When the Earth Speaks: Why I Love Landscape Photography
Perhaps the greatest irony of being a camera store owner is that I have very little time to engage in the passion that started me on this path to begin with: the simple act of taking a photograph. I suppose it’s the fate of taking any hobby to the next level, you get caught up in the one-thousand details which turn that relaxing activity into a living, breathing industry and profession. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to gain an entirely new appreciation for the world of photography, not just as an enthusiast, but as an insider. Whatever photo-worthy moments I’ve missed, I’ve made up for by dedicating myself to creating a humble haven for my fellow shooters to come, get the equipment they need and engage in a community that’s built around their passion. My passion.
[Related Reading: 5 Tips For Capturing Powerful Wide Angle Landscape Photos With Mads Peter Iversen]
The world is a fascinating place. There’s plenty for a photographer to be inspired by, but for me, I’ve always had a special interest in landscape photography. There’s something about the peacefulness of a picturesque mountain range — or in my town of Las Vegas — something about the deserts that seem to stretch to infinity. To capture the world “as is,” but through my unique perspective has always been very gratifying. Ten photographers can take ten different pictures of the same grassy hillside and each of them will be unique to that shooter’s eye. Profound when you think about it. However, despite the fact that there are no two photographers alike, there are a handful of guidelines (I don’t like the word “rules” for a creative enterprise such as photography) that if followed will help you with maximizing the potential for your landscape shots. These staples have stuck with me over the years and I’m happy to share them with you now. The meaning behind your photo, that special “x-factor” that will make them singularly yours, is still very much up to you…
Get Yourself A Tripod
When you’re outdoors, you’re working with mother nature as your only collaborator and you can’t always control your lighting environment. Tripods will allow you to use longer exposures if you’re in low-light situations (and thus avoiding unwanted camera shake/blurry images), and when used in conjunction with an ND filter, (more on that soon), you’ll even be able to achieve longer exposures in the daylight. Leading to such sought-after effects as making a waterfall appears silky smooth. I never shoot landscape without a good solid tripod.
Invest In Some ND Filters Or A Variable ND
“ND” stands for Neutral Density and these filters are essentially sunglasses for your camera. Measured in the number of stops of light they’ll cut (or take away), NDs are pretty much mandatory for outdoor landscape shooting. Even when increasing your f-stop and speeding up your shutter speed, getting the right exposure in open sunlight can be next to impossible. If you want a shallow depth of field or a creative motion blur — without NDs — forget about it. For variable NDs, they vary in quality and the number of stops they can switch between. 1 to 8 stops or 1 to 10 stops is common and can help you really get a sense of the number of stops you’ll typically need to cut.
Pick Up A Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL)
While we’re on the topic of filters, get yourself a circular polarizer. This is more of an effects tool than your more practical ND or UV filters. CPLs bring out the blues in a skyline when pointed 90 degrees away from the light source (usually the sun), which really helps your landscape image stand apart. They also remove reflections from non-metallic surfaces, such as glass and water. Ever scratch your head about how the photographer caught that striking shot of a pond or lake? CPLs and NDs can be the one-two punch to add a stylistic flourish to your nature photos that somehow make them feel all the more powerfully real.
Force A Sense Of Depth
This is an interesting tip. We’re told, (because it’s true), that a deeper depth of field, (achieved with a higher f-stop, such as f/16 or f/22), compresses the background and foreground of your image. Thus making the sense of depth between subjects or objects harder to distinguish. In landscape photography, however, you can create a better sense of depth by using the very same technique. Keeping the foreground and background in focus in a landscape shot gives the viewer a clear vision of the scope of your chosen landscape. The compression mimics how our eyes normally perceive a magnificent, sweeping view, and therefore, despite the lack of depth between individual objects within the shot, the true depth of your image will become evident.
Use A Wide-Angle Lens
Wide-angle lenses are the most popular choice for landscape photography. They capture the grandest perspective and are great for allowing you to capture more of your visible landscape. Wide-angles also create a deeper depth of field automatically, not to mention a commanding sense of depth. When shooting f/16 on a wide-angle lens, for instance, you’ll restrict light, deepen your depth of field and get everything within your frame sharp as a tack. The texture of your landscape will appear tactile and the wide field of view will give your photo an all-encompassing quality that puts your viewer in the middle of your majestic subject matter. The important thing to remember here is to make sure you sensor and lenses are clean when shooting with this depth of field.
It continues to be a pleasure for me to pick up my camera, my wide-angle lens, my tripod and my set of filters to set off into the humbling solitude of nature. I’m able to better acquaint myself with the beauty that many of us have the good fortune to surround ourselves with on a daily basis. Then when I come back to work, I’m replenished, revitalized and rejuvenated — ready to meet all of your photo needs — landscape or otherwise — with experience and passion that hopefully is in sharp focus. I hope you found these tips useful and draw some inspiration from the images and discussion points. Let us know in the comments below.