new to landscape...help!!

phtoamatt

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Hi-

I am actually an amateur meteorologist, so I use a camera to help take pictures of clouds and other stuff (haze, mist, sky conditions)..but in the process, I have simulatenously taken in interest in general landscape photography. I have bought a book on it, and read up on it in some other at the bookstore. I am having difficulty understanding, film aperture, ISO speed, lens diameter etc...not so much in their definitions but what combo. to use to get best results. I would be taking photos under a variaty of conditions. I live about 1/4 mile south of the San Francisco city limit, and a state park San Bruno Mountain begins just behind me across the street (the "front" of my house points directly into SF with a very good view). I'm at a moderately high elevation at my house, but a 10-15 walk into the park gives me an extra 100-150 foot altitude boost to 800-850 feet above sea level, without obstruction from trees or rooftops. According to books I've browsed/read through the best time for photos in around sunset/sunrise. The day before yesterday, (it's 2:30 AM Jan 25 so this was in the afternoon of the 23rd, sky was absolutely the clearest I've seen (maybe once a year cycle). Visibility was 30+ miles. There are several areas I'd be shooting for. One is downtown SF (sea level to 100 ft altitude) distance about 6 miles(10 km), the other twin peaks/mt davidson distance about (3-4 miles about 5-6km) depending where I'm taking the photo both of which are approx. 100 ft (33 m) higher than where I take the shots, another is mt. tamalpais distance approx 18 miles/29 km at 2,600 foot elevation (800+ meters), mt diablo 3,800 ft (1000+ meters) at 31 miles/50 km. So these are landscape long distance shots. At my disposal, I have an old olympus film camera w/ 34mm lens (not 35), autofocus, DX???, f/4 aperture, 1/125 shutter speed. I'm probably going to upgrade (I've seen film SLR's for around $200), but I am stuck with this for now. Any advice on film ISO to use, what time of day to shoot. Weather has to factored in...the winter in SF is either very clear (temp. around 55 afternoon, 40-45 morning), or rainy (temp 55-60 afternoon around 50 morning/dusk). Clear days bring low humidities (I recorded 20-25% relative humidity at 55 degrees....at that temp., it's probably as dry as summer in Las Vegas which is good because higher humidity makes the sky murkier. Lighting is OK we're at 37.5-38 N around the same lat. as southern kansas, missouri, middle kentucky, and Richmond Virgina sunrise about 7:20 am sunset around 5:25PM. In rain, visibility will drop to 1-3 miles (usually light-to-moderate rain..none of that midwest T-storms or hurricanes in the south east.. but SF's renowned fog is extremely common (probability 40-60% of days) in July and August, 2000 feet thick, reducing visibility to around 175-300 feet commonly where I live....about the same as London's "pea-soup" thick fog. Given this info, distances/visibility and camera info, what should I do? Everything is fixed on this camera so all I can do is change position, pick time of day for shot, and pick ISO film. I appreciate any help!

Thank You
 

Sw1tchFX

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If you're really getting serious about landscape photography, skip SLR's. You should be using 4x5 large format at minimum. Large format camera's really aren't that complicated to use, they're simpler than any modern SLR by a longshot. It's just that they're cumbersome in size and weight to carry, but oh boy is it worth it for the sheer quality of the prints. Large format is also a good way to learn about ISO's, aperture, shutter speed, all that because it's so simple. View cameras are great because you can tilt and shift both the back and the lens and therefore correct things such as converging verticals or change your plane of focus among other things. If you buy a Polaroid back with some Polaroid film, you can preview and fine tune your exposure for your other, higher quality film.
 

Big Mike

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Welcome to the forum.

While medium and large format film will certainly be able to give you stunning results, I don't think it's as convientient as 35mm film. I guess it deepnds how much you want to spend.

For landscape photography...I would suggest a tripod, a remote release and a circular polarizer filter. Using a tripod and remote will minimize any movement which will help to maximize the sharpness of your photos. Also, the use of a tripod will often force you to think carefully about your composition.

For landscapes, you usually want to maximize your Depth of Field (DOF)...especially when you have something in the foreground to compliment the background. To do that, you will want to use a small aperture (high F number)...but that will mean that you will probably need a long shutter speed...which will require a tripod. If there is nothing in the foreground, then I'd suggest using an aperture of F8, which is often where lenses are at their sharpest.

A polarizer is a filter that I use whenever I'm outdoors. I highly recommend getting one.

As for film...I would suggest a low ISO film. Low ISO film has less (smaller) grain which makes for nice clean, crisp photos. Some films are better suited to landscapes and some are better suited for people. For landscapes, you usually want a high saturation.

You have the choice of regular 'color negative' (print) film...or you could use 'slide' (positive) film. Slide film is/was the choice of landscape photographers because of it's great color and sharpness etc. However, slide film has less exposure latitude, so you have to be more accurate with your exposure. Fuji Velvia is the slide film that I see recommended most for landscape photography. It has a very high color saturation. Slide film is also harder to get developed because it can't be done at the corner drug store, like negative film can.
 

abraxas

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What is the end result/usage you're looking to produce?
 
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phtoamatt

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Well,

I've been doing more research and incorporating your suggestions, and I've come to the conclusion that I should upgrade my camera. I do understand that low ISO films produce less grainy contrast, but require a long exposure time. Since digitals are so popular nowadays, and since I still perfer film (never tried a digital), I would like to get a good quality 35mm camera. Since the current camera is 10 or more years old, and is just a simple ordinary camera (I think point and shoot???) I can't change settings. Looking at the internet I've found Cannon Rebel K-2 28-90 35mm camera ranging from 180-200$ which is not too bad even though I'm a college student. I have some specs. on it:

-camera type: SLR
-film type: 35 mm
-focus type: auto or manual
-focus lock: yes
-number of focusing points: 7
interchang. lenses: yes

ISO range on automatic setting: ISO 25-5000
frames/sec: 1.5
autoexposure: yes
light metering mode: evaluative/partial/center weighted

shutter speed: 30-1/2000s
max flash sync speed: 1/90s
automatic shooting mode: fully auto/landscape/macro/night/sports/portrait

eye relief: 18.5 mm
viewfinder coverage: 90%
viewfinder magnification: 0.7X

dimensions: 3.5 in high/5.1 wide/2.5 deep
weight: 12 oz (so about 3/4 pound)

I recognize the need for a tripod, so for now I've tried to stabilize the camera the best I can .....firmly against a wall indoors, or a rock outdoors. I don't know if you'd recommend this type of camera for me, but it has variable adjustments, and can add interchangeable lenses (I think polarizer and neutral density filters are both recommended). An important point, what is the point of my photos. Well, it depends! Like I said this is currently mostly done for meteorological stuff but later general landscape shoots (a lone mountain, a sunset) would be interesting. Weatherwise, cloud formations (shape+base height+alitutude) which can change quickly (5-15 minutes) would be photogrpahed to help me get a clear view of the sky at a certain time which I would log down (i.e photo number 5 taken 4:50 PM...broken low clouds, with some scattered high clouds dissipating). This will also be useful for visibility (few days ago 30+ miles, today 3-4 miles....and when foggy often less than 400 feet) all of these affect lighting of course and wind has to be taken into consideration...for example, fog in most of the US is radiation (ground fog), valley, or upslope fog in mountains. For valley and radiation fog, winds tend to be calm. On the California coast it's a different stroy.....wind offshore blows at 10-15 mph over somewhat warm waters, but hits a cold current of water near the coast and cools the moisture ladden air into condensation which is the fog. As a result the fog "rolls in" pushed by 10-15 mph winds (15 mph in higher elevations 600-1000 feet relative to sea level just 3 miles west). That might be a problem since the fog is "moving" so I'd need a higher shutter speed to freeze it, but graininess would be probably better to emphasize the dullness and "unclear" somber tone that it creates. So the main point is multiple conditions, so I need alot of versatility! I've written down your suggestions, and since there's only a limited amount+type of camera I could find, SLR/compact/point-shoot, I don't mind forking out an extra 50-100$ for a better quality camera. The camera above rated from 3.5-4.5/5 from users so I asume that's pretty good. I'm starting out, moderately serious but don't expect to be fully involved in photography for some time until I know what the hell I'm doing..Still, I was very impressed by the beauty of phtographs and how much distinctiveness (from realistic, to bright/somber mood settings, to surreal etc..) cameras are capable of producing. I will be practicing at least 2X a week for the time being, and good practice in conjuction w/ tutorials and helpful insights like yours should hopefully refine photographing skills.
 

JTHphoto

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my first camera was a Rebel, although it was an older model and had a few design flaws imo (no cable release :confused: ). For the price i think that's a great way to go.

I would just reiterate big_mike's reccommendations for a tripod and circular polarizing filter. i'm not sure how much the cable releases are for the Rebels, but you can always use the timer until you decide to get one. A tripod is essential for landscape photography imo. Plus is opens up other shots that you couldn't take otherwise... lightning, meteor showers, aurora borealis, and other dark, dramatic weather events...
 

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