Marlon Co is the photographer of The New York Botanical Garden.
Lenses are some of the most exciting aspects of photography. If one thinks of a camera as a blank canvas, lenses are the paintbrushes, where the light and artistry flows—where the fun really is. Lenses allow us to change how we see things; we can take in a whole view or focus in on a detail, near or far.
However, one lens type in particular is often overlooked for nature photography: the telephoto. Generally seen as useful only for sports or wildlife, their size and weight can sometimes be discouraging for general use, but they can be among the most creatively satisfying lenses to use in nature—period. The 100–400mm telephoto I use manages to keep size and weight down while also offering a versatile range and close minimum focus distance.
At NYBG, this versatility translates to capturing everything from close plant details or even images of insects to photos of birds or landscape vignettes. Of course, this all has to fit in the narrow frame these lenses naturally impose, but like in life, it’s important to see things from different perspectives. Doing so allows us to see the beauty and nuance of the world from may views, and—in short—more completely. All the photos you see here were taken with a single 100–400mm lens over the course of this spring so far. It’s been a roller coaster, with things coming and going in the blink of an eye, so on your next visit to NYBG, challenge yourself to change your perspective and see differently, whether through a lens or your imagination. Nature’s beauty is bound to inspire.
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