How To Do Landscape Photography
Taking digital photographs of landscapes is rewarding and often peaceful for those who follow this practice. Very few people are able to make a good living photographing landscapes but those who do, often change the world with their images.
For example, think of those who take photos for National Geographic Magazine. That is not to say that you cannot make some extra money as a landscape photographer, but most often it is just that, extra money.
The tools needed for general landscape photography were covered in the “How to get started with outdoor photography” article. Now we will focus on techniques used for amazing landscape photography.
Time of Day:
- Landscape photographers often are onsite well before sunrise or sunset. These times are referred to as the golden hours of the day as they produce the best light for landscape photography.
Framing your image:
- Framing in this sense, does not refer to a picture frame, but where you place objects in your image. Placing your subject in the center of your frame is not always the best idea.
- This usually creates a boring picture. You should try to follow the rule of thirds when it comes to landscapes and photography in general. If you were to divide the screen in sections from top to bottom and left to right, you will have 9 points that you can place your object of interest.
- If you happen to miss the golden hours of the day, you can still take great photographs the rest of the day. Using a polarizing filter, like Hoya’s 58mm Circular Polarized Filter ($38.50 on amazon.com), will allow you to clean up some of the haze in the sky, and make your skies bluer. A circular polarizer will also help in removing unwanted reflections from standing water.
Think outside the box:
- Anyone can take an image standing up, try changing your point of view to see if it makes for a more interesting image.
- Looking at a great view in front of you, especially during the golden hours, may not always be the best picture. Try turning around to see if the area behind you has a better view. You might just be surprised at what you find.
Leave the Beaten Path:
- Many people see something they want to take a picture of from the seat of their cars. They get out, snap a picture, and move on. Leaving the beaten path provides you with access to areas that most people never see. You never know what you will find.
You have everything that you need now to get started with landscape photography. All that is left is for you to gear up and go for a trip. For more information on specific situations, see our in depth articles on mountains, seas, beaches, deserts, and jungles.
How To Photography Panoramic Landscape
Using your digital camera to photograph landscapes is fun and can be an adventure. There will be more than a few times where you wish that your lens could capture more or you are undecided on which image is the better image to capture.
A simple solution to this problem is to photograph panoramas. Panoramic landscapes allow you to capture the whole scene in front of you, and if used creatively, can allow you to capture a 360-degree image from your vantage point.
While panoramas have their founding in landscapes, they also have a new niche in the real estate market for video photographing inside houses.
More real estate companies are taking advantage of “video” tours of houses by incorporating panoramic photographs so their customers can see everything as they would as if they were inside the house.
To shoot panoramic photos, you need to have a few special pieces of equipment. These pieces include a panning head for your tripod, a bubble level, and panoramic stitching software. We go over each of these items below:
Tripod Pan Head:
- A great head for panoramic photography is Gitzo’s GS3750DQR ($249.00 on bhphotovideo.com) and is integrated with a bubble level for insuring your panning remains level.
- While this head appears to be expensive, it has everything you would need to take great panoramic photographs quickly and efficiently.
- If you purchase a pan head that does not have a built in bubble level, than it is strongly recommended that you purchase a bubble level that attaches to the hotshoe of your camera.
- I recommend Manfrotto’s 337 2-axis flash hotshoe bubble level ($28.21 on bhphotovideo.com) as it gives you the ability to level your camera in every direction.
- It is possible to stitch your own panoramic images together, but you will spend hours trying to get everything line up correctly. Panoramic stitching software is a time saver that goes beyond just stitching your images together, but also matching the colors in each so that your image flows seamlessly.
- I recommend PanaVue Image Assembler ($129.00 on panavue.com) for putting together your panoramic images as I have found it to be a superior product to its competitor and it goes beyond just panoramic stitching.
I have spent a great amount of time talking about the importance of your images being level. To stitch panoramic photographs together, software (or your eyes) has to be able to find the exact edge of each item in the image so that it can blend them seamlessly.
Just as important as the need for an image to be level, is the amount of the image you overlap. Typically, I will not overlap less than 1/3 of each additional photograph so the stitching program has enough detail to work with.
You will also want to have your aperture open as far as you can (f/22-f32) so the image has as much detail as possible and the blending areas (1/3 of each image) are focused the same.
With all of the above information, and any standard digital camera, you should be able to pull of great panoramic photographs with ease.
How To Photograph Desert Landscapes
Photographing deserts is much like photographing beaches with a couple of glaring omissions. The most notable of these is that there is typically no water nearby.
The second notable omission is the lack of people. Deserts are traditionally boring as they span for hundreds of miles with nothing but small brush.
The best areas for photographing deserts are those areas that are devoid of everything. Having a clean slate is what makes these desert photos so intriguing.
You have the ability to look beyond the scraggly brush and see the designs on top of the sand. While daytime photography is interesting enough in a desert, the nighttime photography really shows its hand here.
In terms of equipment and settings, I would most likely take my medium zoom out of my back and replace it with another wide angle or even a fisheye lens.
Odds are that you will not have anything to zoom in on when shooting an empty desert. Your ISO settings during the day will usually be below 200 and you will want a deep depth of field.
You can expect faster shutter speeds (closer to 1/4000th) and could get away with holding your camera by hand. However, shooting at night will require the exact opposite in terms of settings. The only real need for a tripod in the desert is for panoramic photos and night photography.
These are some tips to photographing deserts:
Look for Texture:
- The wind blowing through the desert makes for great textures in the sand. These textures create leading lines that draw your subject into the picture.
- Placing a point of interest on the horizon (such as a mountain or rock formation) will aid in creating depth. For a texture type photograph, you will want to place the horizon line at the upper two-thirds line of the frame.
Dress for the occasion:
- Many people feel that wearing fewer clothes in the desert is the best practice. After all, you are hot, you are sweating, shedding clothes seems logical.
- However, sweating in the desert is your body’s way of keeping you cool. When you start removing layers of clothes, that sweat dries up faster and leaves you dehydrated as well as hot.
- Consider covering yourself completely (within reason) as it will keep the moisture close to your body and help keep you cool, not to mention prevent sun burns.
Use the Weather:
- During certain times of the year, thunderstorms are common in the deserts. A menacing looking cloud in the distance will push the mood of your photograph into a darker aspect.
- If you are lucky enough to catch a lightning strike, you will have an image you are sure to keep. How to Photograph Lightning is covered in detail in another article.
Keep your Wits about you:
- It is easy to be caught up in the moment of a great scene, but you need to be aware of the right time to leave. The weather in the desert can be very dangerous.
- Thunderstorms that are miles away can cause flash flooding in areas that saw no rain at all. Along with thunderstorms, excessive heat is a silent killer. Your body will need extra water in the desert, especially under mid-day conditions. After the sun goes down, the desert temperatures often drop drastically and are just as dangerous.
Perfect Night Photography:
- An empty desert at night has the possibility of showing more stars than you have ever imagined. The best time to photography the stars at night is when there is no moon (also called the new moon phase).
- Long exposures will allow you to capture the rotation of the stars in the sky and will create long streaks of light. This process drains your camera batteries quickly so it is important to have a fresh battery in your digital camera. A full moon is also a great light source in the desert for night photography.
- Using a full moon, you can take the same photo you took during the day, and make it something completely different. Night photography is covered in depth in a later article as well.
Do Not Overexpose:
- Desert photography can be very bright during the day. If you remember our article about exposure, you know that you want to expose for the highlights (the brightest parts of the scene).
- As the sand is usually the brightest part of the scene, you will want to make sure to set your exposure to it. The result will have perfect highlights, but dark shadows. The shadows are easy to bring up in Photoshop.
- I know I have said before, but I cannot stress how important a polarizing filter can be to your photography. A polarizing filter will help you achieve brilliant blue skies while allowing you to keep the bright sands of the desert below you.
Any way you approach desert photography, it is always best to be prepared for anything. Take extra supplies and make sure you are in for the long run if something goes wrong.