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Anecdotes from a landscape photographer

Anecdotes from a landscape photographer - Martin Pettinger shares his thoughts in the first of a new weekly series. This week concentrates on the importance of planning.

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Martin Pettinger shares his thoughts in the first of our new weekly series of beginner's landscape articles. This week he concentrates on the importance of planning.

I was at a birthday party last week and divulged I had a passion for landscape photography.

What kind of camera do you use? asked one of the party goers, we’ll call him Bert for the purposes of this story.

A Digital SLR” I replied.

Digital, I thought you’d be using film, though I can’t be doing with all that time at the computer!” replied Bert.

Actually I try to limit time at the computer and get things such as framing, exposure and filtration right when I take the photograph” I tried to explain.

Actually we have a digital camera but it lies in the drawer, but the kids and I use disposables instead on the basis that if we take 50 shots we’ll get some good ones!” stated Bert.

“That wouldn’t work for me,
I replied "landscape photography is all about planning!”

Now Bert was looking a bit confused at this point, whereas some other guests were listening with interest.

So what’s planning got to do with landscape photography? Well for me it increases your chances of capturing a landscape that’s compelling.

It amuses me how many non-photographers I meet who think landscape photography is about equipment and how all you have to do is turn up were there is a nice view and take a few snaps. Sorry folks, great landscapes are about planning. For me and other landscape photographers I know, it is first and foremost about light. If the light is poor your landscapes will be poor. Then there’s wind – wind destroys reflections, it makes reeds and trees go blurry on long exposures and if it is strong it wobbles your tripod! Finally there are clouds – a dull sky makes for a dull landscape.

My audience, other than Bert, were now with me and it was time to put the last nail in Bert’s coffin.

Sometimes you can have the light, the reflections and the sky but still have no landscape!” I exclaimed.

For instance I have the composition I want but the cloudscape or colour I want is there but in the wrong place!

So back to planning – planning improves your chances of success. For me one aspect of planning is having detailed maps, monitoring short term weather forecast and knowing sun rise and set times as well as rise and set positions.

To finish I am reminded of a business maxim: “To fail to plan is to plan to fail”, so next time you plan to take some landscapes try a little planning!

Full Moon Rising taken with a Canon D30 and Sigma 18-50mm The exposure was f/11 at 30sec on ISO100 and no filtration.
Wooly Barb taken with a Canon D30 and Sigma 18-50mm. Exposure at ISO 100 was f/16 at 2/3sec. A circular polariser was attached.

The images above are examples of planning. In both instances I had worked out the position of the moon rise and moon fall as well as calculated the best time to ensure the best quality of light. For the bridge shot I also knew I needed reasonably high water – i.e not low tide to capture the reflections and clearing skies to get the lovely blue sky shortly after sunset. It also helped that I knew the bridge lights would be on even though it wasn’t even tea time!

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