Landscape Photography : Tips and Tricks



“Shooting landscape from a moving vehicle (unless you are trying something creative out of the blur) is a strict no –no”. Landscape changes with season, time of the day and gives us opportunity to make something new. With few tips and tricks, we can use that opportunity to create an art which is nothing but photography.

Seeing famous landscape photos definitely helps me to develop the view. Some time I find movies also provide lot of ideas about good compositions if followed closely. I took part in Landscape photography related discussion multiple times, however, this is my first attempt to tell my ideas through email, insisted by Sandy :).

Timing

Best times for most of the landscape photography are either sunrise to early morning or late afternoon to sunset. In few cases where the object is in shade during other time, noon is the only option like slot canyon. Different time of year changes the colour of the landscape like monsoon adds more greenery. So to hit the best time, planning is the key.

Planning
  1. Know your subject: Know your subject and its position and get an idea during what time of the day the light will be perfect. Like Buddha statue in Husain Sagar is east facing. Morning will be better choice for that subject. On the other hand, the same subject can be used to take silhouette shots during sunset. Some time I found the subject is located at such place where the sun goes behind some mountain long before the sunset, so do some research before going to the place. Flickr is a nice resource that helped me lot where I used to see the exif specially the capture date and time. Few place looks totally different during fall season when the leaves colour changes to orange and red. So knowing the place is very important part of landscape photography.
  2. Plan for sunrise: it is always good to visit the place a day before to explore the area and find out a spot for next day. If that is not possible, reaching there an hour early will help. Now during sunrise landscape can be captured with the sun in the frame or the object with the soft sunlight. If the plan is to capture sun, the time of the shoot will be very narrow. So prepare for that. Remove any low quality UV filter (if safe to do so) as it may produce unwanted ghost effect. If sun is not in the frame, take proper position to capture the main object with dark background. Polarizer helps lot to achieve the same. Sometime side angle including sun lit and shadow side of the object make the picture more dramatic rather than taking the photo of lighted portion from the front only. Now the equipments, apart from camera and lens, a sturdy tripod, a release cable (if not available use self timer with 2 secs), polarizer filter, graduate ND filter (depends on the subject), etc. help to get the better result.
  3. Plan for sunset: Only difference from sunrise is no need to inspect the spot ahead of time. Be there little early like an hour and find a suitable spot. But, do not spend the entire time at the same spot, walk around for different angles.
  4. Plan during other time: Again avoid this time of the day as the harsh light makes the landscape look flat.
  5. Plan for star trail: Find a safe dark spot where you can spend long hours at night without making any fire, find a subject, mount the camera on a real steady tripod, select an aperture depending on max ISO you can use, use a release cable that can be used to lock the shutter for long time like 4 hours in bulb mode. Set everything and open the shutter. The subject like ruined wall, or a tree helps to make it more dramatic. A head lamp can be used to highlight the subject for very short duration. After the long hours, check the picture and if not satisfied, spend another 2 - 4 hours with different angle :).I am neither expert nor experienced in start trail photography, so please read more before your trip.
  6. Framing: Do not take a photo that represents the same common landscape view that can be captured by anyone. Spend some time and see around you and use your imagination and representation power to compose a shot utilizing all available resources. The following basic rules help to make the landscape photo more appealing (basic composition rules are not included):
  • A foreground (bottommost part of the photo) that shows some path to viewer to reach the actual subject. When we see any wide area, most of us starts from down to up and if the eyes find a way, we feel comfortable. Rail lines, a road, bunch of clouds leading towards mountain peak, the rows of tea garden, a tree stem lying on ground, a bridge, reflection of setting sun on wet sand or water, etc can be used as the path.
  • Try to add breaks. Include breaks against boring single direction lines. Fence, tree, rocks, shadows etc can be used.
  • Including layers like multiple mountain ranges with different shades/colours, waves, etc.
  • Find out the most suitable angle by changing the position. To capture the texture of any object, shadow is the key. So find the point where the shadow provides the maximum effect.
  • Avoid unwanted objects like people, electric lines, etc.
  • Some time it is pure luck photographer get a beautiful sky with scattered clouds, or a thunderstorm that adds drama to the photo. If you are lucky, do not waste your luck :)
Few other tips
  1. Capture multiple shots when a view is too wide and make panorama. In such scenario, if sky is involved and wide lens is used, do not use CPL. Get the correct metering for the main subject and use the same exposure for all the shots.
  2. If one half of your composition is way too bright than the other part, graduated ND filter (GND) can be used to compensate the same. During sunset, if the spot metering is done using sky as reference, the ground becomes very dark. If GND is used, the foreground can be captured in proper exposure without overexposing the sky. Similarly when a reflection on lake is captured, the GND helps to reduce the contrast between actual object and its reflection. If you do not have one, do not worry, Picasa itself provide Graduated tint feature that works in some situation.
  3. For ultra wide angle shot, using polarizer should be avoided as it makes a part of the sky saturated and gives an artificial look. Also CPL should be removed to take the rainbow shot.
  4. If bracketing is used during sunrise or sunset, use max burst mode to capture all the shots with minimum intervals as sun and cloud movements sometime make the photos unusable later for HDR.
I like to cover popular subsets of landscapes like Coast, Mountains, Waterfalls in next part.




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