Saturday, 27 June 2009

Landscape Photography - Ten Top Tips

There are many items that are needed when setting out to explore the countryside and indulge in some landscape photography. One obviously needs to dress comfortably and with the time of year in mind - comfortable footwear that is capable of standing up to whatever terrain needs crossing, is a must but also bring warmer clothes/waterproofs if need be. You'll certainly need a map and compass, and have the ability to use them - a map case can come in handy if it rains. Use a topographical map so that you can plan possible routes and locations before setting out. Also think about small items such as a whistle, survival bag etc., etc. if you are going to the mountains or moors.

In effect go prepared for the wiles of the British weather, you'll look a fool being winched off a mountain by the RAF because you weren't prepared and your camera equipment will certainly be left behind to face the elements.

So having sorted yourself out, what else should you consider when heading out for a day' s landscape photography? (We'll assume you have your camera and at least one lens with you)

1. First and foremost use a tripod - heavy duty, sturdy and stable and with a spirit level on the head - the last point is vital to ensure that your horizons are level. Bearing in mind that the best pictures are taken early in the morning or towards the end of the day, so requiring longer exposures, a tripod will ensure a crisp, sharp image.

2. A small step ladder is also an essential part of your kit. Height gives depth and the higher a position you can take your photograph from, the better your final image will be.

3. Take the right lenses. Too be honest, the lenses that you take will depend on the format camera that you use - I use a 18-200mm with my Nikon DSLR which would be the only lens I'd need were I taking digital images. However, when taking my medium format cameras out a different approach is needed. Either way you need the ability to take wide angle shots and you'll also need a longer lens to capture details clearly. If using prime lenses - then take three: wide for dramatic skies and foregrounds, normal and a longer lens for detail.

4. Take some filters. You'll need yellow, orange and red/Infrared for black & white. A set of Graduated neutral density filters and possibly a polarising filter for colour shots.

5. And a cable release. Always useful for those long exposures in the morning or the evening. A cable release will allow you to take long exposures without touching the camera, thereby avoiding camera shake.

6. The light is best early in the morning and late in the evening. Noon is best for infra red photography, but the higher the sun the visible colours are more bleached out. When the sun is low the light is warmest and colours are at their brightest. When picking a location think about when the light will be best for the picture you plan to take - is it better to go in the morning or the afternoon? ~This is when a map will also help you - it's always handy to know where east and west lie because that's where the sun shines from. Also think about the effects of shadow - a steep sided valley may lie in shadow until quite late in the morning (or early in the afternoon) so plan accordingly.

7. The golden rule of landscape photography is that there are no rules - but if that is too anarchic for you, remember the rule of thirds and other compositional tricks, such as lead in etc. Sometimes an object in the foreground such as a tree or rock can help give depth and interest to a photograph's composition. Also look for geometric patterns, forms and curves in the landscape and try to build these into your composition.

8. Have patience and spend some time in the area you plan to shoot to get to know when the light is best which are the best shots etc. You'll be very lucky to get anything decent if you turn up for half an hour, walk 100 yards from the car park and press the shutter. Also you won't have as much enjoyment than if you spend a few days taking in the scenery and light and trying to understand the environment you're shooting. When you do find the right location wait for the right light conditions to make sure you get just the image you want. Married photographers will prefer to leave their spouses at home at this point - it's usually best for everybody if you go on your own!

9. Go on, waste film and bracket your shots! Not such an issue with digital cameras or with cameras with inbuilt light meters, bracketing is an effective way of hedging your bets and making sure you've got the right balance of exposure if you are like me and you like your cameras without too many moving parts. A graduated ND filter will help for colour shots to balance the sky and ground but use bracketing where you are in any doubt as too what the right exposure time is.

10. Keep an eye out for the weather. No point turning up on a grey drizzly day if you want a lovely golden sunset! Also remember that dramatic skies are very photogenic - a good time to shoot is when storms end particularly if the sun comes out after a rain storm.

Please feel free to publish this article on the web, but only if you maintain the links to my website and give me full credit for authorship.

1 comment:

Bennett said...


It is a good post on Landscape Photography.

A landscape phototograhy tips is that Early morning and late afternoon is usually the best time to take your photos, when the light is soft and the contrast is low. The warm colour of the light does not just enhance the landscape; it also adds character to the wildlife, and can eliminate unwanted shadows from the face of the subject. With just the right angle, you may catch that sparkle in the eye that really brings your photo alive.