A stunning scene at Lake Ndutu with animals, the light and the landscape all coming together beautifully

A stunning scene at Lake Ndutu with animals, the light and the landscape all coming together beautifully

1.    Landscapes require planning. Think about drama — big seas, meandering rivers, flowering fields, snow capped mountains, cloud formations and full moons. All of them give depth to an image. A landscape might be drab at midday but if you return when the sun is in the correct position it could become fantastic. If you are very serious about getting great results, then make a point of returning to a place at a particular time of day and even at a particular season.

2.    Landscapes are not just about backgrounds. The foreground and the middle ground are as just as important as what is happening in the distance. Test it and you will see. Rocks, flowers, a beach, a person, or a building in the foreground of a photograph can add scale, drama and also meaning to an otherwise two-dimensional picture. Also remember to have one-third sky and two-thirds foreground – or the other way round. Also if there are any foreground features try and position these off centre in the frame. You are also advised to keep your horizons straight. Not something that I am terribly good at!

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3.    A great landscape view does not have to be wide angle although a wide angle lens of 18 – 35 mm is often ideal. Sometimes it’s a great idea to zoom in onto a part of the subject using a 200 mm lens or more. This also has the benefit of compressing the picture. As someone once wrote you need to compress to impress. It’s a particularly useful strategy when photographing mountains and getting them to stack on top of each other.

4.    Usually depth of field is maximized in a landscape by using a small aperture f16. As a result it can help a great deal to use a tripod to ensure that the image is sharp all the way through. Not only will a tripod help with camera shake but it will also help you to fine tune your composition.

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5.    There are no rules, not everything needs to be in focus. A blur of grass blowing in the foreground might really add to your picture. So can running water, storm seas. In fact many landscape photographers use ND filters so that they can slow down their shutter speeds and deliberately create movement and blur. A neutral density filter — such as an ND3 will increase your exposure time by 6 – 9 stops. This is particularly effective when photographing cloud and sea movements.

6.    Landscape photographers and graduated filters go together like bread and butter. The filters darken the skies, highlight clouds, give colour to sky and bring out detail in their foregrounds. Its first prize to get the capture right in camera and I always carry with me a set of ND graduated filters for those times when I know that the sky is just too bright to retrieve in post production. One of the great benefits of working in the digital era is that these filters can be added after the fact using photo software. I find that Lightroom Grad filters do an OK job while Colour EFEX Pro filters are really much more natural and realistic. Post production is a big part of landscape photography — but just make sure you keep it natural and don’t stomp on that picture.

7.    Landscapes don’t move, but that does not mean that you have to remain rooted to the spot. In the search for balance and symmetry of foreground, middleground and background, I often move around quite a bit to find the best possible angle and aspect from which to take the shot. You might think that Landscapes are still, but they are not. You might have a great angle  but be prepared for things that come into the picture to make it even more exciting — it could be a flock of birds, a wave, the setting sun, a herd of animals. Keep thinking at all times.

8. There are some great apps to help photographers to plan their trips Wind guru, AccuWeather, PhotoPills and the Photographers Ephemeris. Using all the information that is available you can plan for  tides, sunrise,  sunset, moonrise and angles.

9. It’s a fantastic sport this landscape photography and be prepared to slip on rocks, drop gear and get very active. Take a torch and a buddy. You don¹t want to be out in the dark clawing over the rocks on your own ‹ or do you?

10. Visit 500 px to get inspired about what some of the great landscape photographers are up to. One of my heroes in the field is Marcus Jooste. He asked me about shooting at Sossusvlei and I said that the challenge there is to create something different as its one of the most over shot landscape in Africa. Blow me down if he did not leave his camera out in the middle of the park the whole night and capture ghostly trees and beautiful stars. It was a fantastic capture and he put R50 000 of gear at risk to get in the bag. Other names to watch are Hougaard Malan. Learn from the work of others and work hard. To get great shots you need to be be prepared for early rises and late to beds if you are going to do this properly. Beating the sun in summer is not easy. Conceptualise your shots and make it happen.

The Dark side of Deadvlei - Marcus Jooste

The Dark side of Deadvlei – Marcus Jooste