Once in awhile, I think it’s good to re-read and review stuff you’ve already read before. It’s a good way to refresh your memory and pick up things you might’ve missed the first time.
I’ve probably re-read Ansel Adams’ book The Camera at least five times, and I still learn something new each time.
So, I’ve decided to start putting together collections of previous posts that have a central theme. I know that some of you haven’t been reading PhotoNaturalist from the start, so maybe you’ve missed a few of these posts. I don’t know how often I’ll do this, but to start off, here are some of the most popular posts I’ve written on landscape photography:
Of course, there are no strict rules about composition, but as a guideline, you may want to consider three elements that are common in great landscape photos: a foreground, background, and great light.
The tripod is necessary to keep your camera stable during those longer shutter speeds you’ll usually need for landscape photos. The polarizing filter helps eliminate unwanted reflections and deepens the blue of the sky. A compass is useful when you’re trying to determine where the sun will set in relation to a geological formation, and since you’ll often find yourself hiking back in the dark, it’s a good idea to bring a flashlight too 🙂
Auto white balance usually works pretty well, but sometimes it’ll cause problems for landscape images. This usually happens when the majority of your photo is one color. If you shoot in RAW though, you can safely fine tune the white balance setting later in post-processing, without sacrificing any quality.
With long exposures (anything more than a second), you’ll start to have more noise problems, so most cameras have a special noise reduction feature for these long exposures. Remember to turn it on if you’re photographing a scene in extremely low light.
Sometimes you can’t always bring a tripod with you, so in those cases you can just improvise with the objects around you: rest your camera against a large rock or lean against a tree. Anything to help you reduce camera shake will lead to sharper photos.
The height of your camera in relation to the landscape will help communicate a particular emotion, so consider what you’re trying to convey with the photograph. The higher the camera, the more superior the viewer will feel over the landscape. On the other hand, if you place the camera closer to the ground, then the viewer will feel more inferior to the landscape, as if it’s conquering them.
Before you go out to photograph a landscape for the first time, it’s a good idea to scout the area first by looking at a topographic map and using a program like Photographer’s Ephemeris to determine where the sun will be when it rises and sets. This way, you’ll know where that glorious light will shine during the golden hours.
With the lighting conditions constantly changing during the golden hours, it’s important to get to your photo location well ahead of time to setup your shot and wait for that perfect moment.
With some photos, you may want to include a foreground that’s very close to your camera, along with a background that’s very far. Even with a super small aperture, this will likely cause depth of field problems, so you can try taking two photos in this case: one that’s focused on the foreground and another that’s focused on the background. Then, just merge these two photos later in post-processing.
This is a post I recently wrote at the Digital Photography School, about how to setup your tripod. Although the tripod seems like a pretty simple piece of equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind when you set it up to ensure you get the sharpest image possible.
Okay, so I don’t have a blog post on this one yet, but I like prime numbers, so I wanted to make sure I had 11 tips. Anyway, one of my favorite things to do when I need inspiration is just explore photos on Flickr. Sometimes I just look through the photostreams of some of my favorite photographers (like Kevin McNeal, Ben Hattenbach, Patrick Smith, or Michael Menefee), and other times I just look at photos from my favorite locations (like the Mojave Desert or the chaparral of Southern California).
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.