Landscape Photography Refresher
With better weather finally here, the hills and mountains are now alive with walkers, photographers and other people enjoying the spring sunshine. If you have not been out with your camera for a while to shoot landscapes, your skills might be a bit rusty, so here is a quick five-point refresher course...
1) Get used to your gear again
If your tripod has been stored for the winter, spend some time getting used to it again in the back garden before heading straight out on a photo shoot. It may need cleaning, particularly if you like to shoot seascapes and some corrosion has started to appear (hopefully not too much).
Tripods are not particularly intuitive things, so 30 minutes spent practicing with the quick release mechanism and leg extension can save a lot of frustration and fumbling when you are on a shoot.
2) Remember the holy trinity
Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the holy trinity of landscape photography, as with most genres. Remember, you often use narrower apertures (higher f numbers) to ensure maximum depth of field and front to back sharpness in an image, but don't stop down too far as your images can actually become softer because of a process called diffraction.
When using slow shutter speeds to make water look like an ice rink, or a waterfall look like frothy milk, you must use a tripod to avoid camera shake. Keep ISO low to ensure clean images, but higher ISOs can be used when the light starts to fail or you need higher shutter speeds.
3) Focus carefully
As landscapes don't get up and walk away, it's always wise to use a tripod wherever you can. As well as beating camera shake, they force you to slow down and shoot in a more mindful way. Try focussing manually, focussing about about one third of the way into the scene.
Use Live View's zoom function to check critical areas are sharp, or turn on focus peaking if your camera supports it. Autofocus is OK if you are really unsure about manual focus, but again, try focussing about a third of the way in with single point AF, rather than activating all the AF points. This can cause your camera to get confused.
4) Light and form
Exposure and gear is the easy part of landscape photography, the really hard bit is capturing the nicest composition is the best possible light. So be prepared to get up early for really great light and walk around a scene before finally setting down your tripod. Sometimes just going a bit higher or lower can yield better results.
Use compositional devices such as rule of thirds to add interest, but don't do this slavishly; it's more important to capture nice graphic shapes and dramatic natural structures, carefully avoiding any unwanted distractions or ugly man-made objects from spoiling the scene. They can be removed in Photoshop sometimes, but better to avoid in camera.
5) Filter tips
ND grad filters are great for landscape photography as they help to balance the exposure, avoiding a nice dramatic sky but an underexposed foreground, for example. If you don’t want to carry around a clanking bag of filters, the Graduated Filter tool in Lightroom can also help to add drama to washed out skies and lighten foregrounds, but use it sparingly.
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