Views over valleys – pretty straightforward isn't it – get high, find a valley, point the camera and take the picture. If only it was that straightforward – let's look at some of the options.
So the basic principle is true, but there are a few more things to take into account. Firstly, and most significantly, the weather. Check weather forecasts (I check them on-line twice a day – as they change regularly) and don't assume that a sunny day is best. It depends upon the area and time of day – low, raking sun across a misty early-morning landscape can be fabulous, as can afternoon sun, casting tree shadows and picking out dry-stone walls across rolling fields. However, a lake district landscape topped with a stormy sky can similarly look really impressive. The only type of skies to avoid might be a plain grey overcast, which gives both no detail in the sky, and no texture across the land; or a clear blue sky in the middle of the day, which offers little modelling to the landscape. Blue sky with clouds allow cloud shadows to break up the otherwise flat lighting.
Direction of light is also important, shooting distant views can look very flat and uninspiring with the light behind you. Far better to have cross-light coming from the side or contra-jour lighting. Even with stormy skies, better cloud shapes can occur when the light is shining through them. So either get to know the area – and the best times of day, or take a map and compass. As the photo of Oxen fell shows, afternoon sunlight picks out the texture of the rolling landscape – the same location in the morning has flat lighting coming from behind the photographer and not giving the same feeling of depth.
Clear conditions can allow impressive detailed views over many miles, which with good lighting and texture can be effective, on the other hand, misty or hazy lighting conditions can provide an ethereal, delicate landscape and emphasise the depth within the scene.
If your landscape shot includes the sky, you might find that an ND graduated filter will help you control the contrast between land and sky. A polarising filter can darken blue skies and often can cut through slight haze – giving better clarity, and even reduce the hazy blue cast, warming up the image at the same time. A good way of excluding excessive sky and foreground is to stitch a series of pictures to create a panorama.
One of the biggest problems with distant landscapes is maintaining enough interest through the photo, whilst the distant landscape might be interesting in itself, if there is nothing in the foreground, or no way for the viewer to be visually led into the photograph, it will lack impact. Always be on the lookout for foreground detail, which might be a tuft of long grass, a rock, gate or barn. Good mid-ground interest, perhaps a set of overlapping dry-stone walls, a spotlit copse of trees, or even – at a larger scale, a set of overlapping hills.
Even the getting high bit need not be all climbing. Again take a look at your maps, many good landscape views are accessible by road, or by level paths from high roads. Even one of the most famous of al landscapes, inspiration point in Yosemite National Park, is best taken from the car park! There is still a certain sense of achievement of having carried kit and tripod up a fell to be rewarded with a stunning view.
Article by John Gravett - www.lakelandphotohols.com