Landscape Photography and What I've Learned

D-B-J

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I by no means am a professional at this, and still have a bunch to learn. But in the past few months I've found myself learning quite a lot about landscape photo's and landscape shots in general, and figured I should put them all in a thread. Consider this a "things I wish I knew when I started out" list.

1. A Good Tripod:
You'll need a good, strong, versatile tripod. I bought cheap, and regret it. Not that my tripod doesn't work well, it's just not strong enough to hold all my equipment. But I can move the center column all funky ways, which is a MAJOR help for getting down low and up close with foreground elements. Again, let me stress the versatile bit.

2. A Good Wide Angle that Accepts Filters
Definitely need a wide angle lens. Probably 90% of my landscape shots are done with a wide angle lens. I used the Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 on my D7000, and now use Nikon's 16-35 f4 VRII. I should add that aperture doesn't matter. I "downgraded" to the f4 from the f2.8, and haven't once noticed. Unless you do astrophotography, it doesn't matter.

3. Filters!!!!!
Yes. Filters are ridiculously important. Graduated neutral density, neutral density, polarizers, etc. are all necessary for landscapes. Often times the sky is too bright and you want to equalize the exposure. Or you want to blur the water so you use a strong ND. I won't go into filters here, but know that they are hugely important.

4. Wireless Remote
I first had a wired remote, but eventually upgraded to the wireless and wish I had gone that way from the beginning. It makes it easier to trigger the camera and not worry about any shake. Getting a good one with intervalometer/long exposure abilities also makes long exposure shots or time lapses very easy.

5. Use Mirror-Lock-Up!
It's all I use for landscape shots--whether it's at 1/250th or 5 minutes. It just makes me have to worry less about any possible shake degrading the image. I mean, it's on a tripod.. I have the extra few seconds to use the mirror up setting.

6. Don't be Afraid of HDR.
It's not your enemy. And sometimes, when the horizon line is real jagged and filters just aren't cutting it, HDR can be a savior. I also often use them for manually layering two photo's together, and not necessarily for a full HDR. It's nice to have options.

7. Focus Stacking
Wait... doesn't a wide angle and small aperture mean everything's in focus?! No.... not perfectly. I often have foreground elements within inches or a foot of my lens, and other than focusing super close (and ruining the rest of the background's focus) it'll be slightly soft. So shoot the same exposure twice: one focused on your foreground elements and one one your background elements. Sometimes you may even need three--it all depends.

8. Shoot in RAW!
It's simple. RAW gives you a lot more wiggle room when it comes to editing, and really enhances your ability to dial down highlights or bump up the shadows. Just do it, and don't ask questions.

9. Cover your Viewfinder.
I do it out of habit now for any image over 1 second. That way, you don't have to worry about light leakage. Which is ugly.

10. Keep it Level!
Regardless of where in your composition your horizon is, keep it level! With wide angles and non-level, you can get some funky distortion that can be difficult to correct. Either use the built-in level or buy a hotshoe level.

11. Don't Center your Horizon
Okay... well. You can. But it often leads to a dull composition. Make it high, make it low, whatever you need. Just don't center it all the time. Get creative!

12. Composition. Is. Everything.
Really put some time and thought into your compositions. Sometimes I'll take 30 minutes before I find a composition I'm happy with. Sometimes it takes 4 seconds. Just make sure you don't place the camera willy-nilly and hope for the best.

13. Include Foreground Elements!
Without these, landscape shots are often dull. Not all of them require it, but for most it will enhance the image greatly.

14. Be a Creative Editor
Layer images together. Focus stack. Use HDR's and a single edited photo. Add color to the sky and desaturate the foreground. Don't correct distortion. Vignette the crap out of it. Or don't. Just try and make it your own. I'm not a "edit-lightly" kind of guy--I like to make the final image my interpretation of the scene... not necessarily the scene as it were.

15. It's Not All About Wide Angles
Really. They're fun, but that's not all it's about. Sometimes I use a 200mm lens to highlight a small section of the scene in front of me. Or a 50. Whatever it may be, wide angle isn't the only way to capture a scene. This, for me, is still an idea I struggle with.

16. Long Exposures Don't Fix Everything
I first thought long exposures using a 10-stop ND fixed everything. Oh it's boring? I long exposure the crap out of it! Now it's cool! No. That's not how it works, and sometime long exposures are just cliche. Be mindful of that.

17. Invest in a Good Bag
Be it a backpack or shoulder bag, buy one that you can crack open and have all your gear available to you. I personally hike a lot with my gear, so I got a big hiking style backpack--once I get to a location I unzip it and let it all lay out so I can have access to all the essentials.

18. Be Mindful of Flares
Often with wide angles and landscapes you get sun-flares, and sometimes they can be strong. Be mindful of them, and use a shade (or your hand) if necessary to reduce them. Sometimes they add to an image, and sometimes they detract--it's all up to you.

19. Black and White is your Friend
Sure. Color is great. But sometimes black and white can take your good image to a whole new level. So give it a try.

20. Use OOF Foreground Elements to Frame your Subject
Especially in the land of waterfall photography, using out of focus foreground subjects (rocks, trees, etc) can really help center on your subject. Or maybe it can help you hide a distraction. Either way, it's not a bad idea to give it a shot.

21. Shoot the Scene from Many Angles
Sometimes what I think is interesting in the moment looks pretty lame when I get home and upload to the computer. So shoot a multitude of compositions. What you feel in the moment may not be the same when you review the full-res files.

22. Shallow Apertures are Fun Too!
They can help isolate just a part of the whole subject that you want the viewer to focus on. So it's not all about f22. Sometimes f2.8 is killer. Sometimes not.

23. Have Fun!
Duh! Landscape photography is meant to be relaxing. Bring a drink, maybe a seat, and just relax. Enjoy the beauty your camera is capturing. It's nice to have a photo, but nothing beats seeing and enjoying with your own two eyes.



I'm sure I'll come up with more, but that's all for now.



Cheers!
Jake


Edits to Original List:

#24. Buy a L-Bracket!
I still have yet to do this, but I wasted about 3 minutes on a recent shoot trying to change from horizontal to portrait orientation...

#25. Be Careful!
Where you put your loose gear. Like a shutter remote. I put it in my breast pocket, bent over, and let it slide into a tide-pool. Luckily it wasn't an expensive piece of gear.. but still.

#26. Get a Good Circular Polarizer!
My current one vignettes and isn't part of my Lee system and is a real PITA to work with. I will upgrade soon enough, but know a good CPOL is worth every penny.

#27. Bring a Headlamp!
Especially when shooting at dusk or night, these can be really really helpful. Mine has LED's--white for regular sight, and red for low-light astro stuff. Even a blinking red so people see me!

#28, (Courtesy of Jake337) Stay Safe and Bring Friends!
"If possible bring a friend or two. Spotters come in handy. Want to take a picture from the middle of a road/train tracks etc you have people watching your back. Slip on some rocks in that stream and creak your head open, you'll have someone there. Want to dangle your feet off of a skyscraper....

Well you get the point. No image is worth losing your life."
 
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pgriz

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Hmmm... Shouldn't this be in "articles"? Lots of good points there.
 
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D-B-J

D-B-J

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Hmmm... Shouldn't this be in "articles"? Lots of good points there.

Oh. Maybe it should. Whoops!


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pthrift

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Good advice to the unknowing. Thanks

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sscarmack

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Well, very nice write up. I've noticed a huge improvement in your work over the past months. Keep up the good work!
 
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D-B-J

D-B-J

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Well, very nice write up. I've noticed a huge improvement in your work over the past months. Keep up the good work!

Thank you! I've learned a lot and figured I should share what I've learned so far. Still have a lot more to learn, though.


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sscarmack

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Well, very nice write up. I've noticed a huge improvement in your work over the past months. Keep up the good work!

Thank you! I've learned a lot and figured I should share what I've learned so far. Still have a lot more to learn, though.


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We all do brotha, we all doooooo.

One of my favorite quotes.

“It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
― John Wooden
 
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D-B-J

D-B-J

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Well, very nice write up. I've noticed a huge improvement in your work over the past months. Keep up the good work!

Thank you! I've learned a lot and figured I should share what I've learned so far. Still have a lot more to learn, though.


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We all do brotha, we all doooooo.

One of my favorite quotes.

[h=1]“It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.”[/h]

Oooooh that's a good one. [emoji106]


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Derrel

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AN EXCELLENT WRITE-UP!

I'd consider promoting points 15 and 16 to Lieutenant Colonel.
 

DevC

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Great points.

Only thing, i've seen some great landscapes at 300mm. It can be done a thigher mm's and there are unique things that come out at this level, but one just must be wary.
 
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D-B-J

D-B-J

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AN EXCELLENT WRITE-UP!

I'd consider promoting points 15 and 16 to Lieutenant Colonel.

Thanks! Just trying to help others learn from my mistakes and such [emoji106]


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D-B-J

D-B-J

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Great points.

Only thing, i've seen some great landscapes at 300mm. It can be done a thigher mm's and there are unique things that come out at this level, but one just must be wary.

Oh absolutely.


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DevC

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Also to point, Filters need not be necessary, but 80% of the time are . Well if that didn't sound confusing, idk what does.



If any i think are extremely useful are polarizers. ND would be useful if you are always in super bright conditions. But if you are shooting at near dusk or dawn, this may not be necessary.
 
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D-B-J

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Also to point, Filters need not be necessary, but 80% of the time are . Well if that didn't sound confusing, idk what does.



If any i think are extremely useful are polarizers. ND would be useful if you are always in super bright conditions. But if you are shooting at near dusk or dawn, this may not be necessary.

I used the Lee little stopper last night at sunset for a 2-3 minute exposure. So for me, there's always a use for ND's [emoji5]️


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D-B-J

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Good advice to the unknowing. Thanks

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S4; probably while slacking off at work

You're welcome!


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