Since this is a two-part series on grand landscape photography, be sure to visit last week’s Tip Of The Week to read more about the topic. The featured topics were Early and Late Light, Storm Light, Feel The Lure and Go on a Nature Photo Tour. This week, I continue with more tips for taking your landscape photography to the next level.
Lenses: The lens de jour for landscapes is a wide angle. That being said, there are many places I’ve photographed where the “picture in the picture” mandates the use of a telephoto. With this in mind, I always carry a longer lens as I never know when I’ll want to grab a slice of the intimate landscape. It may even produce a stronger image. The photo of the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park was made with a telephoto lens zoomed to a long setting. While the overall wide-angle view depicted the entire amphitheater, the more intimate slice shows the erosion and colors of the rocks in a more pronounced way. What it comes down to is making sure you exhaust all possibilities before you leave a location. Use every lens in your arsenal before you move to the next location. Use a wide angle to include and a telephoto to exclude.
Research Before You Go: A common misconception amongst the uneducated is when they see an image of a given location, they assume all they need to do is go to that spot and they’ll capture the same image. They don’t realize that time of year, time of day, cloud conditions and atmospherics all impact the look of the photo. Some subjects are best shot in winter. Others are best made in summer. It depends where in the sky the sun resides. In winter, a mountain may be sidelit while in the summer, the light may strike the front or back. If it’s a location where flowers bloom, when does that occur? If it’s fall color dependent, when is peak foliage? If you want the shot, you better know the answers to these questions.
Composition—Lines and Balance: I’ll always tell you the most important photographic ingredient is the light, but composition comes in at a close second. The elements within the scene should show balance and simplicity. Use what’s in the environment to enhance the final outcome. Use a leading line of a river or creek. Try getting low to include a foreground cluster of pristine flowers. Based on what you incorporate, arrange the elements to create balance. Be sure there are important compositional entities at the top, bottom, right and left to achieve balance. Without balance, one part of the photo will be more heavily weighted. The viewer’s eye will be drawn to the heavier part and the rest will be treated without importance. Be sure to assemble all parts so no one section of the photo is neglected.
Know Your Gear: The biggest lens, the latest camera, the best filters and snazziest new camera bag don’t mean a thing unless you know how to work with them and take advantage of all their features. They won’t net you better images just because they're the biggest, best or most expensive. Read your camera manual and become familiar with your gear before you go on a major shoot. Develop a system to know where everything goes so you don’t fumble around looking for a filter, lens cap, flash, etc. When you’re chasing light, you don’t want to miss it looking for equipment buried somewhere in that new camera bag. Know what to do if you have to switch gears when a wildlife subject enters the scene and you want to feature it in the photo. The newest and latest gear doesn’t know what subject you’re photographing or how to make automatic adjustments based on what you photograph. I offer you this—if you buy an upscale computer to do word processing, will it make you a better writer?
The Intimate Landscape: Your eyes point forward and as a result, many photographers only look in that direction. While this is all well and good, don’t neglect to look to your left, right and especially down at your feet. You’ll miss many a photographic opportunity if you don’t. The intimate landscape is that portion of the whole that often goes unnoticed. It’s the small piece that houses a lot of potential. It could be a small flower growing from a stone, a single autumn leaf, a lichen pattern on a rock, a trickling cascade in a river or numerous other things. Learn to see beyond the obvious. You’ll come home with the scenic gems that may equal the impact of the grand scenic.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.