Monday, October 19, 2009

Tips on Landscape Photography

Green Lake, British Columbia

Landscape photography can be a challenge, because there is more to a good landscape photo than just pointing the camera at a scene and taking a picture. I say that from experience, because I used to do that, and was always disappointed that the image did not line up with what I had seen. Most of the mistakes made when taking a landscape photo are easily avoidable, while others may not be. There are a few important aspects of a good landscape photo that you might want to consider before taking a shot, light, your primary subject and maybe a secondary subject. Now we will take some time to look at some of the biggest mistakes that people taking landscape photos can make, and how to get past them.

One of the biggest mistakes that people taking landscape photos make is taking photos in the middle of the day, in bright sunny conditions. Now shooting in ideal conditions may not always be possible, such as if you are on a guided tour, or you are on a hike with friends, but there are some ways to get better results even in the worst conditions. Look where the light is coming from, when it is right overhead at mid-day, the best thing to do is take photos of subjects in shaded areas, simply because details wont be lost due to a lack of contrast. It is the lack of contrast that makes photos on bright sunny days seem flat and uninteresting. If you have a camera with shadow and highlight protection, such as Nikon Active D-Lighting, then that feature may come in handy. Active D-Lighting extends the dynamic range (the amount of detail in shadows and highlights) and allows the camera to capture more detail than usual in some conditions. Experimentation is a good idea, try different things, and see what works, as the worst thing to do is take one photo and hope for the best.

Another mistake often made is to focus on the most distant object, such as a hill or mountain in the background. One of the most important aspects of a landscape photo is the primary subject within the scene. What object(s) in the area you want to photograph capture your eye the most? When you have figured that out, focus on that. If you have a digital SLR, this is even more important to focus on the most interesting part of the scene, as there is a narrower depth of field compared to a compact digital camera. In many cases it is a good idea to focus on something interesting in the foreground, because you don't really want the foreground to be out of focus in a landscape photo. So look for interesting rock formations, as they are often very eye catching, or maybe there is an interesting ground of trees in the foreground or mid-range of the area you are looking at. Remember, make the area you focus on is going to be the area of interest in the image.

For those who like to take more control over their photos, you may want to shoot in aperture priority or manual mode, as the aperture will allow you to better control how much of the scene is best in focus. You also may not want some things in the image in focus, so using the aperture you can limit or extend the in focus area. If you use manual mode, or any other mode for that matter, you may want to change to spot metering, because the area you meter will have a strong impact on how the landscape is exposed. If you consider the image I used in this post, I metered off the sky, which as a result lead to the foreground being very dark, which was intentional, as the sky was the area of the scene that I found most interesting. This may also lead you to manually focus, so that you can separate your metering from the area of focus.