Words and images by Steve Gosling. Steve Gosling is a professional photographer who specialises in producing creative & contemporary landscape and nature images. Visit Steve's website
for more information.
Steve has recently joined the Manfrotto UK Local Heroes team who run UK webinars on various photographic subject. You can find more information about the UK webinars here: Manfrotto Events
The Three 'P's Of Landscape Photography
Good landscape photographs often require Planning
to increase our chances of success:
- Planning - for example, to work out the best position of the sun in relation to the landscape, the best time of year to visit a location or the weather conditions required for a particular shot. Getting a fantastic landscape image usually involves a lot of hard work – turning up at random to a location to discover a perfect coincidence of conditions rarely (if ever) happens.
- Patience – waiting several hours for the light & weather to co-operate with me is a regular occurrence.
- Persistence – sometimes I’ll have to revisit a location numerous times before everything comes together.
Look Beyond The Obvious
It’s very tempting to visit a well photographed location and put your tripod
in everyone else’s tripod holes. But do this and clichéd images, that say nothing new about that location, are the most likely result. The easy photographs are rarely the most rewarding or the ones with most impact. It’s important to look beyond the obvious, perhaps to look at the more intimate aspects of the landscape – the little details. These little vignettes, can say as much about a location as a wide vista. Look for a way of photographing the location that reflects your unique vision and your personal reaction to that place & time.
Be Clear – "Why Am I Taking This Picture?"
It’s important to think through (even before taking the camera out of the bag) why a particular subject appeals to you – is it shape, pattern, tone, texture, the light, colour etc. Ask 'why am I taking this picture or what is it that attracts me?' The answer will provide a clarity of purpose that is essential to the picture taking process and it should then influence choice of viewpoint, composition, exposure, filtration etc.
Photography Is About Emotion
Another aspect of this clarity of purpose is to consider your emotional response to the landscape and then try to photograph what you are feeling about a particular location at a particular point in time - "Photography for me is not looking; it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at then you are never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures." (Don McCullin)
As a landscape photographer my prime motivation is always the subject – I look for what appeals to me visually and for something that has an emotional impact on me, whether that’s hate or love. I then see my job as trying to capture and communicate that emotion in the final image. On my workshops I urge participants to capture as much (if not more) of what they feel than what they see because I believe if there’s no emotion in an image it has no voice.
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)
My preference for simple, minimalist landscape images means that I prefer to take a ‘reductionist’ approach to composition where I ask ‘what else can I take out of this shot and still retain its key message?’ It’s a temptation with landscape photography to cram as much into the frame as we can when less is usually more.
I think the best images engage the viewer by leading them to ask questions, by provoking their curiosity. Photographs do not have to provide all the answers or tell the whole story – the viewer should be encouraged to finish the image and interpret its meaning for them.
Use A Tripod
I’m frequently surprised by the number of enthusiastic photographers I meet on my workshops who spend a fortune on lenses and then scrimp on the funds they allocate to buying a tripod. Or even worse – those who buy a good tripod but then can’t be bothered to carry it. A good quality tripod will:
- Give you more control over the image taking process (e.g. composition choices can be more easily made and the camera precisely placed).
- Provide more flexibility (e.g. in low light longer shutter speeds are possible without the risk of camera shake).
- Enhance picture quality (no matter how good you think you are at handholding the camera a tripod will give you a noticeable improvement in picture sharpness).