1. Get Up Early; Stay Out Late
Ok, so you’ve read it before and will no doubt read it again, but if you want to capture great landscape images, you need to take photos in the best light of the day. At dawn and dusk the light is at its very best – being soft, warm and attractive. During summer, the sun’s light is typically harsh and unattractive at other times and so normally best avoided. Therefore, set your alarm early and stay out late – your images will be instantly better.
2. Use Your Polariser With Care
A polarising filter will help restore natural colour saturation and deepen clear blue skies. They can have a great effect on summery scenes, making them appear more vibrant and punchy. It is well worth having one in your kit bag this summer. However, their effect is seductive and, unless you take care, skies can look too dark, saturated and over polarised. Also, when combined with a wide-angle, uneven polarization is a risk. Therefore, don’t attach one unless it is genuinely enhancing the view you are shooting and don’t automatically fully polarise a scene – simply look through the viewfinder and rotate the filter in its mount until you achieve a good, natural looking level of polarisation.
3. Avoid Tourist Hotspots
During the summer months, the most popular beaches, bays and tourist hotspots will be crawling with holiday makers, making good photography difficult, if not impossible. To be honest, they are best avoided. Instead, look for slightly different, less obvious viewpoints. For example, if you are at the coast, walk a little further to find more remote bays or cliff top views. Alternatively, avoid the coast altogether and look for rural views, swaying, golden crops of barley, or fields punctuated with hay bales. Warm, evening light is best suited to this type of rural scene.
4. Don’t Go Out Without Your Tripod
Apart from your camera and lens(es), a tripod is the most important part of your kit. The most photogenic light is generally at the beginning and end of the day, when light levels are low, and getting a steady shot hand-held is a real challenge, unless you compromise image quality by pushing up the ISO. A tripod will also slow you down, and allow you to make subtle adjustments to your framing, which will improve composition. Use the sturdiest tripod you can carry comfortably. The Manfrotto 190
and 055 series
tripods are excellent value for money, and available in aluminium and carbon fibre versions.
5. Shoot A Silhouette
Photographs of silhouetted subjects can make striking, bold images. Contre jour photography is backlighting at its most extreme, with your subject recorded without colour or detail. It is best to opt for instantly recognizable objects, like lone trees, windmills and buildings. Ideally, select an angle where you can contrast your subject against an interesting or colourful bright sky. Dawn and dusk are the best times to shoot silhouettes, when the sky is low in the sky. Select your camera’s spot metering mode and meter correctly for a bright region of the sky and avoid using ND grads. By doing so your subject will be recorded grossly underexposed and thus, silhouetted.
6. Don’t Pack Up And Go Home Too Soon
Once the sun dips below the horizon, it's very tempting to pack up and go home, especially during the summer when the days are long. However, if you do this, you risk missing some of the best light of the day. Often, a few minutes after sunset, a colourful afterglow will start, as the sun lights up the clouds from below; this may not begin until several minutes after the sun has set. Don't pack up until you're absolutely certain the colour has gone.
7. Shoot Flowering Heather
Some landscape photographers consider the summer months a lean time for photography, but summer presents lots of unique opportunities. In late summer, moorland and heathland will be ablaze with flowering heather. Dense, impressive carpets can form, giving wide-angle shots colour impact and interest. Low viewpoints can often work well and try to include a key focal point, like a lone tree, granite outcrop or footpath.
8. Look For Poppy Fields
Poppies aren't as predictable as, say heather, and don't appear in the same place or even at the same time each year. Generally speaking though, any time between mid-June and mid-August can be good, though they have been known to flower as late as October. If you find a good poppy field, make the most of it by shooting in early morning or late afternoon light. A wide angle lens can show the scale of a big field, and longer focal lengths can compress the view, creating the impression of a sea of red. It's very easy to over-saturate the red channel and lose detail in the flowers when shooting poppies, so use the RGB histogram and be prepared to pull down your exposure a little.
9. Use A Top Quality Tripod Head
A good head is just as important for stability as a good tripod, so take your time choosing one. Check the maximum load capacity - it needs to be at least 5kg, and possibly quite a bit more for ball heads, as the camera is often being supported off-centre. Whether you go for a three-way head or a ball head is very much a matter of personal preference, but if looking at three-way heads, consider a geared head, which will allow very fine and accurate adjustments - ideal for landscape photography. The Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head
is a popular choice with landscape photographers.
10. Respect The Sun!
I know we might joke about British summers, but when the sun is shining, always remember to take care of your skin. Although this ‘tip’ might not be strictly photography related, it is important to wear sunscreen – ideally factor 30 or above. Photographers can spend a lot of time outside in direct sun, and it's easy to overlook using sun block. Ideally, apply it before you go out and wash your hands thoroughly to avoid you getting sunscreen over your kit.
About Mark Bauer & Ross Hoddinott
Mark Bauer and Ross Hoddinott are two of the UK's leading, award-winning landscape photographers. Both are experience tutors and between them they run Dawn 2 Dusk Photography