Photo by Rick Hanson
What planning do you do before going on a landscape shoot?
Always check the weather forecast, and if walking is involved, make sure I know the route. Proper clothing, make sure people know what time I should return, etc.
Although weather plays a great part in landscape photography, I firmly believe there is no such thing as bad weather – simply different types of lighting. Rain, snow, wind etc can all create interesting landscape pictures. In fact, living in the lakes, a clear blue, cloud free sky is probably my least preferred lighting conditions. Once you get to know an area well, you know what direction light comes from, but I try to go on every shoot with a totally open mind, I hate pre-planning shots, because when you reach the location, if the light is different from you planned, you feel that you're not getting the shot. I would far sooner react to the light that is there, and work with what is available to create the style and type of shot that works on that day.
That's not to say some lighting conditions suit certain locations better than others – I have my favourite spots for rainy days, and I have some shots I am still waiting for the “right” light after many years.
What's your top 6 tips for landscape photography?
Learn the rules of composition - golden mean, rules of thirds, lead lines and so on, then compose your pictures as you see fit. I believe in balance of the picture, which may break all of the rules, but for good reason.
Don't limit yourself to the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset – you waste far too much of the day. Great pictures can be taken at any hour – there are a few barns in the Lakes which make great features in a landscape, where the light hits them perfectly between 12 noon and 1pm.
When you see a picture, take it – get the shot – even handheld if necessary. I see too many photographers spend an age setting up the tripod, selecting the right lens, deciding which graduated filter to use, fitting the grad, taking the meter reading, then missing the shot because the light has changed. Get a shot in the bank, then take more care to get another, if the light has held on – you might have a winner, if the light's gone, at least you have a shot!
Never refer to weather as dull – if you think "dull" you will take "dull" pictures – because you'll go out with the wrong attitude. All weather conditions can give fabulous landscape shots – never pre-plan a shot on the basis of weather and lighting, because if it is different from what you planned, you may overlook even better opportunities for outstanding images.
Try to get as much right in camera – I tidy up foregrounds, use the appropriate colour balance (often preset), and I hear all the time - “I can sort that out in PhotoShop” If you start out lazy in your approach, things will just get sloppy. Also, it means I need to spend less time sitting in front of a computer sorting out pictures and can spend more time out taking photos.
Taking a digital picture costs nothing, if you're unsure about depth of field, take a range of shots at varying apertures, it's easier to select the best looking shot on a huge computer screen than on the back of your camera, and many a good shot has been lost because of too little (or too much) depth of field.
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