The wind in your hair, a camera slung over your shoulder and a great location in mind: nothing beats getting out into the great outdoors to shoot landscapes. With the right conditions to hand, a successful outdoors shoot can be an exhilarating experience. But when time is of the essence, you need to learn how to work quickly and methodically to guarantee great shots on every outing.
It doesn’t matter where you live: you’re rarely ever far from a great location or two. And even if you have to travel, it’s all part of the adventure. Whether you’re shooting at home or abroad, the internet has made location research easier than ever, and the planet certainly feels like a smaller place, with even far-flung destinations feeling within reach.
1. Plan like a pro
Checking the weather before you head out is a given – but how about finding out exactly what time sunrise or sunset will take place at your chosen location, or exactly which direction the sun will rise or fall in relation to your desired shooting position? The good news is that you can do all this and more with a super-helpful tool called The Photographer’s Ephemeris.
2. Use a wide-angle lens
Landscape photography is a subject where you can use a wide range of lenses, from the wide-angles you probably think of first all the way up to telephotos. While the location and subject will always dictate the best focal length and technique to use, every landscape photographer certainly needs an ultra-wide-angle lens in their kit bag.
For an APS-C camera, consider a lens with a focal range of 10-20mm; for full-frame cameras, roughly 15-30mm will provide a dramatic, wide field of view.
3. Pack with care
With the prospect of walking several miles to get to a location, it’s imperative that you only pack what you’ll need. Anything could happen, but if you know you’ll only need one or two lenses, only pack these. Don’t forget your filters, spare batteries, lens-cleaning accessories and, of course, clothing to suit all the possible weather conditions for the time of year.
Maximising the overall image sharpness and depth of field relies on using both a narrow aperture and the correct focusing technique. Even with a narrow aperture such as f/16, if you focus on the wrong part of the scene, the foreground or background could still be out of focus.
The best way to focus for landscapes is to switch the camera and lens to manual focus, and rotate the lens’ focusing ring to focus on the right part of the frame. You need to identify the position in the scene that’s one third of the distance towards the horizon, and focus roughly at this point. This piece of advice is sometimes confused with focusing one third of the way up the frame, which is incorrect: make sure you’re looking at the depth of the scene.
Once you’ve identified this point, either look through the viewfinder or use Live View on your rear display while slowly rotating the focus ring. When the image looks sharp at the right point, stop and take a shot. Zoom into the image on the LCD screen and check that it’s sharp from the front, all the way to the back of the shot. If it’s sharp in the foreground but not in the background, you’ll need to set the focus further back, and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to keep adjusting the focus until you achieve sharpness throughout the scene.
5.Polarise the light
Polarising filters are one of the most versatile accessories in the photographer’s arsenal. Not only do they help to deepen blue skies, remove a degree of glare, reduce reflections and increase colour saturation, but they can also be used as a limited neutral-density filter because they reduce light entering the lens by one or two stops.