Every photographer has undoubtedly been involved with landscape photography at some point in time. Be it during a holiday trip or an excursion to a nearby location. Often rushing to see the area or landscape and trying to capture as many images as possible with their camera.
After the photographing the subjects, time could not move fast enough to develop the pictures to see the final result. In the end there was disappoint when you realise that the photos did not reflect the impressions at the scene.
Does this description sound familiar?
If so, then this article might be just the right thing for you!
Over the next few pages, I will give you a small inside of my thoughts about Landscape photography and how I master it!
At first, we have do clarify what Landscape photography is!
There are many definitions out there, but the most accurate description is as follows:
- Landscape Photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic.
- Landscape photographs typically capture nature's presence, but can also focus on human-made features or disturbances of landscapes.
As you can see, Landscape Photography isn't limited to mountains, forests or lonely places! Instead, Landscape Photographers enjoy a wide variety of subjects.
It brings me to the next important question about Landscape Photography - what's the reason for it?
- Perhaps the most common is to recall a personal observation or experience while outdoors, especially when travelling.
- Others pursue it mainly as an outdoor lifestyle, to be involved with nature and the elements.
- Some as an escape from the artificial world!
For me, it is a mixture out of all three statements. Of course, the most important thing is getting a balance to the increasingly demanding workload of my job.
Being out in nature, I immediately can feel that my heartbeat is slowing down, and my thoughts are focused only on the beauty of the surrounding landscape, filled with the sound of nature!
Even more, I can feel this when I am out during the early morning hours when the sun slowly rises or late evening when the sun is gradually disappearing behind the horizon and the blue hour begins!
I remember back to my first steps in landscape photography, which were marked by incredible frustration. I must say that I did not make it easy for myself to use the images of the great masters of landscape photography, such as Ansel Adams or Michael Kenna, as a benchmark.
Only when I started to think about the aspects of a successful landscape photograph that my pictures improved.
In this regard, Herman Melville's outburst comes to mind, who once said:
So, what are the aspects of successful landscape photography?
Depth of Field
One of the most important aspects is the depth of field, which draws the viewer into the photo.
Here some tips about how to control the depth of field:
- Narrow your aperture (larger F-Number).
- Move farther from the subject.
- Shorten the focal length of your lens.
- Apply the 1/3-2/3 Rule.
Another critical factor is the focal point, which determines whether a picture is interesting at all. You can emphasise this focal point by using colour in nature or striking terrain points.
It is followed by the conscious arrangement of all picture elements according to the Golden Ratio (Rule of Third) rules.
All the other following aspects are used to distinguish the own picture from the pictures of other photographers.
The sky is a critical element to many landscape images. Sometimes photographers don't overthink it and focus more on flashier subjects like mountains, lakes, and forests. The sky is not only an enhancement but can be the main event unto itself.
Light also plays a crucial role in landscape photos. Therefore Photographers should incorporate all types of lights based on availability.
Here a shortlist of which type of light could be used:
- Natural Light.
- Day Light.
- Golden hour.
- Blue hour.
- Artificial Light (Light painting).
The use of filters is one of the last steps to raise your images' quality to the true masters of landscape photography. Furthermore, in many situations, only the use of filters makes it possible to create high-grade photographs.
Here a shortlist of available filter, used in landscape photography:
- Clear and ultraviolet.
- Colour correction.
- Colour conversion (or light balance).
- Contrast enhancement.
- Neutral density, including the graduated neutral density filter and solar filter.
Everyone should note that the usage of filters must be practised, as this could also bring disadvantages. Especially when using several filters at the same time, unwanted reflections, as well as exposure errors, can occur. Nonetheless, despite the high effort involved in using filters, the resulting outcome is worthwhile.
Finally, after addressing a successful landscape image's essential aspects, I would like to invite all members to experiment. The factors listed above can be understood as rules. But rules are there to be broken. So try new techniques such as long exposures, deliberate blurring or the use of special-purpose made cameras (without low-pass filters, infra-red, etc.). That's what allows the viewer to experience your interpretation of the landscape.
Scope of the Photographic Equipment
In the following chapter, I would like to detail the necessary equipment for landscape photography.
I understand that this can be an expensive business, but with the current supply of reasonably good photographic equipment, anyone can get adequate equipment at a reasonable price.
Let's start with the camera. Nowadays, all cameras, whether high-end or low-cost, cover the requirements for landscape photography.
The introduction of mirrorless cameras also offers an alternative for extreme weight reduction, which can be advantageous, especially for us older people. So there is no need to buy a an expensive camera.
What you should look out for, however, is the ease of use, ergonomically arranged controls, power consumption and the availability of different lenses, which should cover the wide-angle and telephoto range.
That leads me to the next item of equipment, the lenses.
Here, the question is whether to invest in the usually more expensive camera manufacturer lenses or to switch to third-party lenses.
For newcomers to landscape photography, these third-party lenses are a cost-saving way to determine whether this field of photography suits them at all.
Should the attraction for landscape photography persist, one could gradually equip oneself with first-class lenses, ideally with the same brand of the camera manufacturer.
I would suggest the following focal lengths.
One lens with a length of 16 to 24mm and one telephoto lens with a length of 70-200mm. These would cover a large part of the possible motifs and leave some room for experimentation.
If one were to devote oneself entirely to landscape photography, then I would advise the purchase of an ultra-wide-angle lens (14-24mm), useful for shots of waterfalls, forests as well as bridges and other architecture.
But be careful, with an ultra-wide-angle lens you capture many more image elements than with a standard wide-angle lens! Of course, these have to be controlled and additionally arranged in the picture. That does not suit every photographer.
Tripod & tripod head
The next pieces of equipment, the tripod and the tripod head, are also essential.
Not that I belong to the group of photographers who insist on using a tripod for landscape photography. But to ensure depth of field and to get a good composition, the use of a tripod is extremely helpful!
Furthermore, it is crucial to match the tripod and tripod head to your camera equipment! It doesn't make sense to buy a tripod with a carrying capacity of 2kg if your camera with lens, for example, exceeds 4kg.
By using carbon as a material, tripods' carrying capacity has been significantly increased despite their low weight. Another positive effect of carbon is its low vibration transmission. As a result, you get sharp pictures in most cases.
Regarding the tripod head, we should note that the head's type and functions should be adapted according to your needs. It is up to you whether you buy a ball head or a 2-D or 3-D Panhead. In terms of the total weight of your photo equipment, all of these factors need to be considered.
For example, I use the Ballhead CB-58 FTR from FLM (German Company), which can hold up to 60kg of weight and has a 15-degree panorama raster function.
Together with my Gitzo Tripod, it forms a super base for my landscape shots, weighting together 5kg. I gladly accept the extra weight!
Remote cable release
The next piece of equipment I would like to mention is the cable release. For this, I use Nikon's MC-36, instead of using the standard shutter release to avoid camera shake. Together with the mirror lock-up function, it results in tangle-free and therefore sharp images.
Fortunately, the latest cameras already offer built-in Bluetooth or W-LAN connections, accessible via all ordinary mobile phones, eliminating the need for an extra remote shutter release.
Of course, these connections consume extra power in the camera and strain the charge status of your mobile phone, which could become a problem on excursions of several days far from civilisation!
To conclude the chapter, I would like to point out that you should take a sufficient number of batteries with you. The new function of today's cameras and the taking of long exposures lead to higher power consumption, which of course has to be satisfied. Weather conditions and seasons also contribute to power consumption. So always have enough batteries on hand!
It is all about planning!
In the last chapter, I would like to talk about the importance of planning for landscape photography.
I refer to Ansel Adams's statement, who once said that:
"You don't take a photograph, you make it”.
I fully agree with Ansel Adams on this. It is the meticulous preparation of a shooting that guarantees a perfect and outstanding landscape photo! Moreover, nowadays, you can easily access the necessary tools without paying for some of them.
I divided my preparations into three fields: the photo location, the environment and the weather.
I mostly use Google Maps and Google Earth to explore and determine the photo location. I also make use of available databases and websites that specialise in photogenic places worth seeing.
After deciding on a location, I find out about the different light conditions such as sunrise/sunset, the course of the sun/moon and the Milky Way. Furthermore, I explore the presence of key terrain features and their position in relation to the sun and the moon. For this, I usually use the app "PhotoPills", which you can purchase for a small fee for all standard mobile phone platforms. Another beneficial tool is "The Photographers Ephemeris", which is available as a web tool for all operating systems.
Finally, I research the expected weather conditions, such as clouds, fog and expected precipitation. Here, too, I use freely available resources on the Internet or my mobile phone.
So you see, good preparation is no trick and can be done by anyone, even with limited resources!
Checklist for great landscape photography
In summary, I would like to give you a short checklist with which you are guaranteed to create great landscape photos:
- Be prepared
- Select a Mid-Range Aperture
- Choose a Low ISO
- Use a Tripod if You Need One
- Shoot During the special Hours
- Use a Photo Filter
Finally, I would like to thank you for your interest in this article and wish you every success in your future landscape photography projects.