The best light is during dawn and dusk. That’s when the light is warm, the sun is in the frame, and the mood is just beautiful. However, depending on what you want to do with your landscape shots you can shoot any time you want. I’ve read time after time that the only time to shoot landscape shots is during dawn or dusk. I shoot mine when I see the moment. But it all depends on your style and what you want to convey. It’s better you capture the image than not just because you were busy waiting for the perfect light.
I love incredible light, however. I can go excited—nearly ecstatic—from amazing light, but the moment will always go first. If I only have the crappiest camera with the shittiest light, I’ll still make the frame.
Use a tripod
You will not be able to hold the camera steady during low light circumstances without a tripod. Invest in a stable one and use the timer shutter, or invest in a remote shutter control. This way it doesn’t get influenced by the motion of you pressing down on the shutter button. I do have a remote shutter control, but I still prefer the timer because it’s with me at all times without using up space in my luggage. I can set the timer to merely two seconds which makes the it very convenient. Perfect for the shake to settle down and it’s a short enough time to wait for the shutter to trigger. Ten seconds can be bothersome, but two is nothing. A stable tripod costs a lot, but in many ways it will be worth it because just a little wind can knock your tripod down and wreck anything it holds. This can cost you the image, but it can also cost you the camera.
Divide the image for depth
Divide the image into foreground (for instance the ground or the beach), the middle ground (for instance the water) and the background (for instance the sky). This creates a sense of depth and will make a huge difference in your landscape photography.
Set the aperture value high
An aperture around f/22 should give you a nice sharp overall image. Many lenses are the sharpest around f/8, but that’s a whole other level of sharpness. Go with as high value as you can get and use a tripod, unless you are going for effects like freezing the flow of water. Since the shutter speed will be quite slow while shooting landscapes you should set the ISO to around 50 or 100, which will cause low amounts of noise in the picture.
Focus in the middle
If you are looking for overall sharpness, always place the focus in the middle of the landscape. If there’s a focal point you want to emphasize, place the focus straight onto it.
Are there any elements you can use in the picture as a focal point? For instance a road that swirls into the image, three rocks in the water, or maybe a tree? If you create a focal point in the photograph it will be so much stronger. Without it, the photo will just be flat. Always look for light, lines, symmetry, and elements that stand out. An easy way to do this is to look at the landscape—what exactly captures your attention? Make that your focal point.
Get an interesting sky
A clear blue sky is awesome, but it’s also just a blue boring sky. If you want drama in your picture, wait for the charismatic clouds to sweep in. As always, it depends on what you are going for but a busy sky always creates more of an emotional effect.
Never place the horizon in the middle
Okay, this is a little bit of a lie because sometimes placing the horizon in the absolute middle of the photograph can be amazing, but most of the time look at what’s interesting—the ground or the sky? Compose the image so that the most interesting part uses up more space. If you have a clear blue sky it will just fill you image with blue. If so frame the image so that the most of it is filled with an interesting ground. If you have an incredible texture of clouds before you and the ground is just boring rocks, shoot the sky. In short, choose what’s more interesting—the ground or the sky—and let the most interesting element be the dominant part of the image.
Make sure the highlights don’t go too bright, and cram in as much detail you can. This goes for every photograph; detail captivates but when it comes to landscape photography the details are a massive part of the image. You can even use bracketing to create an HDR image with incredible amounts of detail. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and in short, it’s a way to blend several exposures into one with details in even the brightest and the darkest areas.
About the Author:
Examples of photography related to this article and a portfolio by the author is available here: www.mikaelcedergren.com.
For further training on landscape photography: Complete Landscape Photography Collection
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