I'm about to go on another trip. On Monday I leave for Stockholm, Sweden. The good thing about having photography as a hobby is that even if you're going on a trip for work, you can usually either get up early or stay up later and take some really great photos, before or after you do your work. Well, this trip is no different. In fact, because of the schedule, I should even have one or two free days to take photos in this beautiful country.
If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know I love taking portraits and I really love taking landscape shots. So for this trip, I was actually considering not even bringing a camera. My wife is going to be traveling for work as well next week, and has asked to take my travel camera with her. Of course, I said yes... I'm no dummy. But that meant if I was going to take a camera, I was going to have to travel with my Canon 5D which I usually don't take on work trips. It's big and has lots of accessories, so it means unless I'm checking a bag, I usually don't have the flexibility to bring my big camera with all its gear. So what am I going to do for this trip... take my Canon! I'm no dummy. Weren't you listening? I JUST SAID THAT! I'm not going to pass up an opportunity to shoot photos in Sweden, so it's coming with me and I plan to take a bunch of landscape shots. Well, that got me thinking. Maybe i should post some of my landscape tips in this week's blog, to get me ready and put me in the mood. So here it goes:
Light is quite simply, everything and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING! Just to be clear, let me explain what I mean. Light is everything! Without good light, an image can appear flat and lifeless. Most landscape photographers are up at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise and while you may not wish to do this every day while you're traveling, you could be missing out on one of the most magical times of day when the light is soft and it’s most flattering. The golden hour, which occurs in the late afternoon and early evening is also another fantastic time. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day when the light is harsh and contrast is high, shadows will be very dark and your camera will struggle to meter effectively. It may well be that you have to go back several times to a location before you get the image you want as the conditions are not quite right. While on my trip, I will plan on getting up before everybody to ensure I get some good light. I'll probably walk around by myself before dinner too. The difference in this light is remarkable and will certainly be one of the most noticeable things you can do to improve your landscape photos.
A good sky can really make an image. There is nothing worse than a dull grey or bland blue sky lacking in interest. Clouds play an important part also in casting shadows on the landscape before you, adding form and dimension. If you have a great sky then let it have its say! Try devoting two thirds of the image to the sky.
The way we compose our image, or in other words, position the various elements within the frame is vitally important. There are various guidelines which can prove useful. The ‘rule of thirds’ is one, whereby imaginary lines are drawn, dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Important elements of your composition are then placed where these lines intersect. Quite often the horizon is positioned along the bottom third. However, rules are also there to be broken, so don’t be afraid to try placing your main subject in the centre of the frame sometimes – this often works best with very simple compositions. I have written numerous blog posts on this topic, so if you're looking for more info, take a look and some of the previous entires.
Including some foreground interest will help to achieve a more balanced composition, as well as add depth and help draw our eyes into the scene. Lead in lines, such as a path, wall or river can be used to achieve the same effect.
USE A TRIPOD
This is one of the easiest tips because there is less to learn and only one new thing to buy... A tripod! This one simple and relatively inexpensive item can do wonders for your photography.
Where possible try to us a tripod. Not only does it minimise camera shake and allow long exposures it also really helps with composition. By slowing you down, and allowing you to evaluate your image before you press the shutter you take more time and care with your photography. There are many lightweight, compact tripods on the market now which can be carried easily in land luggage but if you can’t take a tripod on vacation or find yourself in a place where it is not possible to use one then try resting your camera on a wall, your car roof, anything that will give support. I am checking a bag on my trip just so I can make sure I can take my tripod with me. It's too big to fit in my camera bag, but can easily fit in my checked luggage, so that's what I'm doing. I never and I mean never travel and take landscape shots without my tripod, or something to stabilize the camera.
So those are just a few of my favorite tips for taking landscape photos. The most important thing is to go out there and do it, because that's the most fun and by far the easiest way to learn. If you have any questions, let me know... If not, go out, have fun, take lots of pictures and if you do nothing else, go out and buy yourself a tripod. You'll thank me later.