DIY Travel Photographer: Landscapes

Location: Some place naturally scenic

Have you ever arrived at your destination only to find yourself in front of an incredible natural landscape that put you in complete awe of the world? Whether it be a forest of green trees, a white sand beach with clear turquoise waters or a majestic chain of mountains, it’s all too common for people to walk away with a photograph that didn’t do the landscape any justice. Unfortunately a beautiful scenery doesn’t always translate into a beautiful photograph, because there are a lot of think that go in to capturing a spectacular view.

Last week I talked about how using your camera phone on vacation is one of the easiest forms of travel photography there is, so this week we’ll get a bit more technical and talk about one form of photography that even I’m still learning about; landscape photography. Luckily with some patience, practice and these 10 Landscape photography tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next Adam Ansell.

Hong Kong City meets Nature

1. Keep the landscape in focus

Choose a small Aperture setting on your camera to increase the depth of field in your shot to keep the picture in sharp focus. An aperture of f/10 to f/22 will give you the maximum depth of field. The camera’s manual autofocus (AF) point selection will also assist you in choosing your focus point, and it’s advisable to focus one third in to the scene to keep the foreground and horizon in focus.

2. Keep the camera still

Using a long shutter speed with the small aperture setting means your image will be affected by even the slightest movement. The best way to avoid this is to use a tripod and a remote shutter release, and you can also use the mirror lock up setting to prevent the internal mirror from moving.

3. Research your location

Go on to online forums, read books and magazines, and if you can, physically go out to the location and scout it yourself. All this information will help you figure out how you want to create your image, so you’ll know where the best vantage points are and maximize the time you have at your location.

4. Look at it from a different point of view

Following on from tip #3, if you are already familiar with your location, look for a different point of view to shoot your landscape from. Look for any areas that may allow you to take a more unique shot of the landscape; for example, look for new angles, hidden paths and higher areas… or even just look up!

Daisetsuzan National Park's ropeway at sunset

5. Have a clear focal point

Landscape photography needs a strong focal point in order to hold a viewers interest. Nature can provide many options including rock formations, animals or an interesting looking trees; and don’t over look the man made structures such as buildings or anything else that will draw the viewer’s attention in to the landscape.

6. Lead the viewer’s eye with leading lines

In addition to the previous point, leading lines can also create interest by providing a ‘roadmap’ for the viewer to follow. The use of ‘lines’ help to create depth and scale, as well as visible patterns which make for an interesting image. Leading lines in a landscape can include the neat rows of lavender in a field, a cluster of trees spanning from foreground to background, or the formation of clouds in the sky.

7. Capture natural movement with motion blur

Nature rarely stands still; the wind blows, the water flows and well, you get the picture! So why not reflect this in your landscape photography? First of all, choose the Shutter Speed Priority mode setting on your camera, as you’ll need a very slow shutter speed and choose a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second then slow it down until you get the desired amount of motion blur. Next set your ISO to a low setting, between 200 and 400 ISO, and choose a single shot auto focus mode on your camera so that you don’t have to keep recomposing your shot. And practice, practice, practice!

40 foot falls creek in NSW

8. Golden hour is called golden hour for a reason

This is the best time to take a landscape photograph as it’ll give you beautiful skies and soft amber lighting and interesting contrasts and shadows; and usually lasts for an hour before sunrise and after sunset. Make sure you avoid overcast or cloudy days, as you want to have a clear sky or a small number of small clouds to catch the lights, so keep an eye on the weather and be ready to head out quick smart!

9. Work with the weather, not against it

You may not have much time in your destination when you’re traveling, so sometimes you just have to work with what nature throws at you. Wild weather can also add mood and atmosphere to the landscape; think of dark and dramatic clouds, lightening trails or the after affects of hail. You can capture the same landscape in any season or weather and you’ll get a different photograph each time.

South Dakota's Badlands National Park

10. Useful gear for landscape photography

I’ve already mentioned that a tripod and remote shutter release will be hugely beneficial in capturing in focus landscape photographs, so in addition to those two things your best gear investment will be in your lens. Landscape photography is a specialized field, and there are so many different lenses on the market that it can be daunting to buy one. However, there are two main types of lenses that you should be considering for your landscape photography kit:

Wide Lens: Useful for separation and creation of space around your subject (or focal point in your landscape). A wide lens will also place an emphasis on the foreground of your photograph.

Telephoto Lens: Used for compression of a subject, and will do the opposite to what a wide lens will do; i.e. remove the space around your subject and place the emphasis on the background of your photograph.

You could also invest in a filter such as a graduated neutral density or a polarizing filter, however these are not absolutely necessary unless you are seriously getting in to landscape photography.

Siu On taking a Niseko landscape

Disclaimer: As I mentioned last week, this is an article I had written and posted on my old photography blog back in late 2014. Though it is two years old, I find that it’s still very much current, and useful with the information that I wrote about. Landscape photography is one of my weaknesses, and I find I still refer to this article when I purposely head out to take landscapes. However, like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it; and likewise with photography so make sure you give this a read and head out today to take some amazing landscape photographs! 

Don’t forget to let me know if you use any of my tips over on our Facebook page, tag us in your images on Instagram, or on our Twitter account.

Happy snapping!

Jelena and Siu On

All photographs by Jelena Stipanicev.