I always try to look for creative ways to shoot the landscape. It does not always work out, but sometimes I catch a view point not many people get a photograph of... and those photos my friends are what separates a good photographer from a great photographer.
So let’s take a look at some tips that have been handed down to me for shooting landscape photos from fellow photographers and some professionals.
Tip 1: Bring a Tripod
Always bring a tripod if you plan on shooting landscapes. Even if the day is sunny, you may need to use a small aperture to achieve a much larger depth of field. In these instances, you may be using a low shutter speed – which leads to camera shake if you can’t hold the camera stable in your hands.
Hence the need for a tripod. I would suggest a ball head on the tripod as it allows for more versatility in moving the camera around and helping you capture a more unique looking composition.
Tip 2: Cable Release
One good tip is to carry a cable release. Instead of using the timer function on the camera, use the cable release. This ensures that you can trigger the shutter at precisely the right timing. In turn, this leads to reduced camera shake and a more beautiful "tack sharp" photo. If you do not have a cable release or a remote shutter activator, the timer on your camera does work as well.
For those of you that are more advanced, locking up the mirror increases your chances of getting a sharper image as well.
Tip 3: Use the Right Filters
Filters are important when taking landscape photos. There are different types of filters that I use – polarizers, neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters. There are screw on filters and handheld ones as well. I prefer to use the hand held filters to give myself more control of getting the properly exposed photo right in the camera.
Polarizers are useful for reducing glare from water and other reflective surfaces. These create a more well-balanced and beautiful picture.
Neutral density filters will stop a specified amount of light entering the camera. I tend to use these for shooting waterfalls on a sunny day, high noon sun and occasionally in the winter months when the snow glare is blinding.
Graduated neutral density filters are a slight variation of this – they are dark on top and clear on the bottom, creating a ‘gradual transition’ from the dark to clear area. These filters are good for blocking out bright parts of a scene (say the sky) to create a more evenly exposed picture.
Tip 4: Research the Landscape
One thing to do before taking landscape photos is to do some background research on the landscape. If you’re taking pictures of the Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, try to do some background study on what the most scenic spots are, where does the sun rise and sun set around the subject, etc... There are many sites where you can investigate vantage points. Sites like flickr or google images will allow you to see photos and give yousomething to emulate.
It’s also good to check out the weather conditions of the place you want to photograph. Check the weather network and look at the hour by hour schedule to see what you can expect when you want to visit your location – if the weather doesn’t look good, you may want to try shooting another day.
But, for the diehards like me that like to shoot landscapes, if I know its going to rain, or is going to be foggy... i put on the rain gear, grab the umbrella and get out in the rain. Atmospheric conditions offer fantastic settings that create great depth of field, offer a view not many people photograph... and more importantly greatly reduces the chances of photographing the local family out for a hike with their two dogs and 4 kids.
Tip 5: Lenses
For shooting landscape photos, it’s usually best to bring wide-angle lenses. I also bring along a telephoto lens in case I want to shoot some creative, "zoomed-in" shots.
Tip 6: Composition
I think the most important thing to remember is that composition rules are still important in landscape photos. Make sure you have something in the foreground, mid-ground and background.
Also, when taking photos of landscapes or a photo of a natural setting... have these three things in the back of your mind as you are composing your photo. (1) where is the bright spot... does it draw the eye into the image. FYI, the eye is naturally drawn to light and using light to draw someone's eye into your photograph is a good way to increase the quality of your work, (2) Is the image that sits in front of you giving you a 3 dimensional feeling. Creating a 3d (ish) effect creates more visual appeal, and (3) try and take a photo of your subject from a unique perspective. I mean, if you want the standard cookie cutter photo, set up and snap the photo... but if you want a different look of a subject that has been photographed to death... take some time and study the subject and see if you can find an angle that you may not have thought of at first glance.
Tip 7: Shoot at the Right Time
For landscape photography, an important thing to remember is that you should avoid shooting during mid-day. There is a lot of harsh lighting and bad shadow effects during that period. Early morning or late afternoon tends to be best. So be prepared to miss a few dinners or breakfasts.
I personally shoot all my landscape, OK, well almost all my landscape photos in and around the golden hour... that hour that happens 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunrise or 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunset.
As you can see, landscape photography poses its own challenges. However, bear the above tips in mind the next time you’re taking these photos, and I’m sure you’ll be much happier with your photos when you get home and look at them on the computer!
Why don't you join me on our Canadian Adventure workshops... we focus on nature and landscape in some of Canada's most beautiful locations. http://northof49photography.com/photo-workshops/