Landscape photography is one of the most popular photographic genres, and is certainly one of the most enjoyable – if you love the countryside, what could be better than being out there with your camera?
At first sight, landscape photography would seem to be easy – the landscape is there waiting, all you need to do is point your camera at it and press the button. But we all know that experience when the resulting photograph simply doesn’t live up to your expectations. And it can actually be surprisingly difficult to take a good photograph that conveys the landscape as you saw it.
Remember that you are sensing the whole experience – the sounds and scents, the feel of the wind and sun, as well as seeing the landscape. But the camera is only recording what it sees, and nothing else.
There are several things we can do to improve our landscape photographs. One is to go out early or late in the day, rather than in the middle of the day. At midday on a clear day the sun is overhead, and the light is harsh and unflattering. Early or late, when the sun is lower in the sky, its rays skim across the landscape, revealing the texture and shape in a gentle, golden light.
It also pays to think carefully about composition. If you can include foreground elements as well as more distant ones, your photograph will have a greater sense of depth. If there is a particular subject within your landscape, such as a tree or a house, consider putting it off-centre according to the rule of thirds, rather than bang in the middle of the picture.
And if you’re including a horizon line, it’s often more interesting to have it one third or two thirds of the way up the frame, instead of half way up. The exception to this rule is if your photograph includes a reflection, such as a mountain reflected in a lake, when a central horizon line will add to the symmetry of the image.
Lens choice is another crucial consideration. A wide angle lens will include a lot of the vista before you, and also exaggerate the sense of space and depth. It will enhance a sky with good clouds, or an interesting foreground. But beware of having a large expanse of foreground with not much pictorial information in it.
A longer lens will enable you to pick out just parts of the landscape, and give you more chance to be selective about what you include in your photograph and what you exclude.
If you can carry a tripod with you, it will not only allow you to use longer shutter speeds without worrying about camera shake, but help you to slow down and really evaluate your composition before you take the picture.
If you’d like to learn more about landscape photography, you might like to consider taking my 4 week course on Fine Art Landscape Photography.