Thursday, 27 October 2011

You don't take a photograph, you make it. - Ansel Adams

In order to take a great landscape photograph I believe you have to capture the spirit of a location. But in order to do that you have to use different techniques to truly achieve this.

I always say that nature is rarely perfect. Your images need a helping hand and with the right technique you give yourself the best chance of taking one of those shots you want to show off to the world.

The landscape photography tips below will help you make more of the photo opportunities that you'll come across when you are in search of that perfect landscape photograph.

1. If you have a DSLR camera that gives you control over settings such as shutter speed, aperture and exposure values “EV”, set your camera on “Aperture Priority” and use a small aperture of f/16 or f/20. This will let you keep everything in focus and the camera will set your shutter speed automatically. For the advanced photographer, use your manual settings and adjust your EV setting to achieve proper exposure after you set your aperture and desired shutter speed.

2. Early morning and late evening are the best times for shooting landscapes. Blue hour photography and golden hour photography are the only time I venture out to take my landscape images. The reasons; the sun is not as harsh as a stronger high sun and the low angle of the sun reveals shadows and textures.

3. The best landscapes are rarely found at the side of the road. So be prepared to go for a hike with a map or a GPS Unit in an effort to seek out the most interesting locations that not everyone takes a photo of. You can also download Photographers Ephemeris and do some pre-planning before you leave home.

4. Wide angle lenses are commonly used for landscapes because they will allow you to include more in the frame and open up the vertical perspective. But, the wide angle lens pushes the scene away… you can also consider using a longer focal length lens and compressing the depth of just a part of the entire scene.

5. If shooting the entire scene before you, whenever possible, place something of interest in the foreground of the shot to create a sense of depth. At the same time, ensure that you use that small aperture to keep everything in focus.
If you do not have something to ground the scene, focus one third up from the bottom of the image. This way you will maximize focus of the entire scene.

6. Another great but simple landscape photography tip is to anchor your camera to a tripod to slow down your pace of working when shooting landscapes. This means you'll take fewer but better pictures.
Also, if you are shooting in low light your exposure times will be elongated, forcing you to mount the camera to eliminate camera shake.

7. Carry a cable release. The timer function on the camera is no substitute for a cable release, BTW. The cable allows you the release the shutter when YOU want to release the shutter, not 2 sec or 10 sec or 15 sec from when you want to release. The release makes it so you don't have to touch the camera at all which will definitely minimize camera shake...especially important for those longer exposure shots. As an aside, if your camera allows it, use the mirror lock up function.

8. Keep on the lookout for scenes that will let you crop the top and bottom of the image to produce a more dramatic panoramic composition.

9. Use a circular polarizing filter to darken the sky and saturate the colors in the landscape (this is the one must-have filter for landscape photographers).

10. Meter your scene and use graduated grey or neutral density filters to darken the sky and reduce the contrast between the landscape and the sky. Polarizing filters aren't much use for bright cloudy skies but graduated filters are. Frequently, the sky looks burned out in photos because your digital sensors don't have the range to record the brightness differences between it and darker foreground scenery.

11. Use color correction filters to change the color of light on a landscape. These filters can either warm up the landscape or cool it down, depending on the filter color used. In this image, a sepia graduated filter was used upside-down to color the foreground rocks only.
You can either do this in the camera or you can do this in Photoshop later.

12. Try using a soft focus filter to add an ethereal quality to the scene. These filters blur the bright areas of a scene into the shadows to give the image a glow.
Again, you can do this in the camera or apply the soft focus after with gaussian blur in Photoshop

13. If you’re up for experimentation, try making your own filters. There's never a guarantee you'll get good results, but your photos will certainly look different. You can make a filter out of anything that's at least partially transparent - a bit of old stocking, Vaseline rubbed on an old filter (don't ever rub Vaseline directly onto a lens - you'll ruin it permanently!) Or you could try breathing gently on your lens (in cool conditions) to get a soft-focus effect.

14. Use the Hyperfocal distance to obtain the fastest shutter speed with greatest depth of field. Hyperfocal allows you to get everything sharp, from things close up to the camera to those far away. It's more reliable than just setting the focus at infinity. You will need a camera that allows manual focusing though. Click here to learn what Hyperfocal distance is.

15. Shoot RAW images rather than JPGs. The RAW image will take up more room on your memory card but the RAW image will give you greater latitude for image manipulation in post processing. This is a “Must Do” in my opinion. I shoot all my images in RAW.

16. Be original! Develop your own style and unique vision. Any competent photographer can duplicate someone else’s work. Truly great photographers produce unique images and avoid cliché photography. Go for non-standard viewpoints, say from ground-level rather than eye-level. Imagine the world as seen from an animal's viewpoint rather than a human's! Think what the scene would look like to a flying bird or a ground dwelling squirrel.

17. Tell a Story! People who look at pictures will enjoy looking at a story over a snapshot any day. Telling stories with your camera forces you to slow down and think about what you are doing. What is it about this scene that makes you want to make a photograph? What moves you or attracts your eye? Is there a theme, a phrase or a point of view that you want to capture and preserve? Where is the beginning, the middle and the end?

Happy Shooting!