Landscape photography is a popular genre because it is easy to get into and seems like nothing but fun. However, landscape photography can quickly start to feel like its taking the fun out of your outdoor excursions and replacing it with lots of hard work. Here are some useful lessons to help you put the fun back in your photography.
Lesson 1: Explore nature
One of the biggest misses a photographer can have is not fully exploring the lands. Don’t just go after all the famous sites, there are great pictures everywhere in nature. One trick is to look for a scenic highway or drive that has lots of outlooks along the road to stop and take a picture.
Lesson 2: Use a zoom lens when the going gets rough
It’s hard to argue in favor of prime lenses for landscape photography, especially when going on long hikes. I can’t imagine taking a full set of primes up a mountain for example. Unless you have the stamina of a professional tennis player, you’re going to find that using a zoom is a lot easier than carrying around primes and taking the time to carefully switch lenses, potentially in adverse conditions. Can you imagine switching lenses in the middle of a rain storm? If you just have to have a prime with you, I would only take one prime in a focal length you know best. For landscapes a prime 24mm or 28mm is easy to frame and most of the latest generation of primes can easily out resolve even ultra-high resolution camera bodies.
Lesson 3: Bring a tripod
Many photographers don’t use tripods because they’re not nearly as necessary as they once were. Modern zooms are sharp even at the brightest apertures and many modern cameras and lenses have stabilization. All this makes the tripod seem almost irrelevant. But there are still good reasons for the tripod. For one, a tripod is still more sharp than a stabilized shot 90% of the time. Many photos, especially in low light, can be improved substantially by using a tripod. If it’s a once in a lifetime trip, why not make sure you get awesome pictures instead of *hoping* you get the pictures?
Lesson 4: Don’t forget your filters
Do you have a UV and ND filter ready to go? Photographers have been using filters on their lenses for a hundred years. Even black and white film photographers often used filters to do things like add drama to the sky. While it is often considered unnecessary to use some types of filters due to the power of modern editing software, lens filters can have unadvertised effects that sometimes improve images in subtle ways. Check out some of our courses if you’d like to learn why lens filters can still be a useful tool for your photography.
Lesson 5: Look at the clouds
How often are you observing the sky when taking landscape photos? Are you ignoring it entirely as many people do? Clouds can add interesting dramatic effects and create patterns of light on the ground such as those visible in the photo below.
Lesson 6: Don’t take your camera once in awhile
It might be hard to do for some photographers, but its always a good idea in any profession to put work aside and just enjoy a great day! As much as you might think photography is NOT work, it IS work. Sometimes you have to take a break no matter how much it pains you to look at a great landscape and not take a picture of it.
Landscape photography requires a mix of pragmatism and idealism. Some photographers will struggle with always bringing too much gear, and some will struggle with being too minimalist. Somewhere in the middle is probably best. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take a minute once in awhile, close your eyes, and just experience nature. Having an appreciation for what you’re photographing in any genre always helps.