I love landscape and nature photography! Beyond mastery of your camera settings such as exposure modes, aperture, depth of field, shutter speeds, ISO, focal lengths, etc. there are three primary factors that will impact your landscape and nature photographs:
- Location – Seek out locations that will potentially yield great results for nature and landscape photographs. Do your research! There are tons of resources online to give you good suggestions on locations, national and state parks, etc. for great photographs. Participating in a destination photography workshop is another great way to learn about the right locations to visit, at the right times of day. Plus, if you are looking for wildlife, you really need to do research on the best places to find the wildlife. Ask the locals! Ask park rangers!
- Timing – Your choice of time of year and time of day has a huge impact on your nature and landscape photographs. You can’t really modify the light on a mountain to make it look perfect. All you can do is plan to be at the right spot at the right time, with the greatest possibility of having great light. That might mean showing up very early in the morning or late in the day, or that might mean coming back at a different time of the year. There is a great app for planning the timing for the best light in any location. It is called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It’s pretty cool. You can use their app to put a “pin” on a map and then have it show you exactly the sun and moon light angles and exact location of sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset and the timing for all that. You can use the app to precisely plan the best day and time and location for your perfect sunrise or sunset.
- Luck – Despite all your planning, part of this boils down to just pure luck. You can choose the perfect location and the perfect time, but you can’t choose what the weather and atmospheric conditions will be at that time. And if you are looking for wildlife, you can’t be sure the wildlife will actually be there, even if the local people all say that is the perfect spot for viewing wildlife. You an get up early to photograph a sunrise, but you won’t really know for sure if the sunrise will be spectacular or covered up by a cloud bank. Ultimately there is a certain amount of luck involved in being at the right place at the right time. All you can do is try to place yourself in the optimal locations at the right times to increase your chances of success.
Here are a few photos along with some other tips:
Choose the right time of year for fall colors.
Sometimes converting an image to black & white can make the scene even more dramatic. Try to have a foreground with leading lines that draw your eyes deeper into the photograph.
Try to place something in the foreground, to add more interest to the shot.
Use “framing” to have elements in the foreground naturally frame a key subject in a landscape.
Shoot upwards sometimes. Use wide angle lenses to take in a wider view of a scene. Shoot at a really high f/stop (like f/22 in this shot) to create that starburst effect.
Reflections create nice symmetry.
Sunrises are always a gamble. Don’t let the prospects of a cloudy morning scare you away. You actually want clouds in the shot. A sunrise can turn out to be pretty boring if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
If you want to capture soft flowing waterfalls, use a slower shutter speed.
Be ready to capture an unexpected moment with wildlife.
Ultra-wide angle lenses are always handy for some wide scenic vistas our mountain ranges. When shooting lakes, try to feature the reflections in the water.
Bad weather can be dangerous, but don’t put away your camera!
Early morning light on mountains provides such a beautiful enhancement to any mountain shot.
If the atmospheric conditions are creating beautiful clouds, make sure you feature the clouds in some of your photos.
Enjoy and Appreciate
One of the things I love the most about nature and landscape photography isn’t even the photography itself. It is the fact that it is a wonderful excuse to just be out there in the midst of this beautiful and amazing world.
Happy Picture Taking!