Use these tips to get immediate results for better, more interesting landscape, close-up and wildlife photographs
By Mike Stensvold
3. Backlight Guarantees Dramatic And Dimensional Landscapes
While the use of light is a core technique for any type of photography, backlighting is something you definitely want to master for photographing the landscape. Backlight is the pros' light. It can be challenging to use, true, but use it like the pros, and the results make your landscape photos come to vibrant life. Backlight has several important effects on a landscape photo:
Backlight dramatizes the subject. Looking into the light makes highlights and shadows vivid and dramatic. Any contrast there is intensified, making the scene more striking (although it can get harsh and unattractive if you're not careful how you use the contrast in your composition).
Backlight adds dimension. Whenever you can separate elements in a scene, from ridges to hillsides to rocks, the landscape gains dimension and form. Because backlight is a light of highlights and shadows, it does this naturally and quite well.
Backlight makes colors glow. Plants with translucent leaves and flowers gain a radiant brilliance that sets them off in the scene.
Use the sun. Having the sun in the photo is dramatic, especially if you're using a wide-angle lens and stop down your lens so you get a diffraction pattern ("starburst"; use ƒ/16 or ƒ/22). Use any flare that results from the sun, too, to add some life to dark areas. But don't stare at the sun too long through your viewfinder.
Backlight increases contrast. Contrast can be helpful in bringing life to a photo on days that have less contrast. Just shoot toward the brightest light.
When you shoot toward the sun, the right exposure can be harder to achieve, increased contrast can cause problems, and flare may become distracting. Here's how to deal with these challenges:
Exposure. Expose for the highlights or bright parts of the scene. Bracket your exposure by giving the shot several different exposures to make it lighter or darker. With digital, check your LCD to see if the colors look right and watch for blinking highlight warnings. Enlarge the image and learn to use the histogram.
Increased contrast. Train yourself to see when the contrast is too harsh for the photograph by taking lots of photos. Compare images and see what you like and dislike.
Flare. Use the lens shade that came with your lens (or buy one if you don't have one). This helps keep the sun off the lens, reducing or eliminating flare. Try blocking flare with your hand or a hat, too, but make sure they don't get into your photo!
4. Shoot Through Your Subject For Striking Flower Close-Ups
If you look at many close-up photos (and we see a lot of them at OP), you'll quickly notice that most are shot in quite similar ways, from above or slightly above the subject and almost always with more, rather than less depth of field. There's nothing wrong with doing that, but you'll miss the chance to see a subject in new ways and you'll only capture the same things that everyone else is photographing.
A quick and easy technique that gives flower photos a sensuous, colorful quality is to shoot so that you sight your lens through the flowers themselves. Instead of moving as usual to give a clear view of your subject, deliberately find an angle that includes flowers that partially block your view. If you aren't careful, however, that's all the photo will look like—blobs of nothing blocking your view. Here's how to capture this soft, colorful effect: • Limit your depth of field. Shallow depth of field is critical for this effect. You want the flowers that are "in the way" to be out of focus. The next two tips especially help give you shallow focus. • Use a telephoto focal length. Telephotos of 100-200mm and more restrict focus up close. Many telephotos or zoom telephotos don't focus close enough. Use achromatic close-up lenses (available from Canon, Century Optics, Hoya and Nikon) or extension tubes (available from camera and lens manufacturers, as well as Kenko and Adorama). • Shoot wide open. Don't stop down your lens. Use the widest lens opening possible (small numbers such as ƒ/2.8, ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6). • Focus carefully. Be sure to find something that should be sharp, keep it clear of the blurry colors and focus so it's sharp. • Turn off your autofocus. If you use autofocus, you'll find it wants to focus on all the wrong things because you're shooting through objects that it wants to make sharp. • Be sure the close flowers have color. That is, be sure they're in a light that shows off their color. If the flowers you're shooting through are in the shade and the rest of your photo isn't, they will be dark, dull blobs. This is a great technique for cloudy days. It makes the flowers look soft and colorful.