Landscape photography is a popular genre because it is easy to get into and seems like nothing but fun. However, landscape photography can quickly start to feel like its taking the fun out of your outdoor excursions and replacing it with lots of hard work. Here are some useful lessons to help you put the fun back in your photography.
Lesson 1: Explore places thoroughly
One of the biggest misses a photographer can have is not fully exploring the places they intend to photograph. Some photographers tend to adopt a “get in, get the shot, and get out” mentality. Exploration is important for great landscape photography, and it’s also one of the more enjoyable things about doing landscape photography. If you’re new to being outdoors it might be something to think about before attempting, as being in the wilderness has many dangers, but there are more aspects to exploration than simply wandering around in the woods for hours on end.
Lesson 2: Use a zoom lens when the going gets rough
It’s hard to argue in favor of prime lenses for landscape photography, especially when going on long hikes. I can’t imagine taking a full set of primes up a mountain for example. Unless you have the stamina of a professional tennis player, you’re going to find that using a zoom is a lot easier than carrying around primes and taking the time to carefully switch lenses, potentially in adverse conditions. Can you imagine switching lenses in the middle of a rain storm? If you just have to have a prime with you, I would only take one prime in a focal length you know best. For landscapes, a prime 24mm or 28mm is highly flexible and most of the latest generation of primes can easily out resolve even ultra-high resolution camera bodies.
Lesson 3: Bring a tripod
Most modern photographers don’t use tripods because they’re not nearly as necessary as they once were. Modern zooms are sharp even at the brightest apertures and many modern cameras and lenses have stabilization. All this makes the tripod seem almost irrelevant. But there are still good reasons for the tripod. For one, a tripod is still more sharp than a stabilized shot 90% of the time. Many photos, especially in low light, can be improved substantially by using a tripod. If it’s a once in a lifetime trip, why not make sure you get awesome pictures instead of *hoping* you get the pictures?
The noise in the fog show above could have been avoided in this image by using a tripod. The camera I was using did not have stabilization so I was forced to use a higher than ideal shutter speed well after sunset.
Lesson 4: Don’t forget your filters
Do you have a CPL and ND filter ready to go? Not using a filter for landscape photography is a big mistake. Photographers have been using filters on their lenses for a hundred years. Even black and white film photographers often used filters to add impact to their images. How hard is it to put a couple filters in your pocket?
Filters can help you control how an image turns out in ways that editing alone is incapable of reproducing.
Lesson 5: Look at the clouds
How often are you observing the sky when taking landscape photos? Are you ignoring it entirely as many people do? The best photographers always looks for patterns in land and sky.
Lesson 6: Don’t take your camera once in awhile
It might hard to do for some photographers, but its always a good idea in any profession to put work aside and just enjoy a great day! As much as you might think photography is NOT work, it IS work. Sometimes you have to take a break no matter how much it pains you to look at a great landscape and not take a picture of it.
Landscape photography requires a mix of pragmatism and idealism. Some photographers will struggle with always brining too much gear, and some will struggle with being too minimalist. Somewhere in the middle is probably best. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take a minute once in awhile, close your eyes, and just experience nature. Having an appreciation for what you’re photographing in any genre always helps.