Landscape Photography Primer

Planning ahead

Preparation and planning is essential to put yourself in the right place at the right time.

Landscape photography is an immensely time consuming endeavor. It can take weeks, months or even years before the picture is eventually made. It all starts at home. Once you have decided on a particular region it’s time to start your research. The first thing I reach for is a map; the more detailed the better. A good map gives you a bird’s eye view of the area and shows you not only the topography of the landscape but also how to move around in it. Even more important it will tell you where North, South, East and West are so you can get a rough idea where the sun will rise and set during the year. If you've got a smartpone there are several apps that can supply precise solar and lunar tracking data in combination with satellite-view maps.

The water flow of streams and rivers
is seasonal, peaking as snow melts
from the mountains.
Pre-trip research can give you a sense
of locales that may be more conducive
to a black and white interpretation.

Other helpful research documents are travel and natural history books and already existing photographs or paintings of the chosen place. A list of sunrise/sunset times throughout the year and, if it’s a coastal area, a tide table are absolutely essential. Fortunately, nearly all of this information can be found from the comfort of your home by spending some quality time with Google.

Location Scouting

None of this, however, is a replacement for exploring the area in person. My first order of business when arriving in an area for the first time is to go location scouting. I prefer to take these treks at midday when the light for actual photography is not the best. If I even bring a camera with me it's likely to be a point & shoot model. The goal here is not picture-making, but finding photographic opportunities to take advantage of when the light is more to my liking.

This means finding the perfect viewpoint and composition and then visualizing how the scene would look under different lighting, weather and seasonal conditions. If your research was good you will already know how the flora will change through the seasons; whether there will be colourful wildflowers in spring and summer or if Autumn brings warm yellow and brown tones. Is the area is prone to ice and snow during winter? Is there a chance of mist and fog in warmer months. Will the water level of a lake change during the seasons? Are coastal tides at their most dramatic? It may sound like being a landscape photographer is akin to a meteorologist, but it is this attention to detail that can mean the difference between a mediocre image and a stunning photograph.

Once you've decided on a subject, location scouting is useful for finding the most effective vantage point from which to photograph it.

Another reason I usually go scouting around midday is because the sun is at its highest and it’s easier to predict its path during the day.  Knowing where and when the sun will rise and set is probably the single most important information for a landscape photographer.

By combining first hand knowledge of an area's topography with researched information of its natural history and weather patterns you now have the tools to create the perfect image in your head. After that it’s the waiting game. Waiting for the desired conditions to arrive and then being there to make the image. This could take minutes or hours (if you’re lucky) or months and even years.

Technique

For many of us the following is an all too familiar situation: You were standing in one of the most beautiful places imaginable and conditions were perfect. No question the picture you made must be a winner. But what appeared on the computer screen later, while obviously documenting the physical location, just looked dull and boring with little resemblance to your emotional experience on location.

Simply taking a well-focused image is not enough. A landscape photographer’s primary task is to recreate a three-dimensional world without borders inside a two-dimensional rectangular frame. This is, strictly speaking impossible of course, but we can create the illusion of a three-dimensional world that conveys a sense of the subject as we experienced it on the ground. We have several compositional tools to accomplish this.

Composition

Leading lines can direct a viewer's attention and make an otherwise static image more dynamic. Creative placement of foreground and background objects can add a sense of depth.

The use of leading lines and the foreground/background relationship are important tools used to achieve the illusion of depth. Leading lines direct the viewer from one point in the image to another, often extending beyond the image frame. A river, winding road, grove of trees, and curving coastline, to name just a few examples, can all be used to guide the eye through the picture, creating the feeling of being able to walk right into the frame.

The foreground/background relationship includes the strategic placement of objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Because our brains know the size of certain objects this also creates a sense of depth. Example: Big boulder in the foreground, small mountain range in the background. We know mountains are bigger than boulders hence our brain tells us there must be a great distance between boulder and mountains.

A boulder in the foreground with distant hills shot in low-angled light is a tried and true combination. When the sky is hazy and dull, try a composition based around a strong and dominant foreground.

In our quest to create a sense of depth, we must not forget that the overall appearance of a picture must also be pleasing to the eye. For those just starting to develop a compositional 'eye', the principle of the rule of thirds is a good place to start. It is a well known compositional aid that has been applied by painters long before photography's origins.

To employ the rule of thirds, imagine two evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines dividing your image into a grid of nine equal sections (shown here). Compositional points of interest can be more dynamic when placed inside one of these grids or along the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines.

These basic composition rules are often applied instinctively but can and should be instinctively broken. If that boulder placed in a rule of thirds grid doesn’t 'feel right' to you it probably shouldn’t be there. Experienced photographers will let their gut instinct override a predetermined rule.

Composition is not only the arrangements of various elements within the image frame it is also the use of light and shadow, colours - or the lack of it - and emotion. The latter, although the most subjective, is probably the most crucial ingredient of a landscape picture. Emotion is what drives you to make the image in the first place and a good landscape image should evoke an emotional response in the viewer. We are not merely documenting a location but a feeling that the location inspires.

A cool, diffuse winter light gives a
much different feel...
...than warm directional light in the
spring and summer months.

Light plays an essential role in conveying emotion in a landscape picture. The natural light coming from the sun can have various qualities: direct, diffuse, warm, or cold. We can point the camera directly at a light source or capture the light coming into the frame at an angle. We can use the soft light of dusk and dawn or the harsh light of midday. Dramatic effects can result from shooting during the so-called 'golden hours' around sunrise and sunset when the sun is low in the sky. But, just as with any dictum or convention, there are exceptions. Some subjects are better served by the harsher light of mid-day.

Colours are also an important compositional tool. Colours can be experienced as warm or cold, can be strong or muted. The use of complimentary colours (red & green, blue & orange, yellow & violet) is, like the rule of thirds, a traditional artistic tool. Yet single colour themes can also produce very strong images. What is clear though is that the combination of both colour and light determine in large part the overall mood of the picture, which directly effects its emotional impact.

Exposure

For landscape photography I typically have my camera in aperture priority mode and set to its native ISO sensitivity (which typically offers the highest image quality). This means I set the aperture and the camera determines the appropriate shutter speed for what its metering system determines to be a correct exposure.

As effective as your camera's metering system is in creating a 'normal' exposure, there are many instances in which you benefit by manually adjusting exposure in order to create a particular mood.

Correctly exposing a picture has undoubtedly become much easier over the past decades. Today's complex metering systems can determine a pleasing exposure in a wide variety of lighting situations. However, they are not foolproof so it helps to understand the basic principle of how they work. Your camera's metering system is calibrated to a brightness value of a midtone grey, which it will try and reproduce in the scene at which it is pointed.

In many situations this will work out fine but when you have a scene dominated by a bright subject  - like snow - you will need to manually compensate by overexposing so that white tones are rendered white instead of grey. The same holds true when photographing a scene with predominantly dark objects. You will need to underexpose to prevent deep rich shadows from appearing dull and grey. I generally do this by using positive or negative exposure compensation values until the tones are close to where I envision them in the final image. The trick, of course is to avoid going too far and losing import detail in either highlights or shadows. You can of course, quickly verify your exposure by viewing the histogram in either live view mode or during image review.

Scenes with a wide dynamic range require you to decide whether to expose primarily for either the brighter or darker objects in the scene. Establishing pleasing shadow values while maintaining detail is a hallmark of strong black and white photography.

Another important setting to consider is white balance (WB), which basically determines the colour temperature (measured in degrees kelvin) of the image. Cameras offer broad presets intended for sunny and cloudy conditions, with many also allowing you to specify actual values in degrees Kelvin.

When shooting in raw mode, however, I prefer to defer this decision to the image editing stage. Setting my camera to its Auto WB mode usually gives a reasonable starting point from which to make creative adjustments later on when processing the raw file on a my colour calibrated monitor. Unlike with JPEGs, you risk no image degradation by doing this post exposure. For situations where critically accurate (versus pleasing) WB is crucial, I make a reference image by including a grey card or a more sophisticated gizmo like the X-Rite ColorChecker in the scene.

With these preparations complete, I shoot a separate test image to verify composition and exposure. And I take my time to check the test shot in detail on my camera's rear LCD. Are there any branches or other distracting elements poking out of the corners (this can be surprisingly easy to miss in the viewfinder)? Are there any blown out highlights (if your camera has a highlight alert turn it on) or clipped shadow areas? After this evaluation I alter the composition, add or remove filters or adjust the exposure as needed. 

By this point, hopefully the light hasn’t faded, the clouds in the sky are all in place and no tourists are running through the scene. All that's left to do now is to press the shutter to capture the image I've envisioned.


Carsten Krieger is a professional landscape and wildlife photographer based in the West of Ireland and author of several books on the Irish landscape and nature. To find out more about his work please visit his website: www.carstenkrieger.com. Product images courtesy K.B. Canham Cameras Inc., Canon USA, Inc., Nikon Inc., and Leaf Imaging Ltd.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 96
12
NareshKlick
By NareshKlick (8 months ago)

Thanks Carsten. I would like to see a series of articles on landscapes...each one discussing on various aspects or challenges of landscape photography.

0 upvotes
videojocuri12
By videojocuri12 (11 months ago)

Awesome lenses

0 upvotes
jocuribestcom
By jocuribestcom (Apr 9, 2013)

nice photo

0 upvotes
carsmaniacs
By carsmaniacs (Jan 24, 2013)

While a good article, I am surprised that you say a 24 - 200 or 300mm set of lenses would be great for landscape.
In my experience it is not!

1 upvote
jocurile
By jocurile (Jun 19, 2012)

Cool, I can't even image how far the difference would be between this two cameras, yes how original the picture would look.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 37 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
liveagain
By liveagain (May 28, 2012)

Thank you, Carsten. Another great article on dpreview. Hopefully this article will be kept in an easy-to-find spot as the years pass by. I look forward to learn more from in the next article.

0 upvotes
gevalia
By gevalia (Mar 23, 2012)

1. Back in the days of film - film is not dead. I shoot 4x5 95% of the time. I can get 4x5 film all over the place and developing B&W is cheap. Lenses are plentiful both new and used (ebay). Cameras are cheap to expensive. You can get a used 4x5 for $200 or spend thousands. You do NOT need to spend thousands on a 4x5 camera. Or on a medium format camera. You can get a fantastic 645 medium format camera with a few lenses that shoots 120 film for less than $1000 total. Films and ISO's are plentifull, just check Adorama or B&H or Freestyle.
2. Todays dslr's at the same resolution as medium format - in what world is resolution everything?
3. You bring a dslr, SD cards, 3/4 lenses(primes and teles), tripod, extra batteries into the field and you're probably very close to the weight of my 4x5 kit.
4. With large format film photography, you do everything. There is no autofocus. There is no in-camera metering. You carry a hand held spot meter and do it all yourself. You learn photography.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
PeterFXCassidy
By PeterFXCassidy (Feb 11, 2012)

Nice and all sage advice but what about the Fuji S5 Pro?

0 upvotes
Curt Geiger
By Curt Geiger (Feb 6, 2012)

One important thing you seem to have overlooked is that a successful landscape photograph should have a straight horizon. ;)

1 upvote
roseofsharon
By roseofsharon (Feb 2, 2012)

Has a film-based 35mm camera ever had a digital back? Is there one in the making?

0 upvotes
loveskiing
By loveskiing (Jan 30, 2012)

Carsten, I really enjoyed your article, especially preparing for a location shot. The only thing I wish you would have touched on was focus points. Trying to keep things in focus, front and back, can, sometimes, be a challenge. Thanks again for your article.

3 upvotes
NYC Jim
By NYC Jim (Jan 26, 2012)

Thanks Carsten. This article makes me want to look for your books.

1 upvote
Gman58
By Gman58 (Jan 25, 2012)

Thanks for the great article.

0 upvotes
tomblankenship-dot-com
By tomblankenship-dot-com (Jan 25, 2012)

Hummm, Dvlee. Astute observation, indeed. Personally, I see something else with that same set of 'eyes/nose' ;-))

0 upvotes
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Jan 25, 2012)

While quickly scrolling through the DP main page, as I scrolled past the entry for this article I noticed how in the image of the rocks in the water, the rocks look like a pair of eyes peering out of the water and a big bulbous nose. Now I cannot look at the photo without seeing that. LOL

0 upvotes
Picturenaut
By Picturenaut (Jan 24, 2012)

Many thanks for this great primer! I'm more into wildlife tele and macro shooting (+ portrait) but more and more interested in landscape. So this is a great help for me, your pictures are so inspiring! Can't wait for a planned trip to Norway this summer and think already about getting me a set of Cokin filters - so your primer came just in time.

0 upvotes
Greg Short
By Greg Short (Jan 24, 2012)

I love the work you produce. The article is great and very useful for my level of experience, I admire professionals who are prepared to share their knowledge.
Thank You

0 upvotes
Haider
By Haider (Jan 24, 2012)

Hi Carsten,

Thanks for the primer; hopefully there will be a followup article to build on this. I was wondering are there any books in particular you would recommend to a novice?

Thanks
Haider

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 24, 2012)

I was never big into technical books, the only book of that kind I ever owned (some 25 years ago...) was by the late German nature photographer Fritz Poelking.
What helped me a lot however was looking at the work of other photographers, especially Jim Brandenburg and Joe Cornish have been very influential to me.
Joe Cornish's "First Light" is a collection of images with the story behind each image, not very technical though it focuses more on the creative thought process. David Ward has also published two books ("Landscape Within" and "Landscape Beyond") that explore the philosophical side of landscape photography. A very interesting read.
Another favorite of mine is Daryl Benson's book "Canada".

0 upvotes
Haider
By Haider (Jan 24, 2012)

That fine I'm also of the opinion that a photo should talk to you like a Monet or Van Gogh. I'll grab a copy of First Light.

0 upvotes
Andreas-AM
By Andreas-AM (Jan 23, 2012)

While a good article, I am surprised that you say a 24 - 200 or 300mm set of lenses would be great for landscape.
In my experience it is not!

Landscape has often to do with wide angles. I much more use a 16 mm (full frame equ.) than any kind of tele....

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 23, 2012)

You can make striking landscape images with any kind of lens from a fisheye up to a tele. It's up to you if you prefer one or the other.
However what I often encounter during workshops is that the use of wide angle lenses is tempting the photographer to let the impact of the wide view dominate the image instead on focusing on a proper composition.

1 upvote
Dvlee
By Dvlee (Jan 25, 2012)

I like the way a long lens compresses the elements of the scene making them look like they are much closer...orif one backs up and uses a long lens the more disatant objects are larger in proportion to objects in between. This is a good way to make a far away object more proanant in the image.

A panoramic shoot comprised of a series on vertical images shot with a long lens will make the stant object fill more verticle space instead of a pencil thin line with too much foreground or sky as one would get from a full frame wide angle shot.

There are many ways to use long lenses for landscape shots!

0 upvotes
rverdoold
By rverdoold (Jan 22, 2012)

Thanks for bringing back my memories of Northern Ireland. I lived near the Causeway. A brilliant place for landscape photography.

0 upvotes
Db26
By Db26 (Jan 21, 2012)

Thanks, Carsten, for this excellent and very interesting article.

0 upvotes
RadPhoto
By RadPhoto (Jan 21, 2012)

Thanks for the article

0 upvotes
Heru Anggono
By Heru Anggono (Jan 21, 2012)

Carsten mentioned the importance of UV filter. I thought modern digital sensor is less susceptible to UV light and does not benefit much from UV filter. Any comment on this?

0 upvotes
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (Jan 21, 2012)

1. To decrease the extra blue cast: while being invisible, UV contributes to the blue channel.
2. Protect your lens.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 57 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (Jan 21, 2012)

1.1. If modern digital sensors are less susceptible to UV light, are they not less sensitive to contribution to the blue channel?
2.1. That's the photographer's job.

1 upvote
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 21, 2012)

1.2 True, but the important word here is "less". So especially at high altitudes and by the sea an UV filter is helpful. On the other hand if you are shooting RAW it is relatively easy to remove any colour cast.
2.2. It is - that's why I leave a filter (UV or clear) in front of the lens. It's much cheaper to replace a broken filter than the front element of a lens.

0 upvotes
blue camera
By blue camera (Jan 21, 2012)

Regarding the ongoing debate about using a UV filter to protect the lens, no one ever seems to mention that you can have it both ways:

* Use it as a see-through lens cap: keep it on if the camera is out of its bag, to keep dust, grit, and moisture off the lens when tramping the outdoors. Easier to give a quick swipe to a cheap filter than careful cleanings, more often, to a delicate lens. (And you're not fumbling with a lens cap, should Bigfoot or a Leprechaun suddenly pop into view.)

* Take it off when you get serious about shooting a frame: removing any chance that an extra piece of glass is going to degrade your image through quality, reflection, or that aforementioned dust and poor cleaning.

If you are expecting to drop your camera and have a UV lens protect it, good luck. A rock can go through more than a single filter.

Thanks for the article, Carsten. I hope the edited content will show up in further installments.

2 upvotes
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (Jan 22, 2012)

I suppose I assume that anyone shooting landscapes at a level (double entendre intended) where the UV that is not already filtered has an impact is also shooting raw (why to people treat this as an acroynm?). Am I giving too much credit?

1 upvote
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (Jan 21, 2012)

... That is why the view cameras and panoramic stitching are and will long be available...

0 upvotes
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (Jan 21, 2012)

Very nice article and nice, well composed photos with interesting lighting! For those who are concerned if MP count matters: sure you can do good photos with low MP count... but please go to a library (or a bookstore), pick a few landscape photography books and try to notice how much the high level of detail matters along with other picture parameters!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
1 upvote
antiobjects
By antiobjects (Jan 21, 2012)

Interesting use of tilt-shift lenses.

0 upvotes
mikeoregon
By mikeoregon (Jan 21, 2012)

Thanks, Carsten, for your excellent primer; hope you will keep going.

I'm curious if you actually pack all your listed cameras, lenses and tripod when you hike? I've been using a Nikon D700 with 24-70mm lens--that plus a carbon fiber tripod is as much weight as I want to carry.

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 21, 2012)

Very much depends where I am going and what I have planned to shoot. My "problem" is that I also shoot wildlife and macro.
I always bring a tripod and the 24mm/45mm/90mm are my standard lenses for landscapes (but I just got 2 Voigtlander pancake lenses, a 20mm and a 40mm, very small and very light, if they live up to their reputation they might replace the TSE lenses on long hikes). I rarely bring the 2.8/70-200 on longer hikes because it's awfully heavy. If there is a chance for wildlife I also bring a 4/300mm and 1.4x converter (if I only shoot wildlife the tripod stays at home).
When I know I will be shooting close to the car (less than 1 hour hike) I usually bring the lot. It's good exercise :-)

0 upvotes
Daniel Lowe
By Daniel Lowe (Jan 20, 2012)

Thanks for this article, these articles are a great addition to the site.
While I am likely to get shot down for this, I would like to mention the enjoyment one can get from using good compact cameras for landscapes. While I would dearly love to buy better gear, the realities of having a large family on a modest income means I simply can't justify the expense.
I live in NZ on the West Coast of the South Island, (a landscape photographers paradise) and as a keen amateur 'landscaper' I make do with a Panasonic LX5 (multi aspect sensor, 24mm wide equivalent) and a Fuji superzoom (22.5-660mm equivalent). I know these small sensor cams can't deliver the results of larger sensor cameras, but if you don't pixel peep or print huge they can still deliver surprisingly good results. I find landscape photography a very therapeutic and enriching experience, thanks for writing this article.

6 upvotes
zodiacfml
By zodiacfml (Jan 21, 2012)

same here. unless we're selling our images or print large, a compact camera would do well due to its size and weight for travel. outside image resolution, my Sigma DP is very good for landscapes.

2 upvotes
NancyP
By NancyP (Jan 20, 2012)

I am an amateur and I like scouting locations around my hometown, snapping planning photos in less than ideal conditions. Sometimes I happen on a great scene at a great time, but need a "re-do" due to lack of tripod.

One piece of kit that I find handy, surprisingly not mentioned in the article, is the lowly L - bracket.

0 upvotes
MikeFreeze
By MikeFreeze (Jan 20, 2012)

Thanks for this very interesting article. However, I can't agree with your assertion that a FF DSLR produces better resolution photos than a MF film camera. Do you have any data or references to back this up? High resolution scans made from film are arguably superior to images from DSLRs, especially when the scan is made from a larger negative than the DSLR sensor. DSLRs are great, but film still rules for the ultimate landscape photos.

1 upvote
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Thank's Mike. Film vs digital is an ongoing discussion among landscape photographers. I have been working with medium format (4.5x6) and large format (4x5) before I switched over to digital and in my experience a high end digital SLR produces "better" (in absence of a more suitable adjective) images than medium format slide film, even when this film is scanned properly at the highest possible resolution. I won't go into pixel peeping here (I leave this to others) but prints from DSLR files look crisper and cleaner and show a greater amount of detail than the same done from medium format slide scans .
Large format film however is a totally different story and here film indeed still rules over DSLR. But then you can bring in digital backs with a resolution of 60 or so megapixels and you can start the argument all over again.
In the end a good image is a good image, no matter if it is shot on film or sensor.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
MikeFreeze
By MikeFreeze (Jan 20, 2012)

Thanks - good reply. I like 'em both myself. It may just be my nostalgia for film, but I find that Fuji Velvia 50 slide film is pretty hard to beat for outstanding landscape scenes. Once again, thanks for a great article.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Jan 21, 2012)

then again.. your comment is in reference to 6x4.5 medium format. Is 6x7 or 6x9 also medium format?

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 21, 2012)

6x7, 6x9 and 6x6 also falls in the medium format category but as I have never used them I can't really comment. However the sizes are so similar the resolution of these films should be almost identical.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Jan 21, 2012)

wouldn't 6x9 be double the size of 6 x 4.5?

0 upvotes
DrTebi
By DrTebi (Jan 24, 2012)

For your pixel-peeping satisfaction:
http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2011/12/big-camera-comparison/

It clearly shows that the resolution of film is extremely high, and that medium format film _can_ beat a full frame DSLR. It just depends on many factors like the film, the scanner etc.

Nevertheless, digital sensors have come a long way.

Digital projectors haven't though--"HD" means 2 megapixels. For me landscape photography is just a hobby, I don't sell prints or even print much for myself. I prefer watching slides on a 8x8 foot screen... without the 2 megapixel limit...

1 upvote
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Jan 20, 2012)

That was really good - especially the emphasis on scouting out the area beforehand. I used to think that it was silly going back to a location, because I'd "done that", but light and climate have infinite variations, and no location remains the same.

Also, a helicopter is very useful.

2 upvotes
JPMontez
By JPMontez (Jan 20, 2012)

Thanks for the nice article. I love landscape photography.

3 upvotes
ecuadordave
By ecuadordave (Jan 20, 2012)

Great article. I hope to see more like this from dpreview. I have to agree with the authors emphasis on patience. I live in the Andes mountains of Ecuador, and some of my shots were literally years in the making waiting for that perfect combination of weather and lighting. My best advice is to always be alert of the weather if you are taking landscapes near your home. Sometimes you can get a sense that it's going to be a great sunset by the look of the clouds in the afternoon. That's the time to start getting your gear ready to head out. Same thing goes for watching the cycles of the moon for night shots.

0 upvotes
RSColo
By RSColo (Jan 20, 2012)

One last comment. Before your history there were some painters that did an excellent job of capturing the landscape. In particular, Albert Bierstadt documented the American west. His goal was to accurately produce images of the landscape. In other words, photography before the camera. His paining of the Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado, showing the snow cross in the mountain crevasses, created such a stir in the east that many people came out west to see the "miracle" in the mountains.

Again, great article. Thanks.

0 upvotes
Ross Murphy
By Ross Murphy (Jan 20, 2012)

Nice article Carsten, not overly complicated as a lot of people do, simple and elegant. I really like that first image (page 3),long exposure tele, would like more details on it if you could.

Keep up the nice work.

Ross

Comment edited 57 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Made with a 70-200mm @ 85mm, f22, 10sec.
Exposure time was the tricky part here. I wanted to slightly blur the fog flowing over the cliffs so I experimented with solid ND filters and different ISO settings to get various exposure times. 10 seconds (ISO100, 1stop ND) produced the best result in the end. A 2/3 stop ND grad was also used to balance sky and foreground.

0 upvotes
RSColo
By RSColo (Jan 20, 2012)

The other technique I use is HDR. The range of light, from brightest to darkest, that a camera sensor can capture is far more limited than the human eye. HDR, or high dynamic range, overcomes this limitation. Multiple shots are taken of the same frame, some over exposed and some underexposed. the shots are then combined in the computer later into an image that can more accurately reflect the scene observed by the photographer. I say "can" in the previous sentence because HDR can easily be over done, resulting in artificial looking images. For this reason, many photographers shy away from HDR calling it "artificial". Yet these same photographers are often willing to make black and white photos. Because history favors B&W, thanks to Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, etc., that technique is more acceptable to many.

Today is not the mid-1900s and the tools at our disposal are not the same. Panorama stitching and HDR are modern techniques that greatly expand what we can do with a camera.

3 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

I do both panoramic stitching and HDR but to include these techniques would have been way beyond a primer.
The limitations of both techniques unfortunately are when you are working with long exposure times or when there are moving subjects in the frame. Producing a convincing final image then is very difficult.
I am still hoping for a digital XPAN sometime... :-)

0 upvotes
NancyP
By NancyP (Jan 21, 2012)

On the other hand, I have had a laugh at myself when noting a moving subject in multiple locations on an autostitch....possibly this could be a feature, not an occasion for cloning out, in certain situations.

0 upvotes
RSColo
By RSColo (Jan 20, 2012)

Great overview. You hit many of the suggestions that I give on my site:

http://www.sawatchpub.com/HowToTakeFineArtPhotos.html

I just say things a little differently.

Two areas I would add are the use of panorama and HDR techniques. I have a 12mg pixel camera which offers a lot less large printing ability than I am used to from my 4x5 days. To make up for this limitation I use multi-frame panoramas. The idea is to take multiple shots in multiple rows and then stitch them together into a much larger image.

0 upvotes
SterlingBjorndahl
By SterlingBjorndahl (Jan 20, 2012)

> recreate a three-dimensional world without borders inside a one-dimensional rectangular frame

That's poetic but inaccurate. A rectangle is two-dimensional, not one-dimensional.

Great article, though.

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Ups, you're right of course. Bad mistake.

0 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Jan 20, 2012)

Fixed. Thanks.

0 upvotes
Bossons
By Bossons (Jan 20, 2012)

I must agree with other contributors that the article covers a number of pertinent topics for a reader that may be new to this area of photography.

However, all but one of the sample landscape photos completely failed to "convey an emotional sense of place" to this viewer. In particular the first photo which was underscored by the statement "A successful landscape photograph conveys an emotional sense of place to the viewer." Surely a professional landscape photographer based on one of the most photogenic islands in north western Europe would be capable of producing a selection of breathtaking shots to illustrate this statement in action.
A number of strong photos would also have added a degree of authority to this article.

Bossons.

0 upvotes
brettmeikle
By brettmeikle (Jan 20, 2012)

Far too subjective there Bossons - much is right in the photographs used to illustrate the article - light, compostion, technical approach are all strong. The salient qualities of British Isle landscapes are subtle, and this is conveyed well (the first one is less compelling, I agree).
I'd be interested to know what one you did 'like' though.

0 upvotes
paddy tubbritt
By paddy tubbritt (Jan 20, 2012)

thanks for a very interesting article is the lighthouse in the picture hook head in wexford ireland

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

It is indeed.

0 upvotes
Snaaks
By Snaaks (Jan 20, 2012)

Thanks for this very interesting article.

0 upvotes
matreshka
By matreshka (Jan 20, 2012)

Great article, Carsten! I did not find DoF technique discussion (hyper focal distance and etc), in my mind it is also essential in landscape photography.

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Again the whole topic of focusing, which would have involved hyper focal distance, lens tilt, MF vs AF, etc.) became a victim of the limited space for the article.
However I have to admit I rarely bother too much when it comes to focusing: f22 as standard and focus point about 1/3 into the frame or work with lens tilt and check DOF on the live view - that's how I work.

0 upvotes
matreshka
By matreshka (Jan 21, 2012)

Got it, thanks. I usually follow the same approach - some 1/3 into the frame and narrow diaphragm.

0 upvotes
roseofsharon
By roseofsharon (Feb 3, 2012)

What is an L-plate?

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Thank's for all your comments.

@ oldfox1: yes it is :-) Headlands protruding from the edges of the frame however can lead to the illusion that the horizon isn't level.

@ GregVdB: I basically agree with you, the kind of equipment you use is secondary to the skill and imagination of the photographer. But you have to start somewhere and it seems common practice to start with the gear...

@ luben solev: there is always a space limit to articles like this (the original version was almost three times as long as the one published) so some things have to give. On the heads, yes geared heads are more accurate but with enough practice you can get equally good results with ball heads. And a big 'yes' to L-plates, they should be part of every landscape photographer's outfit.

0 upvotes
Footski
By Footski (Jan 20, 2012)

An excellent article with sound advise..

0 upvotes
bamsan
By bamsan (Jan 20, 2012)

"Landscape photography is an immensely time consuming endeavor. It can take weeks, months or even years before the picture is eventually made"

Now I understand why I very rarely grab stunning landscape photo.

1 upvote
oldfox1
By oldfox1 (Jan 20, 2012)

Nice photo, but the horizon is not level ;-)

1 upvote
cfh25
By cfh25 (Jan 20, 2012)

Agree - appears to have the classic Nikon 0.3 degree slope

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Yes it is level :-) Headlands protruding from the edges of the frame however can lead to the illusion that the horizon isn't level. And if it wouldn't be level it would be a 0.3 degree Canon slope...

1 upvote
oldfox1
By oldfox1 (Jan 20, 2012)

It is not. Make a rectangular selection along the horizon line.

This is strange because you seem to be a good outdoor photographer. And even more strange it is that you deny something that is very easy to check.

0 upvotes
Greg VdB
By Greg VdB (Jan 20, 2012)

Personally, I find the sentence "Light plays an essential role in conveying emotion in a landscape picture" the most important one in this article, and would have put it right at the beginning.

In fact, I would have put the entire last page of the article before the equipment part. Established landscape photographers can take stunning pictures with P&S cameras, whereas having all the most expensive gear does not make one a great landscape photographer. But this is DPR of course, so I can understand that most of the attention in this article went to the gear used...

Now don't get me wrong, I think this is an interesting article, I just don't like how it could lead beginners to think that the gear is the most important prerequisit to landscape (or any type of) photography. For them it is much more important to go out shooting with whatever gear they have than to sit at home counting coins until they can afford all the equipment listed in this article!

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
iudex
By iudex (Jan 20, 2012)

I definitely agree. You can have a medium format SLR and shoot crap. And another thing is the intro emphasizing expensive equipment may be discouraging to some amateur photographers, making them think they can never shoot a nice landscape with their amateur APCS camera.

1 upvote
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jan 20, 2012)

I agree SORT OF. You don't want to give the impression that you have to use a 24mp Nikon D3x or 40mp medium-format digital camera backs to do landscapes. Once we started hitting 10-12mp in d-SLRs (some might even argue 6mp) and the dynamic range became good, then even cameras like the Nikon D3000 or D5000 that I own (to say nothing of a D7000) can definitely make great landscapes even at the 20x30 size.

That said, there is something to be said for having at least something like that as equipment, as opposed to a smartphone or a Coolplix. By all means, use what you have, even if just for PRACTICE, but if you want good landscapes "on the regular" you at least need to get in APS-C d-SLR or mirrorless territory.

1 upvote
luben solev
By luben solev (Jan 20, 2012)

I would have thought that any serious article about landscape photography that mentions tripods would mention geared heads, as they are the only way to accurately frame a photo and get a level horizon. The ball head (although the most popular due to its size and weight) is actually the least accurate for both framing and horizon leveling.

Also there is no mention of LPlates from the likes if RRS, which help keep the centre of gravity in the middle of a tripod. Yes, they are more specialised, but then I bet that many more landscape photographers employ LPlates than use LF cameras, which this article spends a lot of time on.

3 upvotes
Klarno
By Klarno (Feb 25, 2012)

Ball heads are favored in nature photography (all kinds, not just landscapes) for being fast and brain-dead simple to use.

I find that accurately level horizons, even with ultrawide lenses, may be achieved easily with a hot shoe spirit level that can be purchased for $1.50 from eBay. Assuming your hotshoe is level relative to the sensor and the bubble level is also level with respect to the hotshoe, of course.

Alternatively you can eyeball the level by using live view and a grid on the screen, or a gridded focusing screen if available for your camera.

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jan 20, 2012)

Now THIS is an article I can relate to. It is amazing the leg-work and "grunt work" one has to do (researching & scouting the area) in order to be consistently excellent in this field. I can't help but laugh when I see people show up using snapshot cameras with the BUILT-IN FLASH TURNED ON for huge landscapes. Yet, at the same time, I'm nowhere near as serious or accomplished as some of the people described in this article sound.

What I like about landscape shots--you aren't dealing with fickle people. I get impatient photographing kids when they won't smile or look at the camera, or their faces are dirty YET AGAIN. It's all I can do to not yell "would you stay the [blank] still & stop squirming?!" Landscapes don't move, they're MUCH more cooperative subjects in my view.

3 upvotes
photo nuts
By photo nuts (Jan 20, 2012)

That's pretty funny. LOL

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jan 20, 2012)

Yes (photo nuts), that's me. As I said in another reply, the non-photography aspects of photography don't interest me. To me, where it regards photographing children, if it comes a point that they have to be persuaded to cooperate, my motto: "that's not my job." My "job" is to know f-stops, ISO, that a 50mm 1.8 lens makes a great lens, composition, lighting, etc. Having to be a child psychologist, a salesperson, client brown-noser, hours in meetings--no thank you. I'm interested in taking & showing off the photos I've taken. That is IT. I've been known to get good photos of kids, in fact, but they are kids I KNOW & they LOVE to have their photo taken. Show me some uncooperative bratty kids, and I'm gone. That's why I've never seriously tried to earn money from this, even though people say I could. I have to ENJOY it or I want no part of it.

0 upvotes
Kitamura
By Kitamura (Jan 20, 2012)

Can't wait to get out there and start shooting. My biggest limitation is time. With a full-time job, wife, kids and dog the time just flies past. I'm sure most non-professional photographers will agree.

4 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Jan 20, 2012)

Unfortunately it is a myth that if you are a pro you can go out shooting whenever you like. If you have to make a living from photography you get tied in the business side very quickly, dealing with clients, going to meetings, editing, writing, putting together portfolios and proposals, ... Sometimes weeks go by without getting a chance to even touch a camera.

3 upvotes
mseawell
By mseawell (Jan 20, 2012)

Amen! We have 3 children and although 2 are out the house trying to keep everyone happy and not neglect them while trying to get my business going is damn near impossilbe. Very frustrating sometimes for me and my wife I would suppose! Oh well!

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Jan 20, 2012)

What (CarstenKriegerPhotography) stated is why I've never tried to make a living of this. I want to take photos and show them off. PERIOD. That's IT. Anything else I have no interest in. I often-times even stop photographing children if they don't cooperate, maybe from the customer's standpoint working with kids to get them to smile is "part of the job," but to me--knowing f-stops, lighting, composition--THAT'S the job. Nothing else, period.

People see my photos & say to me all the time "you're good, why don't you do this for a living?" Simple: because I ENJOY it, and the minute I don't enjoy it, I'm gone. As John Mellencamp said regarding his new & VERY "radio-UNfriendly" CD "No Better Than This": "I want to do it this way, and if I can't do what I want at this point, I'm not going to do it. If it's not fun, I'm not going to do it. I'm through digging a ditch."

Exactly. (Granted, he's 60 & long-ago a millionaire, but still.) I'm a camera-guy, not a butt-kisser or child pscyhologist.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Toddles
By Toddles (Jan 20, 2012)

Same thing as a graphic artist, I don't do what i want but what the client wants. Hopefully I can add my style to it at least. Same with photography, client first. "Kitamura", maybe you can't shoot landscape but how 'bout your kids. With patience you can do real artistic photos. Landscape stuff when you can or later

0 upvotes
JPMontez
By JPMontez (Jan 20, 2012)

"With a full-time job, wife, kids and dog the time just flies past."

That's why I'm specialising in night photography! It's easier to sacrifice my sleep...;-)

0 upvotes
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