Always do your homework on a location in preparation for a shoot and if possible ensure that you have visited the location to pre-visualise your desired composition. Pre-visualise also how the scene would appear under the optimum lighting conditions, or a moody weather image, and then return well in advance of the optimum lighting arriving. I would suggest you use the harsh daylight hours to perform your homework on a location.
Capture Movement. When most people think about landscapes they think of calm, serene and passive environments – however landscapes are rarely completely still and to convey this movement in an image will add drama, mood and create a point of interest.
Don’t just rely on a single capture to create an image. Take two or three different exposures and blend them together later in Photoshop by combining the best elements of each.
It’s amazing the number of times that the elements conspire to ruin a perfectly composed photograph. Landscape photography requires patience. Cloud positioning, elevation of the sun, lack of clutter depending on the time of year, unwanted people in your image. The key is to always allow yourself enough time at a location, so that you are able to wait if you need to.
Use a remote cable release or the self timer in addition to a tripod to increase sharpness. This makes such a big different especially when long exposures are required! To increase sharpness even further, engage the camera’s mirror lock-up feature if it comes with one.
Shoot RAW! If you like to edit your images on the computer, there's really no reason to not shoot RAW for landscape photography. The RAW image file will preserve much more of the data than a JPEG, allowing you to pull much more detail out of the shadows and highlights.
Neutral Density filters and polarizers are an essential piece of kit for any landscape photographer. Often you will need to manipulate the available light, or even try to enhance the natural elements.
Take this example… if you are taking photos which include water, you may find you get unwanted reflections from the sun, which is where a polarizing filter can help by minimizing the reflections and also enhancing the colours (greens and blues). But remember, polarizing filters often have little or no effect on a scene if you’re directly facing the sun, or it’s behind you. For best results position yourself between 45° and 90° to the sun.
A strong foreground element can be very important in creating landscape images. Think of the foreground as the introduction or the first impression of your image. As they say, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. That's what the foreground should do. A strong foreground element draws you in and then leads your eye deeper into the image to the main subject. It gives a sense of depth and makes a viewer feel as if they are standing right there where the shot was captured.
I've always found that driving a car around to scenic viewpoints and planting a tripod in the holes left by the previous photographer is a surefire way to come home with a collection of mediocre postcard shots. Even if you've learned all of the necessary technical skills from this magazine and how-to books, unless you venture out onto the land, you stand the chance of making clichéd or redundant images.
This isn’t for everyone — some people like their landscapes unadulterated with any sign of people, giving the appearance of total seclusion and wilderness. Many other photographers use the human element to forge a connection with the viewer. Not only can human elements add a very quantifiable sense of scale, but including a person, cabin, bridge, tent, etc… can help to elicit feelings of wanderlust and a strong desire to experience the mood and magic of the scene.
If youre looking for your next photo holiday to focus on landscape images… I may have your next vacation in one of my landscape focused photo workshops. See those workshops here.
If wildlife is more your thing, you can see my lineup of wildlife workshops here.