- Insights From Beyond the Lens: Inside the Art & Craft of Landscape Photography
- Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams
- The Art, Science and Craft of Great Landscape Photography
Some things change with time and technology, and photography is a good example of that. We no longer lock ourselves in darkrooms, nor do we still use external light meters. At least most of us don't anyway. But just like some things evolve one way or another, others stay the same.
Here are 19 of them dedicated to landscape photography.
1. Mirror Lock-up
DSLRs work by the same principles as 60 year old cameras. That means it's a good design. Even so, as the mirror goes up preparing the camera for exposure, it causes internal vibrations that could blur the photo. It's best to use the mirror lock-up feature on your camera to avoid this problem. If you own a mirrorless camera, ignore this tip.
2. Select the focusing points manually
It's best to pick the focusing point yourself because the camera will most likely focus on the subjects closest to you if you leave the selection on automatic mode.
3. Wide angle is best
Wide and ultra-wide angle lenses are the most common choices for landscape photography. They're the best tools for capturing the majesty of a location because they include a lot of it in the frame. That's not to say you can't take brilliant landscape pictures with a telephoto lens though.
The importance of a good composition is one of those things that will not change even if we end up taking pictures with our eyes. Frame your subjects patiently, use the basic composition rules and use the camera's LCD screen for a better preview.
5. The Circular Polarizer
It's the must have filter of all landscape photographers. You might get the effects of other filters using post processing, but you can't copy the effects of a polarizer. Just remember to use it between 45° and 90° to the sun.
6. Read the histogram
Your camera's LCD screen is not to be trusted when it comes to exposure. Instead, use your histogram because it's the best way to tell if you're exposure is correct or if you need to make some changes.
7. Know what you're going for
A good photographer always has a clear idea of how he wants the photo to look. Pre visualizing is a crucial part of the process. You can only do it after you get to the location because you will need to take a few test shots to have everything set up correctly.
8. Mark your locations on the map
Just like a good fishing spot is a place to return to, so is a mountain peak or any other location with a nice view. A few years ago we used to mark these spots on a paper map with a pen. Now we just put a pin on our smartphone map.
9. Start calmly
The enthusiasm usually sky rockets as soon as you get to the location, but take a few moments to read the landscape. Figure out if you really are in the best position and anticipate the changing light for the next hour. After that, mount your tripod and get to work.
9. Be a hard worker
Taking landscapes is one of the least comfortable ways of enjoying photography. If you're the lazy kind, you're best off pursuing another activity. As a landscape photographer you have to put yourself in tough situations, you must come face to face with raw nature and you have to carry a lot of equipment over long distances. That hasn't changed and it's not going to.
You might not always need a tripod when taking landscapes, but it's a lot better to have one around than to leave it at home (check point 9 again). Not only will it allow you to take long exposures, it will actually slow you down a bit and give you time to think if what you're doing is right or not.
11. Depth of field
Landscape photography is about great depth of field. In order to maximize it, close your aperture down to f/16-f/18. That will inevitably lead to a longer exposure, so again, consider taking a tripod along. One more thing to remember is that closing the aperture all the way down to the maximum value allowed by the lens means losing details in your photos. Maximum sharpness is achieved between f/8-f/16 with most lenses
The best results, in terms of image quality, are achieved using lower ISO values. ISO 50 and 100 are ideal, but with most modern cameras you can take it up to 800 and still get a clean image.
13. Photographer-Camera Relationship
The Auto mode is frowned upon for good reason. It doesn't let you control anything and it does a lousy job at reading the situation and making the right settings. Therefore, you need to take control of your camera one way or the other. If you're scared of full manual control, settle for something easier like Aperture or Shutter priority and let the camera take care of the rest. Just make sure you have some control over those settings.
14. Use clouds
Clouds can be spectacular in landscapes, especially dark, storm clouds. Enhance hem by using a ND filter or post processing.
15. Fog and steam
They both produce dramatic effects that increase the visual appeal of your landscapes. Fall mornings are a great time for capturing foggy scenes and geysers are natural steam sources.
16. Step back and review
After taking a series of shots, review them and make sure you have what you went for. That doesn't mean you should spend 10 minutes chimping over the LCD. Remember, light changes very quickly in some areas and if you spend too long looking at your photos, you might miss important opportunities.
17. Be alert
Because of these changes in light, you have to be very aware of what's going on around you, particularly when there is an alternation of sun and clouds. Sometimes the window of opportunity is as short as five minutes and you often have to wait for it an hour or even more.
18. Be patient
It's not just about getting to the location, snapping a few shots and going home. Professionals will often wait a few days in one spot just for the light to be perfect. I'm not saying you have to do the same but spend a couple of hours in one location before you move on to the next or go home.
19. Respect nature
I'm sorry I have to put this on the list, but after going into the wild and seeing signs that photographers have been there several times, I've become really frustrated. I've seen everything from torn memory card packs to Power Bar wrappers and empty beer cans in places it took me hours to climb. I'll tell you one thing, it definitely takes a lot of the joy out. If you're going to shoot landscapes in wild places, have some respect for your subject and surroundings. Nobody's going to come clean after you (not unless I pass by coincidently) and some of the stuff you might be tempted to throw will take hundreds of years to disintegrate. Respect yourself, respect nature, have a good time and take some awesome pics.
Bonus: Be Prepared with your gear
Far too many times do we hear stories of photographers getting out and realizing they don't have enough memory card space, or their camera battery runs out of juice. Another one is the photographer runs out of juice themselves! Thinking ahead and simple planning will pay off big time. Bring an extra memory card, even if it’s an older smaller one that you would normally never use. I keep an old 4GB SD memory card in my camera bag, that honestly, I have no clue how old this thing is. All I know is that my 36MP Sony A7R files will fill this bugger up quick. Regardless, it’s still a great “in case of an emergency… break glass” sort of card to have on you. I also keep 4 Powerbars in my bag at all times. Now, let’s talk about keeping your camera batteries full of juice. There are a number of options on the market, believe me I know. I have tested many of them with little satisfaction. The method I use these days to keep my batteries charged is made by Wolverine. It’s a portable charger that is suitably called “Colossal”. The reason I love this one so much is that I can not only charge my iPhone, I can charge my iPad, and I can also charge my Sony A7R batteries too! This beast of a portable battery charger has a whopping 18,200 mAh! Do the math, that’s a lot of charges. Best of all it’s the same price as a single replacement battery. For me, it paid for itself the first time out. Check out the specs and photos here.