Landscapes appeal to a much larger audience compared to other genres of photography. people like to see beautiful landscapes especially because they can relate to it better. They have been to those places but due to lack of good equipment or inability to use that equipment, they have not been able to shoot the same scene very well. Compared to abstract photography people are able to understand it as well.
Landscape photography is another photographic pursuit that benefits from the dSLR’s ability to use wide-angle lenses. Landscapes also happen to be, after portraits, one type of photography that people often blow up to huge sizes and display on the wall. As much as people love their loved ones, they’re also fond of Mother Earth and enjoy sharing photographs of both.
Like architectural photography, landscapes lend themselves to contemplative shooting. Scenery changes slowly over long periods of time, so Ansel Adams – quests for the perfect angle, idyllic weather, and ideal conjunction of the stars and planets are understandable and not at all unreasonable. Given enough time to work with, you can use all the compositional suggestions that I mention in this chapter when you shoot landscapes.
Use curves, lines, and shapes, to guide the viewer’s eye. Fences, gracefully curving seashores, meandering roads, rail- road tracks, and receding tree lines all can lead the viewer through your carefully crafted composition. Curved lines are gentle; straight lines and rigid geometric shapes are more forceful. Although you can’t plan on moving things around helter-skelter to improve your composition (rocks, mountains, and streams pretty much must remain where you find them), you’re free to change angles and viewpoints until your picture elements all fall into place.
Landscape photography also happens to be one of the more happily gadget- prone photographic pursuits. Gradient neutral density filters — dark on top and clear on bottom — can balance a brilliant sky with the less-bright foreground. Gradient colour filters, can blend a warm orange color on one half with a rich blue on the other, producing an interesting split effect between sky and foreground. Tripods are a valuable tool for landscape photos because they steady the camera to help you take razor-sharp images that you can blow up to mammoth size. They’re also handy as a camera stand that keeps your lens pointed in the right direction while you spend a lot of time thinking about your shot. Panorama heads work in conjunction with your tripod to allow levelling your camera while you crank off overlapping shots at the correct intervals.
Landscapes are constantly changing. Depending on the time of day, and weather conditions, they can take on many different personalities and moods. Learning to see and capture on film the potential in a scene is perhaps the hardest part of landscape photography.
The light factor
Unlike an outdoor portrait, where a subject can be moved into position for the most beneficial lighting effect, with a landscape picture you must work with the prevailing light. This does not mean that you cannot influence how the subject will appear in the photograph. For example, from one angle, a pool lying at the bottom of a ravine may appear black and lifeless, while seen from another, the water may be a mirror holding a flawless reflection of blue sky and white clouds.
Before taking any pictures you should explore the surroundings to find the best viewpoint. A landscape may be dramatically improved by the inclusion of a feature in the foreground or when photographed in a particular light. Even if your camera angle is restricted to a single viewpoint, you should be able to move to the left and right to find the best perspective. The height from which you shoot is also critical. Squatting down tends to stress the foreground, while gaining extra height may allow you to exclude an unwanted foreground detail. Look at the scene through the viewfinder to see how landscape features relate as you move around.
Lenses for landscapes
A wide-angle lens is ideal for broad panoramas with a wide sky and plenty of foreground. If the sky is flat and dull, you can use a long-focus lens to restrict the angle of view to parts of the scene that have maximum impact. It is best to use a tripod and cable release to avoid camera shake, even if you
are not working with slow shutter speeds. Remember that a landscape may look most dramatic toward dusk or in dark stormy light, conditions that make long exposures essential.
Viewing a Landscape
Photographing a landscape is more difficult than it seems because it involves translating a three-dimensional panoramic scene complete with all its nuances into a flat image.
CHOOSING A DOMINANT ELEMENT
Any landscape is a complicated mixture of colors, tones, textures, forms, and perspectives. If you simply point the camera in a general way at such a potential jumble of subject matter it is likely to result in an uninspiring picture, so it is important to have a clear idea of how you want the elements to relate to each other. Try to be selective about what you include in the picture. By careful choice of viewpoint and lens focal length you can decide which elements are important and how you can best arrange them within the confines of the viewfinder. This task is often simplified if you can identify one element as being the main subject.
Time of the day
Light is the key ingredient in a successful landscape photograph. Its intensity and the angle at which it illuminates the subject play a vital role in conveying mood. Dawn light
is of low intensity and has a gentleness that softens colors and definition. As the sun climbs, the angle of light accentuates texture and form. Toward noon the sun is overhead and the contrast between light and shade is intense. The light can be so strong that colors are bleached out and the landscape seems lifeless. In the afternoon as the sun descends, color intensity, form, and texture improve, and by dusk the scene has a rosy warmth.
Changing light and weather
In unpredictable weather, light is variable, changing from second to second, and this presents specific problems when judging exposure. Wet weather does not necessarily lead to bad or uninteresting pictures, and it certainly does not need to keep you from taking photographs. Although you should always take precautions to protect the camera and lens from getting wet, a few drops of rain will not cause damage.
Storm light, misty conditions, and heavy rain can dramatically alter the appearance of a landscape, merging and simplifying colors, distorting perspective, and creating a varied vista. Landscapes do not have to be shot in fair weather – scenes shot in unfavorable conditions can result in spectacular pictures.
EXPOSURE FOR VARIABLE LIGHT
Areas of bright highlight with clear detail immediately stand out in a landscape picture, and appear visually stronger in the frame. In order to record an accurate impression, you may need to override the light meter and expose for the highlight to keep the shot from being dominated by the shadow areas.
The changing seasons
It is in the temperate regions that seasonal variations in the weather are most distinct. In tropical regions the sun stays high above the horizon and seasonal changes are between wet and dry rather than hot and cold.
THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE
The photographic potential of a landscape can be transformed by seasonal changes in light and weather. In temperate regions, the sun stays low in winter and high in summer, which affects the quality of light. It is best to shoot summer landscapes when the sun is low in the sky, which restricts photography to mornings and afternoons. Remember that latitude affects the color of the sky, so that it appears a deeper blue at high latitudes.
When you’re ready to shoot your landscape, keep some of these tips in mind:
Avoid splitting your photo in half with the horizon. Remember that Rule of Thirds (which I talk about in the section “Applying the Rule of Thirds,” earlier in this chapter)! Place the horizon one-third down from the top if you want to emphasize the foreground or one-third up from the bottom if the background and sky are your most favoured subjects.
You don’t have to compose landscapes in landscape mode. Try shooting some verticals. If you incorporate strong vertical lines, such as trees, off to one side of the shot, your landscape photo can be naturally converted to a vertical orientation.
Shoot a lot of sunsets (or sunrises if you’re that kind of person). Sunsets and sunrises always look good because the light has a marvelous golden quality, and they’re different each time — even if you shoot from the same location. Remember that the sun rises and sets in a slightly different place on the horizon each day of the year.
Manually focus, if you must. Autofocus systems sometimes have difficulty finding enough contrast for focusing automatically, especially if you have a lot of sky in the photo. Either switch over to manual focus or focus at some element at appropriate distance and recompose. You may also pick up the focusing point along the element with contrast so that camera can focus easily.When you take most landscapes, you focus at infinity, anyway.
Other key factors involved in Landscape photography
Understand the Light -
Rule of thirds -
wide angle - while shooting landscapes wide angle lenses come to mind by default. More so because we tend to include as much as is visible to the eye, rather even more than that. with a wide angle the image starts from just about where you are standing and it gives the feeling of being right there in the photograph. Depth of field is generous in wide angle lenses
Depth of field- Its a good idea to keep everything in sharp focus in a landscape. Since different elements are at different distances from the camera, one needs to close down the aperture to get more depth of field, that is the ability of the camera to show the area behind the focusing point in good sharpness as well.
Depth - Its not just the depth of field that matters in a landscape but also create the Depth otherwise. When you include more elements in the frame, when you include zones of foreground, middle ground and background you are effectively adding depth in the photograph.
Filters - some of the very useful filters used in landscape photography include the Polarizing filter, the neutral graduated filter or the neutral density filter. The polarising filter removes unwanted reflections and deepens the sky and the foliage, effectively making everything saturated naturaly. The ND filter helps is blocking too much light from entering the lens. The graduated ND filter on the other hand blocks the light only from a certain area. It lets you block the excessive light coming from the bright sky in landscapes and is very useful in balancing the exposure.
Exposure- A major part of any landscape is the sky. If its overcast, it becomes a huge source of light leading to underexposure in the land area. If the sky is rendered grey as the camera reads the brighter part, the land area gets darker. Graduated neutral density filter is a good idea as it block the light from the top area of the sky and lets in more light from the lower land area. Try different metering modes of the camera. If you go for spot metering, remember, spot metering does not work wonders by itself. you need to overlap the spot with the most neutral tone or the one you would like to be rendered as neutral or grey.
HDR - High dynamic range - As technology is improving, the HDR mode is also working quite nicely on some of the good cameras. Good cameras especially the full frame and the medium format cameras anyways have a very good dynamic range. In certain situations its not really possible to handle the vast variations in the brightness in a landscape. Adding a filter basically adds another layer in front of your lens and the scene and a lot depends on the quality of the filter besides the quality of the lens. In case you do not want to add on anything and can shoot on a tripod, shooting on the HDR mode helps. You can choose different available options and select the auto align option and save all the files. The final image created by the camera generally is not very perfect and it is a good idea to process the original raw files again in the cameras raw convertor, through the HDR option. This is where you have much better fine adjustment options. HDR mode is basically Bracketing. The camera successively takes three shots at different settings as set on it. Then it merges the best out of the three to create one shot with perfect exposure. This is where your creatively comes in. some times the shot created by the camera software is a bit too artificial to be believable. make adjustments, so that it all appears natural and real !
The Human touch - We relate a lot with humans. Adding people in the photograph makes it more lively. Adds interest in the landscape, which may otherwise be a routine shot. Also, adding people makes it more of your photograph especially with scenes which have been photographed by several other photographers. Including an animal also helps as we relate to them as much as we do with humans.
Scale and proportion
Use a tripod or a beanbag
Consider time of the day or night ! Some places with access to the public maybe too crowded to be nicely shot. Beat the crowd and coincidentally, the light also would be better during the early or odd hours. Even otherwise some places would look better in the mornings or the evenings.
Seasons - seasons change the way the landscapes look. Winters, Autumn, spring and summers can drastically change the appearance of the same landscape. choose the time, when you feel a particular area would look the best. Interestingly, as you shoot the same area during different seasons, you get all different shots. so its worth repeating the same location in different seasons.
Equipment - As you include a whole lot in a landscape, equipment plays a very important role. A good full frame camera to begin with. Full frame as it has a better dynamic range compared to the smaller formats. If you are a serious landscape photographer adding a medium format system is not a bad idea at all, though it costs a lot. Although you need all lenses but a good premium wide angle is a must. Its all about expanse and as you shoot you feel like adding more and more as much or even more than what your eye can see. However, do keep a long lens as well. It helps you to exclude and concentrate on specific areas in a landscape. sometimes things are too far off and a long lens can help in those cases.
A good light weight yet stable Tripod is an asset. If its a pleasure holiday come photography excursion, carrying a tripod may seem to be a burden but then it does help you get sharp pictures even with slower shutter speeds as you close down the aperture for better depth of field. Also it lets you shoot multiple frames with different exposures giving you the choice to put them together picking up the ideal exposures from different areas.
BLACK AND WHITE VERSUS COLOR
If you try to take landscape shots using black and white film in the same way you would use color film, the resulting photographs are likely to be disappointing. Often, it is the color content of a landscape scene that creates an exciting picture – the bright yellow of a cornfield, the myriad shades of green in a forest panorama, the autumnal reds and golds of a woodland carpeted with fallen leaves.
In black and white photographs, however, it is the contrast of light and shade and the tonal gradations of white through black that dominate the picture. What might appear distinct and obvious in color often becomes more ambiguous once the color content is removed, resulting in a more subtle picture open to a different interpretation.
PHOTOGRAPHING WATER AND LIGHT
An otherwise uninteresting landscape scene can be enhanced by Light reflected from a lake, river, or pond. An expanse of a water body by itself makes an interesting focal point around which a good landscape composition can be build up.
It is also important that you view the scene from different angles and heights. Seen from one particular angle, an area of water may appear emerald green as it reflects light from foliage on nearby hillsides. When viewed from a different angle, the surface of the water may sparkle with bright blue highlights as it mirrors the sky directly above it.
When light strikes the water’s surface, the intensity of the reflection provides extra illumination, radically altering the exposure. To record reflected light in water you will probably have to take exposure readings for both the highlight and the shadow and select an aperture somewhere in between. Alternatively with modern sophisticated DSLRs study and understand what metering works the best for you. What metering results in a photograph closer to your liking or taste.
Polarising filter is quite useful in handling the exposure besides making the over all scene look deeper and more saturated. Again explore the scene both with and without the filter.