Creative Landscape Photography Ideas
photo by kstphotography via iStock
We all need some inspiration and creative landscape photography ideas from time to time. If you feel like you’re in a creative rut, or if you simply want landscape photography inspiration and general landscape photography tips, we’re here to help.
You can help, too! Just log on to your PhotographyTalk account and join a discussion on the Forum. We’re always happy to hear new ideas.
Beginner Landscape Photography Tips
photo by zeljkosantrac via iStock
Creative landscape photography ideas start with the basic beginner landscape photography tips. As a years-long practitioner of landscape photography, starting as a young person and working up to becoming a professional, I have to restart myself sometimes.
All of us do it, landscape photography icon Ansel Adams talked about it in his books and when speaking in panels. Our chosen art medium is full of technical details which we can manipulate to create images.
Play around with the basics that we already know like the back of our hands. Use the Sunny 16 Rule for exposure calculation and see how many adjustments you can make. Incorporate the Rule of Thirds for composition and also decide to break the rule to see what results.
We already know how to take good landscape photos, what we’re trying to do is get out of any creative rut we’re in or prevent one from happening in the first place. I find that going back to the basics will often put me in a more creative mindset, since I start thinking about our wonderful craft and all the options I have at my disposal.
The opposite approach can work, too. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll put my camera in Full Auto Green Dot mode and just look for something pretty. More on that later…
Use the Weather to Your Advantage
photo by BriBar via iStock
How many of us enjoy those clear blue skies with puffy white clouds over our well-lit mountain valleys? Sure, we all do. What do we do, though, when the sky is overcast or the weather is just the right shade of gray to propel us to a fireplace with a large cup of hot cocoa?
The answer is, put on our foul weather gear and go outside for more pictures. The quality of light is ever changing in our field of art. An overcast day can bring out a mood or a detail that we could miss if we put our cameras up.
A moody photograph doesn’t always mean a dark or gloomy mood, either. Creatively overexposing a foggy scene can relate to the viewer an air of peace or of whimsy that might not be felt with a clear view.
Overcast, foggy, or inclement weather days give us opportunities to play with high key vs low key effects and with other techniques of exposure and contrast. After capturing the image, we can then open up deep menus in our post-processing programs to further manipulate reality to what we want it to say.
Afterwards, we can then enjoy our hot chai while our moisture-wicking garments drip dry in the mud room.
Isolate a Subject
photo by Jurgal via iStock
Two methods can be used in landscape photography to isolate a subject. More than two, actually, but these two are at the forefront of my thoughts. One is changing lenses and the other is selective focus.
As landscape photographers, we love our wide-angle lenses. For good reasons, too! These lenses allow us to capture interesting views of scenic vistas as well as giving options for deep depth of field effects with subjects very close in focus and the background in focus.
A wide-angle lens might not give us the option we really need for a particular idea, though. And sometimes shallow depth of field is a better choice for our subject matter.
Changing to a longer lens, telephoto or super-telephoto, can show us an isolated subject landscape image we may have been overlooking from the scenic overlook. Regardless of the lens focal length, we could also employ selective techniques to isolate a subject within our landscape view.
Color can also be used to isolate a subject. This can be done with creative exposure techniques, post-processing, filters, or by simply searching for color contrasts in the real-life scenes in front of us.
Zoom With Your Feet (or 4WD)
photo by GibsonPictures via iStock
There are times when changing lenses simply won’t present us with what we’re wanting. Perhaps what’s needed is a different shooting position. In other words, physically moving.
When you were learning beginner landscape photography tips, how many times did you run across the admonition to zoom with your feet? It’s a valid point regardless of our level of expertise. Sometimes we just need to get “over there!” in order to capture a better view of our intended subject.
An interesting advantage to moving over to another position is that we can often find a completely different view than what we were envisioning. Maybe even a completely different subject shows up for us that we didn't notice before.
I find that I may need to travel quite a distance to get the right view, so having a car, 4WD vehicle, off-road vehicle, or a really good mountain bike at my disposal is useful.
Since we’re on the subject of bicycles, have you tried out photo trekking? We have a fun series of articles about it. The creative possibilities seem to explode in abundance when you photo trek!
Blue Hour Is Beautiful!
photo by amriphoto via iStock
When the sun goes down, the colors of our landscape change in a beautiful way. Blue Hour is the time when the sun is below the horizon but there is still light from the Sun illuminating the sky.
Blue Hour exists before sunrise and after sunset. How long it actually lasts will depend on your latitude, the time of year, and the weather. The light intensity and the color temperature will change rapidly during Blue Hour.
One of the creative landscape photography ideas involving Blue Hour is to make a complete creative project out of your Blue Hour scheduling. Blue Hour blends in seamlessly with sunrise and sunset photography, Golden Hour photography, and one of my favorite creative jumpstarts, astrophotography.
Bring a tripod or other secure camera mount like a tripod alternative, a wired or wireless remote release, and a way to see where you’re walking. Many astronomy stores will have red filtered flashlights that can light your path without ruining night vision.
Oh yeah! Dress appropriately, including sturdy shoes. One of these days, I may dedicate an entire article to dressing for the outdoor photography you’re doing.
Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard
photo by irina88w via iStock
You don’t need to go anywhere to get creative landscape photography ideas. Your own backyard, neighborhood park, or nearby tourist attractions and nature centers likely have many points of landscape photography inspiration just waiting to be found.
In our backyard, we can easily practice some of the techniques we’ve learned such as isolating a subject, Blue Hour photography, macro photography, and changing lenses or camera position.
Near my home is a fantastic nature park used by hikers, artists, families, and fitness enthusiasts. Depending on the season, we can find blooming flowers, trees changing color, wildlife, and snow-covered natural and man-made objects.
Get online and Google your area. You might be surprised by what pictures show up, what visitors find photo worthy that we may barely consider in our daily lives. Use that information for your personal landscape photography inspiration.
Black and White Awesomeness
photo by cavallapazza via iStock
The colors involved in landscape photography are beautiful, and we can usually make them even prettier by using our ever-expanding skillset. Beautifully colored landscapes also make awesome black and white images.
When captured as or processed into a B&W image, these colors in our landscapes show up as different shades of gray. These shades of gray can be manipulated or enhanced by exposure settings, filter use, or post-processing.
There are so many wonderful black and white landscape images we can find from photographers in the past, including our landscape icon Ansel Adams which can serve as landscape photography inspiration.
Once you see those images and find out how they were crafted, you’ll have to try it out yourself. The joy of seeing your superbly crafted landscape images in a gorgeous black and white physical print is a great feeling. Try it out, I guarantee you will have fun.
Math to the Rescue! The Fibonacci Sequence
photo by lightaspect via iStock
We can never fully separate the craft and science of photography from the art, that’s part of what makes photography such a worthwhile art form. Not only does focus, perspective, and exposure involve concepts that can be expressed and controlled through math, so does composition.
How? Good question! There is an interesting numerical progression and correlation known as the Fibonacci Sequence that impacts composition in photography.
This composition technique has another name, one that sounds more photographic, the Golden Spiral. You can look up the exact mathematical formula if you enjoy that sort of thing (I do!), but it’s not a requirement for using the technique to give you creative landscape photography ideas.
To get an idea of what the Golden Spiral can look like, take a close-up look at a sunflower. The seeds are lined up in the Golden Spiral which is a physical representation of the Fibonacci Sequence.
Once you know what it looks like, you’ll notice it in all sorts of subjects. Groups of people tend to arrange themselves in a form of this spiral. Classical architecture often has elements of the Golden Spiral in its construction.
It’s an artful balance that occurs so naturally we often don’t even think about it until we need to jump-start our creativity out a rut. It’s not the only compositional tool landscape photographers can use, but it is the one that requires us to use our brains and actually observe the world around us instead of merely seeing it.
Frankie Says, “Relax”
photo by Imgorthand via iStock
Do you know any writers? Besides me. Many writers will suffer from time to time with a condition known as writer’s block. If you were to ask how they overcome it when it happens, most of them will probably say that once they put their minds to something else, stop stressing out about how to overcome it, that it will simply go away.
The same principle applies within other arts, such as photography. As I said at the end of the first subheading, sometimes I like to unplug myself from all the figuring out stuff involved in photography.
Put away the composition rules, the exposure rules, the exposure calculations and just look for pretty sights that I can photograph. Almost all digital cameras have a setting or mode available that does all of the calculations for you. On entry-level and intermediate level cameras, it’s usually a big green dot or square or a setting marked “AUTO.”
While I don’t often suggest leaving the camera in that mode, because then the camera computer takes over most of the job, the exposure, the focus, whether or not to use flash, and so on. But when I’m in a rut, forcing myself to not think about those things will sometimes give my brain the boost I need.
I start looking at the things I want to capture and not concentrating on HOW to do that capturing.
Once I bump my creative brain back into place by relaxing and simply taking pictures, then I go back to all of the fun stuff you and I love, the exposure calculating, the composition tools, the focus techniques, and the post-processing.