Spotlight: The art of landscape photography
For years, I told myself and everyone else who would listen that I was not a landscape photographer.
I told people I didn’t want to do it so I wasn’t expected to. One excuse was that it wasn’t my thing.
Don’t get me wrong because I think as a photographer I should define my style. I think I have. When I post a photo of a bug or bird on my social media, people tell me they knew it was my image before seeing my name. It’s like a signature. A photographer’s style is recognizable. So I made sure everyone around me knew they wouldn’t be seeing landscape photos from me. But the truth was I was not willing to take the time to become a landscape photographer.
My boss, Susan Gallagher, hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head when she dubbed me an “in your face” photographer. That was my style. Macro. I wanted every detail up close and personal. Flowers, animals and bugs were my go-to subjects. That was my comfort zone.
Then, something happened.
I was coming out of work late and the sky was just so amazing. I pulled into the boat launch at the park and I grabbed my camera and starting shooting without a plan or anything. The light was fading and I had to act.
I was amazed at what I was able to capture. And this little spark was ignited that maybe I could be a landscape photographer!
That didn’t mean I would give up shooting in macro; I would just expand my photographic horizons. See what I did there?
I started to read about landscape photography and how to take those stunning photographs. The biggest thing was finding the right location. Got it. That was not going to be difficult because my county has some of the prettiest spots around. I read a lot of articles, and tips included things like always have a clear idea of where to go, and at what time of the day. Honestly, this opportunity fell into my lap! But having a plan and a destination in mind, knowing sunrise and sunset are good ideas. The best sunrise photos happen half an hour before sunrise and the best sunset photos are those that happen half an hour after sunset.
It’s amazing the number of times that it seems I have had nature conspiring against me to ruin a perfectly composed photograph. Landscape photography requires patience. That’s hard for me, and I know I have missed some great shots by missing out on those spectacular skies. Another tip was to allow for time to arrive at a destination before things start to happen. Once my husband and I were on the road at 4 a.m. to catch a sunrise that never happened. At least we had a plan!
I have this plan to photograph some amazing landscapes from the top of a mountain and create a view most don’t get to ever see. A photo like this is going to require a certain amount of time and effort to get to so when I there, I will be ready to capture that amazing scene. That plan is still being worked on, so in the meantime I look for easily landscapes to practice my techniques.
Light is one of the most important factors in any photograph, but even more so in landscape photography. The best light for landscape photography is early in the morning or late afternoon. Some of my most interesting photos were shot on overcast or stormy days. Playing with the light is all part of the fun in learning how to capture the best images.
Tripods can be a pain to take along, but they are a must for landscape photography. Shooting in low light and not having a tripod is frustrating, so the hassle of carrying the tripod outweighs missing a great photo. I like using a slow shutter speed or long exposure to capture the movement of clouds or water and I know I won’t be able to hold the camera steady enough to avoid blurred images from camera shake.
Depth of field is an important part of capturing stunning landscapes. For my landscape photos I want what’s in the foreground
and the background to be in focus I need a deeper depth of field than if I am in macro mode.
Of course, depending on what I am trying to do, I might choose a shallower depth of field. But for a landscape with almost everything in focus I set my camera to Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode, so I can take control of the aperture. I usually start at around f/8 and work up f/11 until I get the look I am after.
I finally treated myself to two filters which I had otherwise thought I didn’t need.
I am obsessed with water photos and I have learned unwanted reflections in the water have ruined great shots, so my polarizing filter reduces the reflections and also enhancing the colors. And, I have learned to appreciate my neutral density filter for making a huge difference in the overall look of the landscapes, especially the skies.
If I see you out and about, I just might ask you to be in my next landscape photo.