Photographing Landscapes

Landscape photography takes you to places you might not otherwise be able to visit, so that you feel like you are there yourself. They are vast shots of nature that are as awe-inspiring as the scenes themselves. Here are a few tips about landscape photography to help you capture nature’s magnificence next time you are out shooting.

1. Time of Day
The time of day can make all the difference between a good and a fantastic landscape shot. Generally, sunrise and sunset times are both ideal, though you will get very different results. For example, the sun may be behind you in the morning, shining onto your subject, but it might be in front or off to the side later in the day. Amazing light moments can happen at any time throughout the day. Watch the clouds to see when light is about to break through. Clouds are also a great element to include in your photo.

2. Equipment
A wide angle lens is one of the best pieces of equipment for taking a professional looking landscape shot. The wide angle lens is standard for landscape photography, but you can experiment with other longer lenses as well to isolate different details of the scenery. Also, don’t forget to use a tripod. Slow down your shutter speed so you can close down your aperture to f11, f16, or f22. This adds depth of field to the shot. Slow shutter speeds also keep the non-moving subjects sharp as a tack while allowing a moving source, such as water, to look smooth and flowing. Polarizing filters are another equipment accessory that helps in landscape shots. They enrich dark blue in the sky and cut the glare off water reflections.

3. Composition
A well-composed landscape shot can have a breathtaking effect. If your subject is off in the distance, do not place it in the middle of the shot, and look for an object in the foreground for juxtaposition (adding contrast), such as a rock, a tree, water, and so on. This creates depth, especially if the foreground object relates in some way to the background. Also, while it is perfectly fine to put a person or animal in the photo, that person or animal automatically becomes the subject, because the human mind connects first to things that we can relate to most. But, you can use a person to help guide your audience. For example, if a person is in the photo, instruct them to look away towards the background element as opposed to looking at the camera and smiling. The photo feels much more natural, and the person’s pose effortlessly guides the eye to the element in the background that you are trying to capture.

Lastly, try to use natural elements in the photo to frame the photo and create a “window” to look through. Natural frames keep eyes on the photo rather than guide the eyes away from the composition. A tree is often a great natural frame in a photo. Railroad tracks or fences work as well.

4. After the Shoot
After a day of shooting landscapes, finish the job with a bit of post-production work and print your photos. Play with converting the photos to black and white, and adjust the contrast levels to sharpen the tones. A mediocre color shot can look exquisite after it has been converted to black and white with some contrast adjustments. Don’t forget to print your work as well! Small prints are nice, but blow up some of your favorite shots to large prints, like 24×36, 30×40 or even bigger. They look incredible as framed pieces for your home or office, and are great conversation starters!

October 13, 2010
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