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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 Tips For Brilliant Landscapes

To get your best shots, follow the light

This Article Features Photo Zoom

8. “Fitz Roy,” Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. A promising weather forecast called for rising several hours before sunrise to hike in the dark to this stunning and remote backcountry location.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II , Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/4sec.
8 Work Smarter
My motto is “work smarter, not harder.” A smart light chaser learns a thing or two about the weather and how it relates to catching great light to be in the right place at the right time. Although each location has its own local weather patterns, here are a few general guidelines. Partly to mostly cloudy skies give you the best chance of colorful sunsets and sunrises. When clouds have separation, light can break through the gaps to produce stunning results, even when cloud cover is significant. The best time to catch great light is when a storm is clearing, especially at sunrise or sunset. Remember, all you need is a tiny gap at the horizon, right where the sun is rising or setting, to set fire to an otherwise completely cloudy sky. Online weather services and smartphone apps help immensely when you’re trying to position yourself to take advantage of promising conditions, especially if they offer hour-by-hour forecasts and satellite maps showing cloud movement over time. Nothing, however, beats simply being on location: The worst feeling in the world is to walk away from a scene when conditions seem bleak, only to have the sky light up with beautiful color.

9 Create Visual Flow
A click of the camera shutter captures a slice of reality, plucking a moment from the living world and suspending it for all time. Sometimes, though, photographs can appear static and lifeless. The best photographers resist this tendency of still capture and instead strive to impart a sense of motion, energy and life to their pictures. “Visual flow,” as I like to call it, is a way of creating the illusion of three-dimensional perspective and dynamic motion in a two-dimensional static capture. Getting the viewer’s eye to move through the photograph is your goal—an image that captures the eye and doesn’t let go is one that will engage a viewer’s interest over and over again. Certain compositions and shapes help create visual flow. Curves can give a scene elegance and harmoniously unify a composition. Zigzags create energy by forcing the eye back and forth. Circles and arcs trap the eye, whereas lines and triangles point and lead. Powerful compositions also can be made by using a repetition of shapes. Your goal is to take viewers on a visual journey. Constantly seek ways to capture the dynamic essence of nature and engage the viewer’s eye, leading it to the most important elements in your photographs.

10 Rise Early, Stay Up Late—Trade Sleep For Light
This one is so fundamental as to be axiomatic. Successful nature photographers don’t get much sleep because the best light—the kind of light that dazzles viewers—occurs at the edges of the day. During the so-called “magic hours” around sunrise and sunset, the sun is low on the horizon and filtered through atmospheric particles that scatter blue light and allow warm light, such as reds, oranges and yellows, to pass through. The result is the beautiful colors we’re used to seeing at sunset and sunrise, which are the bread-and-butter of pro nature photographers. This may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many photographers simply refuse to drag themselves out of bed in the morning. When you’re in the field, commit fully to being on location to chase the light—even if it means you lose some sleep.

Ian Plant is a widely published professional nature photographer and writer and an instructor. To see more of Plant’s images, read his daily photoblog or learn more about the topics discussed in this article, his photo workshops and his instructional e-books, visit www.ianplant.com.

Focus By Limiting Your Gear
Having the right gear is critical for achieving your vision, but sometimes carrying too much of it with you is just too much. This spring and summer, try this exercise: Go out with your camera and a single lens (and don’t bring the 10x zoom for this one). Spend the day with a limited focal range, no filters, no other equipment. This will keep you from being distracted by the limitless combination of focal lengths, filters and other assorted gadgets that can be used to work the scene. As the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you go out and shoot with less, your thinking gets focused and you start seeing photo possibilities that you may have missed otherwise.


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