By Hannes Becker
Nature and landscapes have always been an important part of my life. Since I grew up in a rural area in the middle of Germany I always felt a connection towards the outdoors. I started shooting more than five years ago roaming around in the forest near my home. Being able to capture nature with your own interpretation and inspire people to go out, take photos, enjoy the beautiful nature and also care about it. That is the ultimate goal for me. The great thing about landscapes is that it doesn’t really matter where or when you’re out shooting: most of the tricks and techniques are the same. All you need to do is shoot, shoot and shoot. And by the time you got familiar with the tips and you have built up a routine, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is the weather.
Here are some tips that help you to improve your landscape photography.
Preparation before heading out to shoot landscapes is probably the most important thing. Whether if it’s close to your home, somewhere on your travels or in between, always make sure you to know as much about the area as possible. But first of all:
Get your stuff together!
Batteries are charged, SD cards are converted, lenses and sensor of the camera are cleaned and you have your camera bag ready to go. This is another important tip which is not certainly only for landscape photography, but photography in general. You don’t want to waste any time on location looking for a spare SD card or a full battery as you might miss the shot in the end.
Do a research on Instagram, 500px, Google or Google Maps and look for images that may help you to capture a certain location. Try not to copy the images but use the images to find creative new perspectives or angles and use your personal style. The images not only work as a great source of inspiration, they can also tell you about different weather conditions in the area. Usually there are tons of pictures during sunrise or sunsets. So you can already get an idea about the lighting and you find out if a mountain range is better to shoot during the early or late hours. This is the most simple way that helps you the quickest. If you want to have more specific knowledge I would recommend to use the app Photopills. This app shows you the exact position and time of the sun.
Timing is everything!
It is not only important to know where to go but also when to go. The quality of the light in a landscape photo makes the biggest difference. Usually, the times before sunrise and after sunset are the best times to shoot. This time of the day is called golden hour. During the golden hour the low angle of the sun creates a more diffuse light then the mid-day harsh sun which results in increasing the depth and texture of the landscape. During the day the sun makes a scene very contrasty and there is almost no transition between light and shadows. But sometimes and especially when the sky is overcast you can even shoot during the day. Clouds in the sky diffuse the sun and create a really soft lighting. Knowing that it is helpful to be a couple of hours early on location you might want to explore the area to look for different subjects or you want to set up your camera and shot. All this requires time. So make sure to bring snacks, friends or playing cards or preferably all of them.
Composition is king!
After picking a location it’s time to compose your shot. Composing means the way to frame your photograph, in simple terms. Even if you are shooting during the best light, images may not work without a strong composition. So light and composition work hand in hand. There are simple ‚rules of composition‘ that help you create a better images. You may have heard of the rule of thirds, leading lines and the point of view.
‚The rule of thirds’ is essential and one of the most helpful composition techniques in photography. Important elements such as the subjects are placed along a 3x3 grid, which equally divides the image with two vertically and two horizontally lines. For example: Instead of center the horizon it is much more appealing for the viewer to put the horizon on one of the horizontal lines.
‚Leading Lines‘ are natural lines in the image that are used to draw the viewer’s eye through the photograph. Especially in landscape photography it’s an easy way to create a sense of depth and lead to the main subject of interest.
‚The point of view‘ is basically the position from where you take your photograph. Most images are taken from eye level looking out or down on a subject. Already by going lower or higher you create an interesting and new perspective. Consider to also photograph from the side, from the back or anywhere else. It’s important to learn seeing things in a different way. Get familiar with these rules and try to work with them, use them as a guideline. But don’t always stick to them, as rules can be broken, images can still work and maybe work even better without them. Also keep it simple and clean and don’t always try work with more rules then necessary.
Use the right settings!
Usually your aim in landscape photography is to get everything in focus. That requires using a small aperture around f/8 or f/11. By changing the aperture you control the depth of field of the image. So the lower the number, the less depth of field. The larger the number, the more depth of field. But depending on your personal preferences you can also shoot landscapes with a big aperture like f2.8 to create a blurry foreground or background. There are basically no rules for that. It is just a creative approach on how you want your photograph look like. I would suggest to play around with it and try different settings and find the one that appeals the most to you.
Don’t stop shooting!
Shooting landscapes is not always as easy as it looks like. Even if you are a pro photographer and you know everything about the locations, compositions or settings. Sometimes the weather can completely destroy your plans. This is something you should always have in mind when you are out shooting.
We are not always lucky and so it happens that we travel to a remote place or do long distance hike and once we arrive on the location the conditions are just so terribly bad that you are not able to take an interesting image.
But don’t let this stop you from shooting!