Landscape photography is more than a grand and sweeping view of majestic mountains, the dynamic effect of the ocean pounding a rockbound shoreline or a dramatic vision of the skyline of one of the world’s major cities. An equally compelling landscape could be quite small in comparison: A room-sized area of wildflowers deep in the forest; the lines created by the trees bordering your backyard, silhouetted against a low sun; or just a few feet of a rushing, mountain stream as it dances over and among the rocks. The word is “landscape,” or views of the land, not large views or small views, but any image that captures the beauty and wonder of how nature and humans have shaped the land.
An excellent experiment is to walk through your community and town, without your camera, and look for interesting landscapes with just your eyes and mind. Common places and views that you see every day can start to reveal their creative possibilities when you pause and spend a moment to look at them with photography in mind. It’s also a good idea to schedule your scouting trip at different times of the day.
Although landscapes can be photographed at any time of the day, generally, the best times are dawn and dusk, and into twilight. Movie directors call these the “magic hours” because the light is softer and diffused, which helps you create images with more mood and feeling. In addition, if you want to cross the fine line between landscape and nature photography, then dawn and dusk are when many species of wild animals are active, giving you a bonus element for your landscapes.
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To expand your creative toolkit for landscape photography, consider purchasing a camera with a panorama mode or auto HDR mode. Many Sony Alpha models, including the a580L and a65, include the Sweep Panorama™ and 3D Sweep Panorama™ modes. In the first mode, the camera automatically shoots a series of images, as you pan the camera horizontally or vertical, and then combines them into a single panorama. The 3D mode captures separate views of your composition from the right-eye and left-eye perspectives and creates a single 3D photo. Sony’s Auto HDR makes one photo from the best highlight of one frame, the best mid-tones of a second and the best shadow detail of a third.
Learning how to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos is another technique to enhance your landscape photos. Maybe the most important lesson is to use HDR sparingly, so those landscapes to which you apply this technique are real eye-catchers. You’ll be more artistic when you use Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. Its 32 presets and 4 tone-mapping algorithms make the learning process easier and allow you to start creating almost immediately.
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When landscape photography becomes a serious passion and pursuit for you, the next opportunity to advance your skills is an intensive workshop with some of the world’s most-renown landscape photographers. Visionary Wild plans and hosts just such advanced workshops for limited groups at spectacular locations throughout the world. You’ll receive one-on-one instruction and guidance from photographers whose work has appeared in National Geographic and similar publications and have spent many years exploring and photographing the workshop destinations.
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The lesson here is that you can find worthy landscapes to photograph within a few feet of your front door, in your neighborhood park or a nearby state park. You don’t have to travel to exotic, hard-to-reach locations, and then spend days waiting for the exact light and conditions you want. This is certainly an excellent option to consider, however, as you advance your skills and gain more landscape photography experience.
Some landscapes may have more artistic potential only at high noon or dawn or dusk. You can then return to some of the locations and views you found, but this time, bring your camera. Don’t shoot any photos, however; instead, practice framing and composing the possible landscapes you discovered to determine if they present the photos you imagined. Now, you have a list of local landscape sites to visit regularly.
Visionary Wild workshops scheduled for 2012 include the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Iceland and Tuscany. Visit www.visionarywild.com for more information.
Image credit: photopiano / 123RF Stock Photo
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