AARONJEFFELS PHOTOGRAPHY
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How To Take Amazing Landscape Photos

Who is this for?

Are you thinking about buying a camera because you want to start taking some snapshots when you're walking the dog? Do you own a camera and are just a little fed up of getting home, and the photos just aren't quite like the ones you are seeing in those nice, shiny magazines? Well, this might just be the blog for you. It's going to be a little guide and some quick tips on how I started learning landscape photography and how I take my photo's now. 

Why did I start taking Landscape? 

I own two huskies. Both are nearly 8 years old now and because of them, I have been forced to get out more. I have always loved the outdoors, but as you get older other things in life start getting in the way. When you're knee deep in nappies, pulling on the walking boots begins to sink a little lower on the list of priorities! So taking landscapes became a pretty decent excuse for me to get out and about that little bit more.

 My Male Husky Marsh 

As I was spending more and more time outside, it came sort of naturally to me that I wanted to capture the beautiful scenery I saw on my walks through Guisborough Woods. At the same time, I had a lot of free time on my hands because my two children hadn't come along then and I wanted some way to fill my time. Landscape photography soon became a great passion for me and I couldn't get enough. As I go on, I'm going to talk you through a few tips which I have found that have helped me over the last few years. This isn't a definitive list and it won't be right for everyone, but it works for me. 

What Gear Do I Need?

Firstly, your equipment isn't everything. Some people think if they have a £5000 camera and a £3000 lens, they will instantly become better photographers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Camera - 

If you're just starting out, then buy what you can afford. I personally bought a cheap bridge camera, but soon found it's limitations so had to upgrade. My number one top tip would be to buy a cheap camera body, second hand if you have to, and put the rest of your money into a good quality lens

 Fuji Xt2 

Lens -

Buy the best quality lens you can afford. It's this one piece of equipment that will increase the quality of your image the most! Don't think you need a super wide angle lens; a good telephoto lens will allow you to capture some great images from mountain tops, or if you are deep in a valley. This is a very personal choice and not one that someone can make for you. Only you can find your style of photography, and know what you want to photograph

 Fuji Landscape Lenses

Tripod -

A good quality, strong and sturdy tripod is a must. Normally when photographing landscapes you would use a low shutter speed, so the aim of the tripod is to stop any camera shake; a sturdy, solid one is therefore a must. However this is where I eat my own words. I actually own a Manfrotto travel tripod. When I photograph Landscape I'm normally out for a long time, walking quite a distance and doing a fair bit of climbing. This is where I sacrificed sturdiness for weight. You have to work out what you want from your kit, and go from there. 

Filters -

Polarizer. This is a must for any Landscape photographer. This will take the reflection and glare from water and enhance colours. This cannot be replicated in any software, unlike other filters. 

Graduated filters. Not 100% essential. Most good quality editing software can actually replicate these. 

ND Filters. These filters block light from the lens allowing you to keep the shutter open for longer. If you have seen pictures of streams or waterfalls and wondered how the photographer made the water look like smoke or mist, this is how. These are a must if you want to create this effect. 

Shutter release cable -

If your camera has a self-timer built into it then these aren't necessary, but I would recommend one. A shutter release cable will help eliminate camera shake.

Bag -

For me, I spent almost a year trying to find the ideal Landscape camera bag. It had to tick so many boxes because of what I was doing, to find a dedicated camera bad was almost impossible, unless you had deep pockets. 

 Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW Backpack

Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW Backpack

For me, the Lowepro Whistler is the perfect camera bag. It has space for camera bodies, lenses, filters, it has a dedicated tripod holder, snow axe holder, ski holder and plenty of room for extra clothes and food. The problem was, at the time I didn't quite have £300-£400 to spend just on a bag (or The Wife wouldn't let me!). So I shopped around, and thought a little about what I needed and decided to create my own bag. 

I bought a Lowe Alpine Men's Airzone Pro 35:45. This is just a regular hiking bag, but it has an access zip on the side. This zip allows me to gain access to my camera gear without having to go in through the top and pull out my spare clothes or food. This is vital if the weather is bad. Using this bag I can go into the hills for a full day, and capture images that I probably wouldn't have got before. 

Here's a list of all the gear I can comfortably carry within this bag :

  • Camera Body (Fuji Xt2)
  • Lenses - Fuji 18mm, 16-55mm, 56mm, 100-400mm 
  • Tripod ( Strapped on the side)
  • Walking Poles (Strapped on the side)
  • Water bottle (Strapped on the side)
  • Filters
  • Batteries 
  • Shutter Release cable
  • Maps
  • First Aid Kit
  • Rain Jacket
  • Waterproof Trousers
  • Snacks
  • One Meal
  • Jumper/Fleece
  • Spare Change
  • Gloves & Hat
  • Insect repellent

The bag can also be easily configured for a one-night, wild camping trip during the summer months.

Butt Lane Foot Path - Guisborough

Location 

Where should you photograph when starting out? My advice is popular places that have been photographed 1000's of times. Once you have photographed these places, you can easily compare your photo to others and see what you like and don't like. You have to be truthful about your work though and be harsh. This is a great way to improve and learn at the same time. Once you have started mastering the technique of composition and light, you will then find it easier to create your own stunning photographs. 

The photo above is about a 10-minute walk from my house. I've walked past it 100's of times, and it wasn't until I started photographing Landscapes that I noticed a composition.

My final piece of advice when picking a location; don't be a roadside snapper. And what do I mean by this? These are people that pull up in a lay-by, and just take a quick snapshot. As a Landscape photographer, your most valuable assets are your legs...USE THEM!!!

Composition

 This is the single most important part of the photograph that will make your photograph stand out from the crowd! Learning the basic rules of photography will help you more than anything else. The best thing about this is they are easy because they are all around us. 

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The Rule Of Thirds

The rule of thirds - Imagine the image above with two lines running down and two lines running across, all with even spacing. It is natural to place the point of focus of an image on one of the cross sections. Most cameras come with a grid system that you can turn on to aid this. In this example, the eye naturally starts at the bottom of the photo and works its way up to the castle in the background. This is all done within milliseconds and without the viewer even knowing. Now imagine the castle dead centre in the image, there isn't anything wrong with it, but the image would lose its impact. 

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Odd Numbers

Odd Numbers - Nature doesn't naturally present something in even numbers (rules will be broken) So try not to add even numbers in your photos. Rules can be broken, for example, two trees in a field covered by snow. What you have to make sure in this instance though is the image is perfectly symmetrical. In the example above I was aiming for three stones in the foreground but had to do with five, it isn't perfect but the large stone at the front adds weight to the image and anchors it. 

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Leading Lines

Leading Lines - This is an easy rule to follow. Find lines in your photo that lead the viewers eyes from the front of the photo to the back or bottom corner to the top. 

I think the aim of any image is to make the viewer feel some kind of emotion when looking at it. I always try and make the viewer feel as though they are there, standing in the image and feeling the wind or rain on their face. this is all done because of the composition. Remember to think about the final photo and don't take a snapshot! 

Here is a great video to help you get started with compostion 

Timing 

Timing in Landscape photography is key. Most great photos are taken during the golden hour

What is the golden hour? In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky.

Not all photos have to be taken during this time. The bluebell photo above, for example, was taken just after because I wanted the blue flowers to contrast against the white clouds. There are many apps you can download now onto any mobile phone that will tell you sun direction and time of setting, these are invaluable when trying to visualise the photo before setting out.  

My Own Personal Tips

  1. Get up early - People hate getting up early, it's just a fact. Get up early, have the place to your self and enjoy one of the great wonders of the world, a rising sun. 
  2. Use your legs -This is my favourite tip because people are naturally lazy. If a photo is hard to get to then people will naturally give it a miss. You will normally have a unique photo and it will be worth the extra work. Don't be one of those people who pull into a layby and take a snapshot!
  3. Practice -I have covered this a little bit already but practice makes perfect. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Take the same photo over and over again, and lastly experiment.
  4. Plan - Plan your photos don't just go for a walk and go snap happy. I would rather come away with one great image instead of ten average images.
  5. Composition - take your time and remember your rules of composition
  6. Emotion - A great photo should always make the viewer feel some kind of emotion. I always try and make the viewer of my photos feel as though they are there in the moment.
  7. Enjoy it- Remember why you are out there taking the photo in the first place.   

let me know what you think in the comments below...

Aaron