I challenged myself by using only a 27mm lens for landscapes (& really enjoyed it)

I challenged myself by using only a 27mm lens for landscapes (& really enjoyed it)

Focus editor Philip discusses how you can still get great landscape-themed shots even if you’re limited to a traditionally ‘non-landscape’ lens

A few months ago, disaster struck (as has, admittedly, a few times before)... I had my usual landscape setup for a lighthouse shoot, with my 15-45mm wide-angle lens and tripod. It was a particularly breezy day (which hadn’t stopped me before), but unfortunately, this time, it proved fatal. One minor lapse in concentration and my tripod and lens crashed to the ground, severely damaging my wide-angle lens and making it unusable.

Now, this wasn’t ideal as I was very much in the zone for working on my Coastal North landscape and seascape project over the summer, and for some weeks, I felt utterly lost and discouraged to do more photography work. However, I have another lens, a fixed Fujifilm XF 27mm prime lens. The images it can produce are of a beautiful quality, however, it isn’t the best for landscape work - I tried before and wasn’t best pleased with the initial results. But, this time, I thought I would challenge myself, and I decided to go to some of my favourite seascape spots of St. Abb’s Head, Scotland, and the North Yorkshire Coast, taking out just my 27mm lens to see what I could get with it.

It taught me that while you’ll never get sweeping wide-angle landscapes with a 27mm prime, with a bit of experimenting and an open mind, you can still get some beautiful landscape shots that are just a little different (which is always a great thing too).Here are some of my favourite shots and why I like them:

Sea stacks at St. Abb’s Head, Scotland - f/9 | 1/160s | ISO 250

I have photographed these stacks before, and they do them justice. A wide-angle is ideal due to its dramatic position and vast, expansive sea stretching out behind them. However, I’m pretty pleased with this shot, it’s by no means surprising, but I feel both the framing and soft light work well and still tell the story of the location.

A misty day out to sea from St. Abb’s Lighthouse - f/10 | 1/160s | ISO 250

I wanted to try and create a sense of scale with this shot, to frame the lighthouse against the backdrop of the vast open sea, and this can be challenging with a 27mm lens. However, placing the subject (lighthouse) low in the frame and emphasising the sky helps create that scale for the shot.

The rusted foghorn at St. Abb's Lighthouse - f/11 | 1/180s | ISO 250

Not so much of a landscape-oriented subject, but this image of the foghorn at St. Abb’s Lighthouse helps tell the story of the place, and I think it looks excellent captured with the 27mm prime. That’s one great thing about the 27mm, too; it lets you get closer in on subjects without the distraction of its environs - so it can work that way too.

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Early Autumn light at Pettwick Bay, St. Abb’s Head, Scotland - f/8 | 1/180s | ISO 200

Again a tricky one to get the scale right, but including the road to lead into the scene, I feel, works for this as it helps the eye travel out towards the cliffs in the frame. It’s also worth noting that the light was pretty flat the day I was up at St. Abb’s Head, so I tried to work with it as much as possible and went for a slightly murkier, lower contrast, ethereal look.

East Pier Lighthouse, Whitby, North Yorkshire - f/9 | 1/250s | ISO 200

You probably realise now I have a thing for lighthouses. Well, this one on the Yorkshire Coast in Whitby is one of my favourites, and I have a lot of memories connected to the place, it was a tricky one to frame with the prime, but I think placing it in an unusual part of the image helps amplify its coastal surrounds.

And here are some bonus images from the shoots I’m equally happy with too, more abstract, but again tell the story of the locations. Having more abstract shots in my Coastal North series wasn't something I considered at first, but having taken the time to experiment, I found I've quite enjoyed taking these shots.

Light shines off the North Sea at Whitby, North Yorkshire - f/10 | 1/250s | ISO 200

Fisherman's Hut at St. Abbs, Scotland - f/8 | 1/180s | ISO 400


West Pier Lighthouse, Whitby, North Yorkshire - f/10 | 1/250s | ISO 200

Abandoned Boat at Port Mulgrave, North Yorkshire - f/10 | 1/180s | ISO 200

Fishermen's Rope at St. Abbs, Scotland - f/13 | 1/180s | ISO 400

If there's anything I'd like you to take away from this, is that, when disaster strikes, or you get accustomed to using a particular lens for your work, you can get equally interesting shots using a lens that you don't normally use. And actually, it's a great exercise in getting creative with your work and exploring new visuals.