 Travel Gear Duration:19:13
6 Health, Safety & Security Duration:11:09
7 Gear: General Advice Duration:06:20
8 Gear: Cameras Duration:15:56
9 Gear: Lenses Duration:12:48
10 Gear: Tripods Duration:15:44
11 Gear: Filters Duration:04:08
12 Gear: Camera Accessories Duration:13:33
13 Gear: Final Thoughts Duration:03:55
14 Camera Checks Duration:04:20
15 Technique: Camera Settings Duration:13:30
16 Advanced Techniques Duration:13:00
17 Workflow & Composition Ideas Duration:07:42
18 Scouting Duration:17:33
20 Locations: Opera House & Dumbo Duration:05:12
22 Details: Buildings Duration:05:15
23 Details: Pattern Duration:14:51
25 People: Street & Candid Duration:08:46
28 People: Environmental Portrait Duration:15:37
30 Wildlife Duration:08:44
31 Events Duration:08:19
32 End of the Road Duration:09:35

Lesson Info

Gear: Lenses

Let's look at lenses. One of my favorite aspects of photography. And so as you probably already know 50 millimeter is your normal lens at least for the full-frame users. And then we're gonna have a collection of wide-angle lenses that go from moderately wide to ultra wide and then of course we'll have our telephoto lenses and when you're traveling you're going to need a range of lenses in most all cases. For the most part I tell people 24 to is a good range to have. Traveling I tend to error a little bit more on the wide side, I really like those ultra wides because often times you're trying to show what a location looks like and sometimes that requires a really wide lens. The long lens is really only when you know that you can make use of a very long lens. Now of course if you have a Crop Frame camera you will need slightly different numbers of your lenses and so your typical Fuji or your Crop Frame Nikon or Cannon, I'm talking about 16 to 135 and I think they even make some 18 to 13...

5 so you could get everything in one lens for the most part. I still would like to get a little bit wider down there to 11 millimeters if possible. Working through these lenses, 50 millimeter lens, this is just a great standard lens because it sees the world as we do with our own eyes as far as perspective and so it's a very natural, honest, real perspective of the way something looks and so it's a very faithful way to portray something. So I like the 50 millimeter lens. The most popular lens is probably the 35 millimeter lens 'cause you get a little bit wider angle and you can show a little bit more in any particular photograph. This is a great documentary lens where you're documenting something in particular but you wanna show a little bit of the environment around it. The lens I won't leave home without is the 24 millimeter lens. I love it because it's wide, but not overly wide, so it doesn't really stretch the horizon and do funny things in the corners and so when you are trying to show a location, if you said, John, I really wanna see a location, I'd probably bring a 24 and if I didn't know anything more about it. It's great for all types of photography, very good for landscape photography 'cause you turn it vertical and now you can have subjects in the foreground as well as the background. But because you encounter a lot of different environments, this is where that ultra wide comes in. A rail car trying to show, you know, what it looks like in its entirety, it's not a big space and there's not a lot of space to back up when you're in a rail car. Pointing up, being able to see as far down on these pillars helps to be able to make this image come out a little bit better. So having that ultra wide can be very handy. Going into the telephotos. The short telephoto is an absolute necessity when they won't allow you any closer. There is literally a line in Athens that you are not allowed to stand in front of when the guards are crossing here and so having that telephoto lens allows you to get rid of the junk on the side and hone in on your subject. These lenses are mostly know as portrait lenses and so if you wanna do people photos you want a short telephoto around 100 millimeters for the full-frame models. I also like to make sure that I go out with a 200 millimeter lens in most cases and that's because I like details and details help tell a story. They don't tell the whole story but they help tell a part of the story. And so when you wanna get in and just show something really clearly that's smaller, that 200 millimeter lens does the job. You can shoot portraits with it as well and you can get that shallower depth of field, that bouquet, get the eyes in focus and that background goes nice and blurry. When you start employing the 400, I'm often thinkin' about going on safari and so if you go on safari you wanna probably have at least a 400 millimeter lens 'cause those animals, they're wild and they don't necessarily come right up to you and so a 400 is great for that. But it's good for a variety of other types of purposes. It has a compression effect in the way that you shoot with it and so these sand dunes are pretty far apart but by my point of view, and angle of view, they all look very close together and so there's certain types of patterns that you can create with a lens that goes up to 400. Inevitably most people are gonna ask the question, well John, what's better, shall I take a zoom or should I take a prime lens? Depends on what you're doing of course. I think in general it's best to start with zoom lenses 'cause they cover a lot of bases very easily. They're simple and they're easy to use. As you get better and more understanding of what you are looking in photography is when you can start instituting the primes. On one of the tours that Kenna and I led to Cuba I decided to challenge myself and not take any zooms at all. I had specific primes. And what that changed for me is I missed a lot of quick shots, like oh this is happening right now, and I missed those. But I gave that up and when something was good I had a really good lens for it that gave me a shallow depth of field or I could work with under low lights and so in the situations that I could think a little bit more about it did a good job. It wasn't necessarily better or worse it was just a different way of working. Ideally I'm usually taking a mix. A few zooms to cover the basics, a prime or two to address a very particular need. For a lot of people starting out in travel photography the standard kit as it's been for the last, I don't know, 10 or 15 years now, is usually with a Crop Framed Camera like a Canon or a Nikon and it comes with an 18 to 55 lens that a lot of photographers, and maybe even myself if we check the tapes, will call as a junk lens, a throw-away lens. The fact of the matter is that it's lightweight, optically speaking it's decent in quality, doesn't have a lot of fancy features on it, not a lot of great durability, not weather sealed, but for travel photography it's actually just fine. You could do totally professional, you could shoot the cover of National Geographic with that lens provided you have the right subject and you shoot it in the right manner. That's not what's gonna be holding you back. So that's a good general purpose lens but then getting something longer for those subjects that are a little bit further away, a little bit smaller in size, this is a good setup. This was essentially the setup that I took to the Soviet Union, alright, and I survived. And it wasn't the lenses that held me back it was something up here that was holding me back. And so this is a fine starting point but photographers are gonna wanna get a little bit more out of it. Typically what happens is people like get tired of changing lenses and so they are drawn to the super zoom and this can save you from changing lenses. So you can get wide angle to very good telephoto all-in-one lens. I have some, I think this has some downsides that are kind of serious. Number one, it is a slower aperture, that's the 3.5 to 5.6 number and it's not gonna be good in certain situations. It's pretty good for everything but it's not very good for some very important situations and I think a good way to save this whole situation is to bring along one more fast prime lens, that way you have an option. Number one, if your lens fails, you have a backup option. Number two, if it's a low-light situation you have a fast lens that you can go with. Number three, this is a relative big zoom lens and you are gonna carry that everywhere you take your camera. When you go out to dinner and just wanna take a few fun photos of the Flamenco dancers or something like that, that's when you put on the normal fast lens. Going out to dinner, it's lighter weight, it's better in low light, and so I think this is a good combination. And if you say, well John, I don't want two lenses, I don't wanna change back and forth, you're not changing that much. You're using the zooms lens probably 80, 90% of the time, it's just that this one lens comes in and saves the day and gives you some really good options. So I think that's actually a pretty good setup there. Another setup that I've used in the past that I think is quite nice, it's got a few gaps, but it's okay, you can work around little gaps. I get my ultralight all the way down to with a full-frame sensor. I need my telephoto that gets me up to 200, that's gonna cover the range, now I do have a gap now between 35 and and that's where I'll throw in a normal lens, 50 1.8, 50 1.4 and I got three distinct lens and I know specifically at any given moment in time which lens I'm likely to need. There's no guessing, well I might be able to do it with this one or that one, no, it's a very clear choice and it's just three lenses so it's not too much and so I think that has worked very well for me. Once again, it all depends on what you are trying to do what's best for you. I will, I will hammer home one point, and I really do like the nifty fifty lens as it is known. So with full-frame it is a 50 millimeter but Crop Frame it's gonna be or with the Four Thirds it'll be a 25 millimeter lens. And this has a lot of benefits. It's that small size, it lets in a lot of light, it has a very natural perspective and so it's showing you the world the way it very much looks in the real world. You can shoot in low light with a really shallow depth of field. It's just extremely good, I think, for documenting a scene. And so it's a very natural lens to use. And so if you don't have one of these you can pick up basic 50's, or the equivalent, for not much money. Many of 'em run between 125 and $ so it's not a lot of money to spend and it's got a lot of benefits and so I think it's a big bang for the buck. Alright to sum up some of my concepts here, I think at least 24 to 200 for most everyone, see if you have some sort of compact lens option when you wanna reduce the weight. I do like to use UV filters for protection, talk more about those comin' up. And it's ideally best if you are taking bodies and lens that you separate them when you move them. If you have the lens attached to the body and your bag falls off of the shelf or something like that, it's possible that you'll damage two items rather then one and there's more things that can happen so it's better just to have individual compartments in your bag for those. And do try to use the rear caps. I don't use front caps very much but rear caps are really important. That's where a lot of the electronics are and there's more exposed lenses and mechanical connections on the back side so make sure you always use those. Thinking about the lens aperture, how much light the lens lets in. When we look at this in regards to the maximum aperture of the choices that are available, most of the kind of consumer stuff out there is in this 3.5 to 5.6 range which is fine, it's gonna work out in most cases. There are some lenses that are a little bit slower that go down to 6.3. These are not going to be real good if you are shooting fast action. So if you're doing something that you know you need with action you're probably gonna wanna get something faster than that 6.3, there's some variables in there, but that's just a general find. Probably my favorite lenses are zoom lenses at f/4. It just seems to be the right balance. It's a little bit faster then the others, it's a constant aperture so whatever focal length I set I can keep constant shutter speeds, apertures, ISO settings, and I don't have to worry about changing things on it. So that's my favorite for general photography. If I'm being hired professionally to do something, if I'm working with people and action the 2.8 lenses are nice, they're bigger, but they're gonna allow me to shoot just one stop lower in the ISO or one stop faster in shutter speeds. And so I prefer not to travel with the 2.8's just 'cause they're so big and heavy and they're not necessary for most things but professionally speaking that's what most pros use. If you wanna go faster you're gonna need to get into the prime lenses and those fixed primes down at 1.8 are usually fantastic when it comes to price and weight. It's pretty rare that you need a lens that goes down to 1.4. It's sometimes nice as a bonus lens that okay, well I do have this one other lens that I can go to. And so that's some of my thoughts when it comes to choosing different lenses on there. And like cameras, I could go on and on and on about lenses and I don't need to do it now because I've already done it three different times here so I do have a whole class on choosing the right lens. It's kind of a general basic lens class for everyone and then I have two more specific classes on Cannon and Nikon lenses where we take a deep, deep, deep dive into all the technology, all the acronyms that these lenses have and more examples of how to use them in different areas. Ans so if you love lenses like I love lenses you'll love these classes.

Class Description

Are you going on a once in a lifetime trip and want to have photos that you can share with friends and family? Do the decisions of what to bring, where to shoot, and what to capture feel overwhelming? Travel photography can feel challenging, time consuming, and expensive. But with the right tools you can plan and prioritize to come home with images that you treasure.

Join photographer, educator and author John Greengo, who has photographed all over the world, as he guides you through all of the steps that you need to capture the photos that you want during your travels. This class will offer different plans of what to bring, and how to create a realistic agenda based on your priorities, whether it’s documenting your trip, telling a story through photographs, or simply capturing great images.

John will teach you:

  • What gear to pack based on your goals.
  • How to create a media storage plan and workflow while traveling.
  • Best practices on how to find and scout the best locations to photograph.
  • How to approach locals and build trust before taking their portraits.
  • Camera techniques and settings for different shooting scenarios.
  • Different types of travel photos, such as The Walk Away, The T-Shot, and Environmental Portrait.
  • What to do with your photos once you’ve returned home.

Don’t let the challenges of travel photography keep you from capturing images that will provide you with lifelong memories. Join John Greengo to learn the best techniques, tools, and technology to capture great photos no matter you limitations in time, money and resources.



As usual John has been an awesome instructor. He is so energetic and fun. I love taking his courses and this was no different. I absolutely loved it. I have learned so much by taking his courses. Thanks John for all you do to help us beginners out.

Melissa Maxwell

So inspiring! This class is so comprehensive and I look forward to applying all of Greengo's tips. He is a wonderful instructor and the example photos are breathtaking.

user 1399347749726793

John is fabulous ... and so inspiring! I can travel the world and live vicariously through him! I've watched John for years and always find that he teaches me something new every time! Thanks John and CreativeLive for another awesome class!