A Lesson In Landscapes

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Have you ever wondered how some people create AMAZING landscape photographs? Have you wondered what you can do to create stunning images of the landscapes you encounter?

Every photo we view can teach us something. We can learn where to place things, how to look for light, how to frame subjects, and more.

 

Here are 10 Lessons For Better Landscapes:

 

1. Think In Thirds

Did you think I meant follow the rule of thirds? It works, but with landscape, I want you to think about a little something else. Think in thirds — foreground, mid ground, and background. Give us a bit of each for more interesting composition. The foreground creates balance and anchors your image, the mid ground gives us something interesting to look at, and the background ties it all together.

2. Make it Straight

It’s gotta be straight. Yep. Straighten your horizon. A crooked horizon is the easiest way to throw your viewer off. Add a little water to your crookedness and things get really wonky. I have never once been able to hold my camera level, I’m learning to embrace it!

You can do a few things to get a straight horizon:

 

3. Place The Horizon in the Right Place

Does it really matter where you place the horizon? ABSOLUTELY. Get it on a third. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and take a picture with the horizon right in the middle of your frame. See what I mean? It just doesn’t visually work. In next month’s Practicing Class we are talking all about visual mass and balance, but I’ll save that for class. For now, just get your horizon on a third. Pick one!

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4. Include An Interesting Element

We all want something to focus on when we look at an image. Our eye longs for a spot to stop and gaze before we continue our travels around the frame. Do you have something interesting for your viewers to see? Thumb through a few landscape images and you’ll notice a single tree, a strong mountain, an old barn or house. These singular, strong items create an anchor.

5. Focus A Third Into The Frame

I think this is the third time I’ve mentioned thirds, that should make it a little easier to remember! When you focus a third into the frame, you will get more in focus and create the depth of field you want in a landscape image. If you want to get really technical, work on your hyper-focal distance.

6. Go Narrow, But Not Too Narrow

I have always shot landscape photos at f/22. I changed that after reading David DuChemin’s suggestion to shoot at f/16 to create a bit sharper image. He claims your lens is sharper if it isn’t pushed to its extreme aperture. I’m one to trust him, so I’m going with f/16.

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7. Go Early, Stay Late

Light. It makes a photograph. Yes, you can create a photograph any time of the day, but capture the light around the edges of the day and your landscape photos will dazzle. When the light is low on the horizon, you’ll catch the particles in the air, a beautiful golden color to the light, and longer, more interesting shadows. The low sun also reduces contrast in your image creating more colorful skies to compliment your landscapes. There are apps to help you determine when to expect the golden hour. The Golden Hour.

8. Steady There

Of course, you’ve got to consider the exposure triangle with every photo you take. When you are shooting with an aperture of f/11 to f/16 (read 6 above), you’ve got two other elements left to think about — ISO and shutter speed. Let’s make it simple on you. Choose an ISO 0f 100. Yep, go low. You are outside. There is abundant light AND you are going to put your camera on a tripod! So you’ve got only one last thing to think about, your shutter speed. Blue sky? Let the sky determine your shutter speed. Green meadow? Let the meadow determine your shutter speed. Not certain about your exposure. Try a little bracketing.

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9. Work Your Shot

You’ve found the beautiful landscape. You jump out of the car. You shoot. Done. Right?!

Wrong.

You’ve got to work the shot. You’ve got to try it from a few different points of you. Really work the angles to see what you create. That doesn’t mean taking 200 shots one inch apart, but shooting with intention from several different places to create several different images.

10. Practice. Again. And Again

No one became a spectacular photographer with their first landscape shot. You’ve got to get out and shoot and then shoot some more. Shoot with intention. Shoot for fun. Experiment. Play. Enjoy.
Want a bonus tip? Do some research. Not technical, know-how research although that will help. Research other people’s photos. Study how they frame things. What they include. What they leave out.  Notice where the sun is in the frame? Look for the direction of the light. Every photograph can tell us so much about the choices photographers make.

Here are a few CY365 Photographers who have galleries filled with beautiful landscapes:

Zach Locks

Creative Team Member, Carol Elliott

Debra Penk

What’s your go to technique for creating landscape photographs you love? What’s the best tip you’ve learned? Share in the comments below!


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