Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learn Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography is one of the most popular forms of photography today. You can just walk around with your camera practically anywhere and shoot a good photo... But there are certain guidelines that are easy to follow to make a good Landscape Photo.

Equipment mentioned in this article:
Tiffen 77mm Circular PolarizerHoya HMC NDx8 - Filter - neutral density 8x - 77 mmCokin P154 Filter, P, Grey Neutral Density 8XManfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod Legs (Black)

What makes your photos better than everyone else's? 
What I believe along with very experienced landscape photographers is finding a scenery that stands out. When you are setting up for a photo, what stands out about this photo that NOBODY else thought to take or NOBODY else could take because YOU and only you have that eye for that particular photo. That is why professional photographers have galleries.. it's not because they took 1 lucky photo and it just happened to catch everyones attention, but it's because they go out of their way to find all those perfect photos. They climb mountains, they crawl in the snow, they drive for hours and hours out of the way, they wait for days and days at a time for just the right moment to capture what nobody else can. That's what makes a great Landscape Photographer.

But not everyone starts out like that. We all have to start somewhere. If it's just shooting a sunset from your backyard, or shooting a cityscape at night, we all have to start somewhere.

An example:
I took this photo my first month I began photography. I had no idea what I was doing and I had a point n shoot camera. Hell, I even took this photo on Auto. At first you may think, well I see nothing wrong with it.. Sure there is nothing wrong with it, but it's boring. There's no sunset, no clouds, no mist, no nothing! It's just boring.
But an image like this really shines! It stands out amongst the rest.There is fog, a sunset, a starburst from the sun, a nice tight crop of the bridge.

Well what makes a good Landscape Photo?
There isn't just one thing that makes a good landscape photo, but several.

Here are some things that help make a great photo:
-Clouds. A good looking sky makes a photo stand out. Clouds that show impact. I don't mean clouds that look just like overcast and all look the same. They need to be big white puffy clouds, dark evil twisted clouds, thick strong clouds.. Clouds can make or a break a photo. You can have a gorgeous landscape but with an overcast sky and that will ruin your photo.

-Contrast. Having contrast will make your photo look sharp and defined. When there is good contrast you can have rich strong colors that will stand out and make your photo shine. To have good contrast, make sure not to Overexpose your photos. Even underexposing your photos by a half stop to a stop will add nice contrast to them. Also having a good Circular Polarizer and/or Neutral Density filter will give you nice color contrast.
Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizer
-Sharpness. Having a sharp photo will overall give your photo a nice touch. In Landscape Photography, it is key to having everything sharp. When you take a photo that you are proud of and want to have it enlarged and find out that many things are blurry from camera shake, you're going to be upset and disappointed! You can avoid all of that by shooting at high F-stop # and/or using a tripod. 
Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod Legs (Black)
-Depth of Field. DoF can make your photo really stand out give your viewers perspective on what is actually there.

Well then what does a bad photo look like??

This is a photo that I took when I first started getting into photography. I didn't know anything about balancing the exposure for the sky and the foreground. I was very happy with the results of this photo when I first took it because I thought it was a good sunset and the water looked like it was moving.

I circled 3 obvious thing that are wrong with this photo. First the sky is overexposed due to the long exposure I used to achieve the moving water effect. Then there is the horizon. The horizon isn't straight and even if it is slightly off in photos when you first take them or post them onto your website, when you print them up and frame them the whole thing is just ruined! Always get the horizon straight! Next is the big black wave that looks like a wall. If I would of done a longer exposure to make that appear to be in motion it would have came out much different.

Solution for the photo:
Having the ND Grad filter would of evened out my exposure allowing me to have a great looking sunset. The clouds wouldn't be over exposed and I would have much more even tones throughout the picture.

Cokin P154 Filter, P, Grey Neutral Density 8X

The photo could of also looked better if the horizon was straight. There are levels that you can put on your camera and now they even have levels on tripods.
Tiffen 77mm Neutral Density 0.9 FilterB+W 65-073102 77mm Neutral Density 0.9-8x Filter #103Hoya 77mm Neutral Density ND-400 X, 9 Stop Multi-Coated Glass FilterB+W 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter

A Neutral Density filter would of blocked out more light allowing me to have a much longer exposure to have that wave that looks like a black wall look much better, like moving water.

Another poor photo
What's wrong with this photo? Better yet, how can we make it better for next time?
The clouds look good. They show a lot of impact and they catch your eye right off the bat and they're well exposed, but whats so wrong with this photo? I see this photo taken millions of times by people and then posted on facebook soon afterwards. Well other than the water being underexposed, nothing really stands out about this photo. Your photo needs to be one that not EVERYONE takes with their iphone or point and shoot camera.

For next time, there needs to be Depth of Field. This photo looks like just a nice sky and some water at the bottom of it. What makes a great Landscape photo is great Depth of Field.You need to make the photo have Depth to it that gives you perspective of how hard the waves are crashing, how fast the water is moving, how big the ocean is, how big the rocks are, etc... Get me? Things like rocks, driftwood, boulders, piers, trees, and people add perspective and DoF. 

Sooo... A good photo looks like???
What makes this a good photo??
Other than the nice colors (all natural colors with small saturation) there are many factors that makes this photo good. First you can see that the whole photo grabs your attention. You see the colors all around and the waves are in movement. The boulder, person in the background, house, and sand give the picture Dept of Field. In this photo I used a CPL, ND Grad, and a high Aperture # to allow me to give a 1/2 second exposure during the day. This photo also shows nice contrast throughout the photo as you can see the sharpness in the clouds, waves, and rocks.
In the photo above you can see a nice even exposure throughout it. ***A hint for capturing sunsets*** You do not always have to point your camera toward the sun. Try pointing it about 90 Degrees from the sun. Not only will it help you get a better exposure, but you'll get much better colors because the sun will reflect more in the clouds. As you can see in this photo the sun has already passed the pier I am on. This photo gives nice DoF with the "leading lines" (lines going toward you) from the railing, the pier, the shadows, and the light posts. Contrast is easily seen with all the different colors, shadows, and highlights from top to bottom.

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