Beginning Landscape Photography
What is the best way to start shooting landscape photography as a beginner?
Well I think it starts with a few basic principles, some of them that I picked up as an illustrator & artist, others that I learned along the way when learning basic photography skills.
A few interesting points that come to my mind are when I started out taking landscape photography with my DSLR camera:
What comes to mind is to make sure that all the elements and objects in my frame are in proper focus. My first step would be to make sure that I’m using a wide angle lens. Other factors to think about would be the layout for the objects from my viewfinder, from foreground, middle ground to the background, along with the positioning of the horizon, and having a unique perspective.
I’ve learned that the best focal point that will guarantee that everything in the frame is in proper focus is about a third a way into the picture. It’s here that I will find an object that I can set my viewfinder on and focus. Here I would want to create a shallow depth of field – I’m thinking something in the ballpark of f/16 to f/22.
Rule of Thirds
I feel that this is an important step in photography because from an artistic view, it helps to place emphasis on important objects in the photograph. The rule of thirds is basically a pair of vertical grid lines that divide the frame into a group of thirds vertically, and another pair of grid lines that run horizontally to divide the frame into a group of thirds.
The intersecting points where the lines meet vertically and horizontally create strong focal points and objects placed in these positions create an aesthetically visual composition. An image composed using the rule of thirds is always more visually pleasing and dramatic compared to one that is perfectly centered in its orientation.
When it comes to taking landscape photos, the two most common filters that photographers use are polarizing filters and Neutral Density filters.
Polarizing filters help to manage the amount of reflections and glare in the image. Another important factor that I personally favor is the way this filter darkens my skies for me, to a nice deep blue. This also helps to make my clouds stand out a lot better.
The second filter is called a Neutra Density Filter, which filters out a certain amount of light from entering the lens. This allows us to use a much slower shutter speed (since we need this for proper exposure), wider apertures, and much higher ISO levels without over exposure.
Right now, my primary filter that I use is the circular polarizer for improving my colors and overall look of my landscapes, as I’m still on a budget and want to start of with most basic techniques first before moving up to a ND filter.
A Good Tripod
I have to admit, this is something that I completely overlooked when first starting out in taking photographs outdoors. I figured that as long as I had the camera strapped around my neck and was on good ground, that I should be okay. But this is NOT the case anymore.
Think about it for a moment. First of all, a tripod it the best thing that I can use to stabilize the camera – and much better than me trying to hold my breath, or be as still as a statue when clicking that shutter release button.
I find that it also assists me in multiple shots. I may want to get several shots, with different adjustments, different filters, angles, and perspectives. This would be impossible to achieve holding the camera at eye level, lowering it to make an adjustment, and trying to recapture the exact same frame in the viewfinder over and over again.
And of course, I can also set the timer on the shutter so I can add myself to the image at any time.
A strong focal point helps to keep the entire image in the proper focus. This is something that I struggled with in the beginning. At one point in time, I thought that my focus should be on a particular subject or object in an image. But when you think about it – this would make perfect sense in a portrait, because the person or object in the foreground is the object that I need to focus on. Whether the background is blurry or not would be a matter of the effect that I’m going for – either deep or shallow depth of field.
So it makes sense that in landscape photography that I would want everything to be in proper focus. But where exactly do I place my focus on to achieve this?
I found that the best method is to find a focal point about a third of the way into the picture. It can be a tree, a rock, edge of the lake, but something in that’s in this general area. When I find this point, I press the shutter button halfway down to get my focus, then take the shot.
A good focal point is something that I’m still practicing and perfecting with a lot of trial and error. I will admit though, it’s at least good that I have discovered some fundamentals that can help me to go forward in finding the right area to focus on, and get the best depth of field that I’m looking for.
As an artist, I can understand and appreciate the importance of the horizon, and can also apply this concept when it comes to my landscape shots.
This is one of those elements that lines up perfectly with the Rule of Thirds for me. A horizon that is perfectly centered in an image just lacking visually. But by adjusting the horizon line, it can instantly change the composition.
By raising the horizon, we’re visually placing more emphasis on the bottom two-thirds of the image, which may contain most of the foreground area.
In contrast, by lowering the horizon, we can place more emphasis on the top two-thirds of the image, which may contain most of the background, like the mountains, forest or skies – making one of these subjects a strong focal point in an image.
Where to go from here?
Though there’s a lot to think about when it comes to landscape photography, I feel that it’s also important to keep myself open to trying different ideas with different settings, from an artistic perspective. I’m always looking to tell a particular story or convey a certain mood or idea in thinking about an image.
I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts on this.