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Beginners' guide to Landscape Photography

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Category: Landscape and Travel

Beginners' guide to Landscape Photography - A few essential landscape photography tips for the beginner.

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Where to take photos?

 

The UK is full of interesting places, from tranquil rural scenes to wild and barren moorland. Some are managed and very touristy, while other areas are remote and you’re left to find the best spots with the aid of a map and compass.

 

Tourist locations are the easiest spots to take good photographs without too much effort, you just have to follow the signs. Paths are usually well maintained and guides are available from the local post office or tourist centre. If you visit the local town, check out the postcards sold in tourist shops as these give clues to the best spots. Look up the location on the Internet too before you go. You’ll find loads of info on the local council’s web site. Buy a magazine such as Country Walking and you’ll find some great easy to follow walks that, again, will be illustrated, so you can get a feel for the surrounding scenery. And, of course, there are loads of touristy maps provided for visitors who travel by car, cycle or on foot.


Preparation


Research before you go and the pictures will be more rewarding. If you go to more remote places take a map, make sure you are well prepared (food, waterproof clothing, mobile phone) and don’t stray off the footpaths, unless you know where you are going.

Another option is to find your own scenic vantage points. Sometimes this is just a matter of walking up or down the road away from the tourist parking spot to find your own viewpoint. Often better pictures can be taken, but nothing beats going right off the beaten track and finding a higher viewpoint or one without trees or shrubs blocking half of it.

landscape photography - vantage point

Look for the view


Once you get to your location you should start to look around for the best viewpoints. There will be the obvious ones where all the coach parties pull in, or a sign or icon on a tourist map saying photogenic spot. In many cases these may be the only good points to take a photo and it’s down to you to get a better one than the typical point-and-shoot photographer. You’ll find out how to do this later in the article.

Another option is to find your own scenic vantage points. Sometimes this is just a matter of walking up or down the road away from the tourist parking spot to find your own viewpoint. Often better pictures can be taken, but nothing beats going right off the beaten track and finding a higher viewpoint or one without trees or shrubs blocking half of it.
 

landscape with forground detail

Depth of field

When shooting a landscape you could leave your camera on autofocus and it would focus on infinity, which is the distance that most of the scene will be at. Do this and you’ll get a decent picture. Alternatively be a little more creative. Look at the foreground. Could you include something to give the picture more depth? A tree branch cutting across the top of the picture adds a frame and keeps the viewer within the picture, while a rock or fence in the foreground can lead the viewer into the photo. Now if you leave your camera on auto you will still have a rock or tree in the foreground but it won’t be sharp, because the camera still focuses on the distance.

To overcome this many cameras have a focus lock, which can be used to change where the camera focuses. If you point at the close tree or rock, the background will be blurred, so you need to learn how to control the front to back sharpness of your subject. This is known as depth-of-field and is the amount of the picture that’s sharp, measured from the closest to furthest point. A small aperture f/8-f/11 ensures greater depth-of-field, while a wide aperture f/2.8-4 will deliver shallow depth-of-field.


 

landscape metering technique

Exposure


If the sky fills most of the shot or if you're shooting into the sun, the ground may be thrown into a silhouette as the camera will get confused with the extreme differences in light. In these cases use the auto-exposure lock and take a reading from the ground before firing the shutter.

Filters

Finally you can enhance your landscape photographs if you invest in a filter or two. Ones to add to tour shortlist include a polariser which will make your skies vibrantly blue, an ND to reduce the exposure and ensure waterfalls are blurred like cotton wool, a grey or blue graduate to darken a sky and a warm-up to lift the colours and make the day look more like summer.

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