02 August 2011

Tips for Beautiful Landscapes

Susan Brannon
2 August 2011

There are many types of landscapes.  Rivers, mountains, forests, desert, swamps and each place has their own personality.  Find that personality, why is the Negev desert different than the Sahara desert?  You want to reflect that in your image.  Don’t just take an image of a bunch of sand blowing in the wind.  Your image needs to show the places distinct beauty. 

What is it that attracted you to that place?  Do you love big trees or splashing waves?  Find your passion in the place, the more you find that passion the better you will be at taking the images.  Our admiration for the subject always seems to come out in our images.

As far as what lens to bring, really depends on where you are going.  For example, if you are going to embark on a safari, you will want a zoom lens from 100-400mm.  Your subjects will be far away and it will be difficult to get close to your subjects from your jeep.  If you are hiking, you will want to bring a wide angle lens and smaller zoom.  Using a f/4.5-5.6 is fine for landscape.

Here are some tips to help get the picture right!

•    If possible use a tripod, the stability of a tripod will sharpen your landscape image avoiding any shake.
•    Look at what you are looking at, why do you like it?  What do you want to reflect in your image?  Is it the tree silhouetted in the sunset?  Is it the robustness of the stones in a tall mountain?  Find what that is, then focus on that.  Find a good angle for your tree or the stones that show its beauty.  Make what attracts you, your focal point.  Think about where you place it in your image.
•    Consider the sky – The sky is a part of the landscape.  You may want the sky dominant or your foreground dominant in your image. If the sky is bland, then place your horizon in the upper third of your frame.  If the sky is full of colors and beautiful clouds, then you will want to make your horizon lower.
•    Look at your depth of field and maximize it.  Remember to increase your depth of field is to make your aperture setting small (the larger number)  Remember that smaller apertures allow less light into your lens and you may have to adjust your shutter speed or ISO.
•    Look at your lines, where does the eye lead in the frame?  Look through your viewfinder to find lines that lead to your subject.  They also give a depth to your image.
•    Landscapes are not always still and calm, they have movements.  Capture them!  You will need a longer shutter speed (this is why a tripod is good) and lower your aperture.  You can also use a filter to diffuse some of the light.  Examples of movement are clouds, waterfalls, sea or birds.
•    Remember the “Golden Hours” Before sunrise and sunset.  Read up and be prepared for when those hours are before you go.  You will find that it is worth it.
•    Think about the rule of thirds while taking your shot.
Related lessons:
Aperture and f/16 Rule
Shutter Speed Basics

Depth of Field
Focused Bracketing or Photo Stacking

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