You probably guessed by now I love a nice landscape. I guess you do to or you wouldn't be reading this. In my last blog I talked about the rule of thirds in photography, FOREGROUND, MIDDLE DISTANCE and BACKGROUND.
This time I will talk about not rules, more like tips that work for me, to help improve your landscape photos.
When see with your eyes a beautiful scene, your senses all work together. As well as observing it, you take in the sounds, and the smells, and the feel of the breeze, all adding to the total experience. It all encourages you to take that perfect photo to share the memory.
I took lots of "good enough" landscape photos, but rarely were great, the type you would be proud to hang on a wall. A photographer needs to work for a "better than good enough" photo. When I looked at the photo results, I would be somewhat disappointed. Sound familiar? Don't worry, we all go through it, thing with photography, you are always learning.
Here are some of the things that got me promoted from beginner to a pretty good photographer.
TIP ONE - Don't be lazy, take a hike.
I don't mean to insult, but a good landscape takes a bit of work and effort. In fact it's hard work. By all means drive your car to get there, but where you park your car is probably where every other tourist snaps a pic. You don't want that happy snap they all took, you want better. Take a good look around at all your surroundings, put on the hike boots and find a trail or somewhere to explore. Go for a walk. Get a different perspective from everone else. Climb a big rock if you can. Go off the well worn trail a bit, go where others dare to tread (but be careful and respect the undergrowth). Look at the following example of a photo disappointment.
This is taken from the lookout at Wineglass Bay in Tasmania. It's not that bad a photo, however, it was taken from the tourist lookout. Every postcard shows that very same photo and so does every happy snap taken by the thousands of tourists that visit that spot. Had I not been so lazy that day I would have walked further and snapped a far nicer shot, like the one below.
See what I mean, this photo not only captures a different perspective from what everybody else sees, a bit more walking gave many more photo opportunities. Not just this view but everything along the way.
TIP TWO - Carry a TRIPOD (always).
So many times I took a photos in dim light, holding the camera in my hands. No surprise, the photos were blurry due to camera shake. Silly me. A tradesman can't work without tools. A TRIPOD is your essential tool of trade.
Many scenic walks end up with low light, a result of being blocked out by that canopy of foliage above. These dark places present some of the best photo opportunities. Without a TRIPOD, your chances of a good photo are slim. If you think you can use the camera flash and hope for the best you'll be disappointed. If your camera is set on auto in low light it will open up the aperture to let more light and it will choose a slow shutter speed. These settings result in less depth of field. This could blur the edges of the photo. This is where you need to learn to go to manual mode, set it for smaller aperture, ( the higher numbers - smaller aperture) to give more depth of field. (No shame in carrying your camera manual with you if you need). Setting small aperture also means you need slower shutter speed. Now if you hand hold the camera it will shake and blur the photo. So put it on a tripod. Yes tripods are more weight, told you, don't be lazy if you want good results.
Other reasons for a tripod, you may want to take a nice water shot and have that nice frosty water movement blur you see in many good waterfall and ocean shots. That means again, slow shutter speed and TRIPOD so that it doesn't blur the elements you don't want blurred. Nice sunset shot, TRIPOD. Starry night shot, TRIPOD. Selfie by the waterfall, TRIPOD and self timer, unless someone else is there to press the button for you.
Carry a Tripod
Yes, carry a tripod.
Yes indeed, carry a tripod, always, must I say it again.
TIP THREE - Time of day.
For landscapes, morning and late afternoon are best. The colour is better and the long shadows give better contrast. If you are really keen, some sunrises can be beautiful. Towards the middle of the day it all flattens out and loses contrast. You've worked hard all morning getting that great shot, so midday is time to relax. Have some well earned rest and some lunch. Get ready for your afternoon shoot.
TIP FOUR - Frame your shot.
What does that mean? Easy, if your shot looks perfect, take it as it is. But if you feel it lacks something, like foreground, try standing under a tree for example, and use the trunk and horizontal branches as a frame for your subject. This is a neat trick. It also works with photos of buildings to add another dimension.
See what I mean about framing. In this shot the boats were far away, a photo from the water's edge would show only boats on flat water and the hills (middle distance and background). It would be flat and boring. Step back and add some tree branches provided a frame (adding foreground) and drawing the eye to the boats.
TIP FIVE - Change your eyes view.
It is in our makeup to do things standing up. That forms a bad habit with photography, taking every photo from eye level. We want to take photos from a different perspective to what the viewer would normally see. That's what makes a photo interesting. As I said earlier, climb a rock, or find higher ground. Try getting down low. Imagine how a small dog or mouse sees things. Include the flowers in your foreground, lay on the ground or on your knees. See some nice trees, don't just photograph the trunk look straight up.
TIP SIX - Lenses and filters.
This subject could go on and on so I'll be brief. When you buy a camera you usually get a standard lens with it. Photographers have their own preferences when it comes to lenses, all I can say is, have a couple to choose from. Different situations dictate different approaches. Standard lens gives a normal eye view. A wide angle I feel is a necessity for nice landscapes. One of my favourite lenses is a 16-75mm zoom. It is a very versitile lens going from a wide angle to a narrow view. I have this as my usual lens, great for all types of photography. Plenty of info on the net explaining the different lenses.
As far as filters go, for landscapes I feel a polarising filter is a good tool. It is adjustable and controls glare from water and darkens a blue sky giving better contrast making those white fluffy clouds really stand out. A UV Haze filter is also useful to prevent uv rays reaching the sensor, they also protect the lens from getting scratched. Many other lenses you could read about at your leisure but I class the above two as necessary.
SEVEN - Keep your lenses clean.
Most important. Have fun.