Landscape photography is all about capturing the beauty of a scene. Whether it is a natural scene or an urban landscape is entirely up to the imagination the photographer brings to the image. These days, anything from a mountain vista to the rolling plains, a seascape to a lake view, and a cityscape to an architectural image can all be called landscape photography.
Symmetry, repetition, contrast, asymmetry, coherence, symbolism, and even a dash of irony can all be contained in landscape photos. Any or a combination of these are components that construct a beautiful photograph. Some people feel that landscape photography is easy. They think all you need to do is arrive at a destination, take out your camera and snap a photo. But that kind of thinking produces a snapshot that can be captured by anyone using the camera on their cell phone.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very nice cameras on cell phones these days. What I’m talking about is getting that excellent shot that produces reactions when someone views your image. Great photographers take the time to view the scene and look at many angles and perspectives. They plan ahead so they can be on the scene they want to capture when the best light is available. They use tools that allow them to produce the sharpest images possible. And they practice, practice, practice, honing the skills required to produce great images.
Since the early days of photography, landscapes have been one of the favorite subjects of many photographers. Landscape photography can be traced back to as early as 1849 when the book “Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie” containing prints of paper negatives was published. In the 19th century, many eminent landscape photographers emerged. Their amazing photographs still dominate photography collections in museums and galleries all over the world. Today, many budding photographers continue to fall in love with shooting landscapes. And as they pursue the road to landscape photography, more and more works emerge. Techniques also continue to evolve as new tools become available to the photographer.
Falling In Love With Landscapes
Most people would say that it is easy to take landscape photographs because you don’t need to pose your subject. You can choose whatever angle you want to create your image. And you know your subject is always available to you. However, many photographers believe that landscape photography can be quite difficult because you need a very keen eye to make an ordinary scene quite extraordinary. Planning and a lot of hard work can go into getting an extraordinary landscape image. You may have to brave the elements, walk over rough terrain or cover quite a distance on foot, get up early or stay late to get just the light you want, or even keep coming back because the weather makes the shot you want impossible.
Tools For Landscape Photography
Your camera, lenses, and possibly a lens hood. Although you can use any camera, most photographers would recommend a digital SLR because you have the choice of lenses. A point and shoot camera can only give you so much creative potential. The ability to swap lenses to find the one you need to capture the image you want is one of the major advantages of a DSLR camera. Wide-angle lenses are preferred because many of the scenes you will want to capture are huge. Although you may take the lens hood off when you get ready to capture the image, they are helpful for protecting your lens should you drop your camera on rough terrain. Most photographers don’t recommend using a clear UV filter for protecting the front element of your lens from scratches. I tend to agree with this and never place a UV filter on my lens because it can degrade the light entering the lens. I also almost never attach a hood to my lens unless I’m in a place where I’m afraid of dropping the camera.
A tripod is a must-have for landscapes. A tripod allows you to stop down your lens to get adequate depth of field. Your shutter speeds can increase significantly when you stop down your lens to f11-f22. Most photographers will tell you that it is very difficult to get sharp photos handheld at shutter speeds slower than 1/60 sec. If you want shutter speeds faster than that with the aperture stopped down, your only other option would be to increase your ISO setting. This can introduce noise into the final image you don’t want to have to fix in post. Instead, buy a light composite tripod and carry it with you.
Besides the camera, lenses, and a good solid tripod, you can’t go wrong with a set of useful filters. Graduated filters are great for bringing the sky and ground into good exposure. A UV filter can remove haze from the sky. A polarizing filter can remove unwanted reflections from water or other reflective objects. An intensifier filter can remove light pollution from the night sky and bring out the reds in fall foliage.
Consider the position of your camera. Make sure the horizon line is straight. It makes us feel uneasy when viewing an image with a horizon line that is skewed off the horizontal. It just feels unnatural. Not the emotion you want to evoke with your image.
Photography is basically capturing the light. Use that knowledge to your advantage and plan your image to capture the best light. This may be the blue hour before sunrise or the golden hour around sunset. It could be an overcast day depending on your subject. Just note that most scenes look flat and washed out in the harsh light in the middle of the day. Try to avoid shooting in the middle of the day if at all possible.
You need to learn some type of post-production software. Whether it is one of the Adobe products or another photography package, there are few really great photos that don’t have at least a minimum amount of post-production. This may include subtle touches to bring out more light in some areas and balance the light in others. Don’t let anyone tell you that learning software like Photoshop is cheating. Some post-production can make your good photo into a really great photo.
As you can see, landscape photography can be a very worthwhile and fulfilling hobby. Some photographers make good money selling prints of their landscape images. Why not get out there and give it a try. You just might find a way to become the next Ansel Adams.
If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level, you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.
Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.