great landscape, your initial reaction might
be to simply take a few shots right there and
then move on. Take your time! Instead of
rushing, really explore an area and find the
most beautiful and most interesting spot to
shoot from. This ties in with tip 1; photography can slow you down and help you enjoy
your trip more fully.
You won’t always be able to control the
time of day that you visit a particular place,
but if you can, you’ll get even better photos.
Like other subjects, landscapes usually look
their best when lit with early-morning or late-afternoon light, so scheduling your visit to
coincide with these times can help.
On a bright overcast day, however, shadows are more limited, and the landscape will
look good just about any time. Plus, your
photo’s colors will likely be more saturated,
which is another bonus. The downside is that
overcast skies can appear to be plain white in
a photo. To avoid this, try to limit the amount
of overcast sky you include in your image, and
focus more on the land itself. You can also use
foliage (or something similar) as an element
in the photo to cover a blank sky.
If your lens is able to take filters, consider
purchasing a polarizing filter for landscape
work—it can help increase the richness of
blue skies, and help defeat reflections in water.
4. Consider focal length
The term “focal length” refers to how
much area the lens takes in—it could be a wide
view of the world, a close-up, or somewhere in
between. When you’re first viewing a dramatic
landscape, the obvious solution may be to use
a wide-angle focal length like 24 mm (you
might think of it as being “zoomed out”). This
is a good choice in many cases; a wide-angle
lens takes in a huge sweep of the world, perfect
for capturing vivid natural landscapes and
large landmarks. Wide-angle shots can give the
viewer a real sense of being there, and allow
you to show a person or object within an environmental context.
But longer focal lengths— 100 mm, 200
mm—work well, too. (Think of it as “zoomed
in.”) In many cases, photographs are improved
by focusing on portions or details rather than
the entire landscape. My advice? Shoot a
combination. Perhaps start out with a wide
angle to show the whole scene and then zoom
in on interesting details. You can decide later
which works the best.
Whatever lens you use, you’ll probably
want everything in the landscape to be tack
sharp. One thing you can do to achieve this
is to use a high f-stop on your lens, such as
Try HDR. If your smartphone has a high
dynamic range (HDR) feature, give it a try with
landscapes. HDR is a fun special effect that
reduces harsh contrast, increases color and gives
your image a surreal look.
Think about composition. It’s easy to
make the mistake of shooting photos that feel cut
in half, with land in the lower half of the photo and
sky in the other half. To combat this, avoid placing
your horizon line right in the middle of your photo,
and instead try for two-thirds land and one-third
sky, or vice versa.
Use people for a sense of scale. Photos
of grand, sweeping vistas can sometimes fail to
deliver the same impact felt in person. This is
partly because it can be difficult to judge the size
and scope of natural scenes when viewing a two-dimensional image. One solution is to place people
somewhere within the shot to give the viewer a
sense of scale. Alternatively, you can use an interesting or relevant object in the foreground that will
give the viewer some scale or context.
Get to know your camera ahead of
time. Practice at home prior to your trip so that
you understand the controls and won’t waste time
or miss shots during your travels.
Have fun, and enjoy your landscape photos.—DJ
f/11 or f/16, which will give you a very wide
depth of field (lots of the scene in focus). A
tripod can also help keep your photos sharp
(avoiding handheld camera shake), although
there may be times and locations when using
one is impractical.
5. It’s your phone’s time to shine
Even though the camera abilities of
smartphones have come a long way in recent
years, there are still a number of reasons that
they don’t make ideal cameras: limited con-
trols, lesser-quality optics and poor low-light
performance. That said, if there is a situation
in which your smartphone can really shine as
a camera, landscapes are it. Here’s why:
• The built-in wide-angle lens of most
smartphones automatically lends itself to
making good landscape photos.
• Your smartphone’s camera is tiny, and it
has a rather small light sensor (regular cameras have bigger sensors). The side effect is
that your smartphone automatically has a
very large depth of field at all times, meaning
that just about everything in the shot will be
in sharp focus. This is usually just what you
want for landscape work.
• Smartphones are light—so they’re easy
to take on a hike or nature walk. C
Daniel Johnson is a professional pet photographer and the author of several animal and
photography books ( foxhillphoto.com).
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video with more landscape photo tips from Daniel Johnson.
(See page 15 for details.)
Sometimes placing an extra element in the
foreground of a landscape can add context
and help the photo’s composition. Here,
the boat is framed by the tree’s branches.
Landscapes can include water.
The grass, waves, sky and trees in
this picture all balance each other
very nicely and give a pleasing
feel. Notice how the shoreline and
clouds mirror each other.