Photographing landscapes is an interesting challenge. On the one hand, there are virtually endless possibilities in terms of what you photograph - from mountains and rivers to beaches and oceans and everything in between. Some landscapes are easy to access, others require an incredible amount of work just to see them. Weather plays a role in your ability to photograph some locations while others benefit from gorgeous conditions nearly year-round.
And while that diversity is great from the standpoint that you have tons of subjects from which to choose, it also means you’ll need to take a different approach when you come upon a new landscape. In this week’s PT Photography School Tip of the Week, we take a look at a few landscapes and offer advice on how you might best approach photographing them.
Taking photos in the rain can get you stunning results, from beautiful rainbows to raging rivers to ominous skies. Naturally, all that water is bad for the health of your camera gear, so having protective equipment when venturing out into the wet is of the utmost importance. At the very least, have a good umbrella that a companion can hold over you as you work. Even better, bring along rain gear for your camera and lenses to ensure they’re protected. Pack a few towels too in case you need to do some quick drying of your gear (or yourself!).
When photographing a wide vista, you’ll probably have a wide-angle shot in mind of the entire scene. Once you take that shot, walk, hike, or drive closer to a point of interest in the nearby landscape and take some up-close images. The change in your proximity to the subject will reveal different vantage points and might even result in a better image than the original one you had in mind.
Landscapes With Animals
There is often the urge to zoom in or frame a shot tightly when an animal is present. And while this can certainly generate excellent photos, there’s something to be said for hanging back and capturing the animal in its larger environment as well. So, contrary to what you might do when presented with a wide vista, when animals are present, see what you can do to tell the story of how the animal interacts with its environment. These types of shots are often much more informative about the animal and the way it lives than the typical tightly framed shot of the animal by itself.
Many subjects in landscape photography - mountains, lakes, and prairies to name a few - are so large that it’s difficult for viewers to understand the scale of the scene. To help clue in viewers regarding the size of the subject matter, try to include elements that are familiar. People, trees, cars, or animals are excellent choices for giving some context to the scene.
Landscapes With Buildings
Including man-made objects in a landscape shot will help you create a composition that shows the interplay between human activity and nature. Whether it’s a vibrant, coastal village perched on a cliff or a dilapidated old barn, buildings will give your landscapes a bit of punch in the visual interest department. If the buildings are occupied, look for opportunities to compose your photos to include street lights, lights shining from within the building, and natural lighting, like the setting sun or the moon. Combining these three types of lighting will further your ability to highlight both the natural and man-made elements in the scene.
When there isn’t much happening in the landscape, look for ways to add visual interest. As mentioned above, you might add a human element, like a person or a car. Also look for things in the environment that could serve as foreground interest, like an interesting pattern or texture created by rocks or plants. There might be opportunities for creating layers in your composition as well. Again, colors, textures, and patterns at different distances in the environment can be used to give the image more depth and dimension.
Shooting in winter affords you the opportunity to show off the beauty and savagery of a snow-covered landscape. But the cold and snow can wreak havoc on your gear, just as much as it does to the landscape. To avoid damaging your camera due to condensation, avoid changing your lenses outside in the cold. And before you bring them back into your warm house, gradually warm your gear up. Doing so will help prevent condensation and save you a lot of time, effort, and money trying to fix damaged gear.
No matter whether you’re working in the wet or in the cold, in an urban landscape or a desolate one, it’s essential that you take the time to wander around and explore the landscape around you. Doing so will allow you to get a sense of the area and will inform you as to what makes it unique. Armed with that information, you will be able to make better decisions about how to document the landscape, which will result in photos that are a more intimate representation of that particular location.