You’ve driven out into the countryside, brought your camera and are planning on taking stunning shots of the nearby farmlands. But when you set up to shoot it’s overcast, thunderclouds are looming in the distance and you forgot to bring lunch. Hungry, and soon to be wet, you point your camera at the nearest field and start snapping pictures. “Why not take a few pics since I’m here anyway?” you think to yourself as the wind starts blowing and you realise that the rain will start any moment.
When you get home there is not a single picture that you are happy with, which is not surprising as none of the factors that makes a great landscape photo was in place. The pictures are flat, there is no sense of depth and the colours are faded and uninspiring. On top of that, all the pictures are underexposed, as you completely forgot to compensate for the gloomy light.
So, planning for the next shoot, what should be taken into account? What mistakes can you learn from to create a stunning masterpiece?
Master the basics
As for any field of photography mastering the technical aspects of both camera and techniques is essential. Unless you want to spend several days poring over the various materials found online, it’s highly recommended to attend photography courses to get instructions from someone who has already mastered the craft.
When travelling to a location (often remote) planning as much as possible before hand will set you up for success.
Check the weather forecast for favourable weather, aim for sunny days to catch those golden rays in the morning or evening; shadows can give interesting contrast to otherwise plain photos. Plan your gear, tripod, extra memory cards and batteries, different lenses etc, etc. Unless you are hiking to your location, bring as much gear as you can to be ready for any situation. Be prepared to stay out a few hours, and bring everything you need to do so. When going out early you may need warmer clothing, even in the summer the mornings can be quite chilly.
Use a tripod
To maximise sharpness of the image, always use a tripod (or monopod if weight is an issue). Even if image stabilisation is great in newer cameras, a tripod will always make sure that the images you take are as sharp as they can be.
Don’t forget composition
It’s easy to see a great vista and snap a picture of it, but a great landscape photo requires something more. Realise that a photo can lack the 3D feel we have when looking without eyes, so always make sure that the image features something interesting. It can be a house, a road leading the eyes into the picture, a tree, animals or a myriad of other details that makes the photo feel alive.
Consider framing the photo in such a way that the sky only takes up a maximum of a third of the photo, and always have a foreground, middle ground and background to get that feeling of depth. A graduated neutral density filter is highly recommended to avoid blown out skies.