Photographer and Sigma Professional User Lea Tippett has put together some excellent information for budding landscape artists. Lea’s eye, inspired by Britain’s stunning coastlines, has driven him to master the craft with Sigma’s unique Foveon technology, and the many of the techniques he’s shared here apply to photography with most digital and analogue systems.
It’s important to have a good knowledge of the location that you intend photographing so study the location for the weather, tides, sunrise, and sunset. There is nothing worse than planning an evening of landscape photography and then driving for an hour or two only to find that it’s raining or the tide is too far in to be able to take that special image that you had in your mind’s eye. Nowadays it’s so much easier to get up-to-date information from the internet and mobile phone apps which have become invaluable to Landscape Photographers.
Here’s a few mobile apps that I recommend for smartphone users.
- TPE. (The Photographers Ephemeris) – for iOS, Android and Desktop
- Met Office.
- Anytide. (For iOS)
- Google Earth.
Cleaning and Charging.
Keeping your cameras, lenses and filters clean is a must to ensure that you can record the sharpest and cleanest images possible. Rigorously maintaining your equipment in this way will also help prevent ugly dust spots and marks within your images that require further work to remove using editing software.
Filters such as Neutral Density graduated filters need to have special attention paid to them when cleaning as they are easily scratched. I would recommend you source a good quality cleaning cloth and solution to use with the filters.
Always remember to charge your batteries including spare sets that you intend to take with you. This seems simple advice but can potentially save you a wasted journey. As well as batteries it is equally important not to forget your memory cards that should be formatted prior to use.
To help prevent the chances of soft or blurred images I always recommend the use of a sturdy tripod. The use of a tripod is especially important if you are shooting in low light where a longer exposure time is required and any kind of movement to the lens or camera can result in a soft image.
There are other aids that can help keep your images sharp. The use of a cable release to remotely trigger the cameras shutter can help prevent any camera vibration. If you do not own a cable release you can always set your cameras timer function to operate which will give you a similar result but without the control of when to actuate the shutter.
The final camera function which can help prevent any camera shake is to set your camera to ”Mirror up”” if your camera has this facility. This function locks the mirror up in position so that when the cameras shutter is operated there is no mirror movement that reduces any chance of movement within the camera.
Use a Level.
The use of a level can be important when photographing Seascapes and horizons. I always fit a hot shoe mounted spirit level to my camera to indicate if I have the camera set level with the horizon. This can be very noticeable if an image is out of level and although it can be rectified later on the computer at home it’s far easier to get it right ”first time in camera”.
Balance with Filters.
Use filters such as neutral density, ND graduated, and polarizing filters to help balance and control contrast in a scene.
Graduated filters can prevent highlight areas such as bright skies from ”blowing out” which can be a problem when photographing sun lit skies. Neutral density graduated filters are excellent at rendering cloud and pulling out cloud detail that would normally be lost.
A polarizing filter will help eliminate glare, reduce reflections and enhance saturation.
Probably the single most important part of any Landscape is the composition. Balancing the scene and making the viewer’s eye’s work around the photograph is key.
The rule of thirds is a tried and tested method of balancing a composition by organizing elements in the frame.
Check if your camera has a grid display on the LCD or viewfinder of to help frame the scene. I often take a piece of mount board cut to a ratio of 3×2 with a similar ratio aperture cut inside. I use this board to help me visualize and compose my scene before taking the photograph. With a landscape composition, place the horizon on one of the lines of thirds, so that there is two-thirds land and one-third sky. Also look for foreground interest that can cross one of the third lines in a vertical direction as this will help balance the scene.
Sometimes the rule of thirds can be broken as a composition can be stronger without adopting the rule.
The rule of thirds is only a guide.
Use foreground interest to maximize impact. This is particularly useful when photographing with wide-angle lenses. Adding foreground subjects can give better balance to a composition and helps to draw the viewer’s eyes into the photo.
Lead-in lines can give depth and scale to a photograph. Your eyes are instantly drawn into the photograph to a main focal point. Look around the location for objects that will give you a lead-inline such as Rocks, Rivers, Hedges, Walls or Paths. A good lead-in line can transform a weak photograph and instantly give the photograph a strong composition.
Expose to the right.
Exposing more to the right side of your cameras histogram will help ensure that your camera records as much detail as possible especially in the shadow areas with the image. However it is crucial not to overexpose whilst using this method so setting the cameras highlight warning function will help to warn you if the highlights in your recorded image are ”blown out” or not. This guideline may not apply to some of the latest bayer-sensor cameras, which sacrifice highlight latitude for greater shadow detail – become familiar with your camera’s capability.
Focus and sharpness.
Look at the composition that you want to photograph and set the camera and lens to focus one third of the way into the scene. I nearly always focus manually rather than using the cameras manual focus as I find this easier in low light conditions. Choose a small aperture around f11-f16 to ensure a good amount of sharpness and avoid diffraction.
If your camera has a live view facility check the focus using live view to ensure you have good sharpness.
Take a photograph and then check the preview on the LCD by zooming in to ensure the image is sharp.