Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Capturing Landscape Photos with Character

Landscape photography is a most rewarding pastime, but it can be far more challenging than some people imagine.

It sounds so easy; visit a beautiful location, shoot a few snapshots, and come home with a work of art in your camera. After dealing with the public for over 20 years, I swear most people think it really is that simple. But really good landscape photography is much more challenging. Anyone can recognize the potential of a good subject, but turning that potential into a memorable image is another story.

The task is even greater if it is a popular location. When you photograph a place that is photographed a thousand times a day, you have to find a way to create something different from the everyday snapshot.

Here are just a few tips for capturing the character of a landscape.

Tip#1. You Don't Have To Fit Everything In. Some panoramic views are so huge that the only way to fit everything into your photo is to use a very wide-angle lens. The trouble is, this reduces everything in size, so that the grandeur of your subject is diminished. It can be more effective to concentrate your composition around one feature of the landscape; a feature other people will recognize. With this approach, you can use a larger lens to add size and prominence to the the subject. You may also capture details that could be lost with a wide-angle lens.

Tip #2. Look For A New Angle.
Why is it that so many photos of the great landmarks look the same? Simply because everybody photographs them from the same lookouts. It is easy to get a good shot from a major lookout; in fact, that is probably why the lookout was built in the first place. The trouble is, it is almost impossible to get a unique shot if your photo is taken from the same angle as all the others.

If possible, search beyond the established lookouts to see if there is a more interesting angle to take your photo. This may take a little more effort, and you may have to do some bushwalking to find the best spot. I don't suggest risking your neck or trespassing, but in most cases there are alternatives to the established lookouts.

Tip #3. Use The Surroundings To Your Advantage. Anyone can take a snaphsot of a mountain range. But what about a mountain range framed through the branches of a tree in the foreground, or with a river winding away into the distance, drawing with it the eye of the viewer?

Every landscape can be photographed from a number of angles; the most obvious one is not always the best. By scouting around and looking for interesting foregrounds, you can add real character to your image and create something truly unique.

Always try to remember that you are not the first person to photograph this subject. To produce a memorable photo, you need to put in some effort to create something a little different.

Tip #4. Consider The Conditions. Capturing your subject in the best light can be a real balancing act. First you need to consider the time of day. Usually the ideal light is early in the morning and late in the afternoon, when the light is softer and more colourful. The trouble is, any photographer with experience already knows that. So how do you take your photo to the next level?

Keep a constant eye on the weather. You may be able to see something special, like a storm front, a good cloud formation, or even a good chance of a rainbow, starting to develop. If you choose your moment just right, you can be on location in time for something really special.

This is a measure of the commitment of a landscape photographer. The more effort you put in, the greater the rewards. You will spend a lot of time waiting for the right moment, but once you get that perfect image, you will see it was not time wasted. You will know you have done a good job when people start to say "I have been there - but my photos are nowhere near as good as yours!"

Andrew Goodall's top selling ebook "Photography In Plain English" is a great place to start learning the art and skills of nature photography. Find it at along with a great collection of Andrew's landscape and wildlife photography. You can also sign up to the online newsletter for free gifts and tips on photography.

PictureCorrect Comment: Most professional landscape photographers invest in a wide angle lens in order to capture more of the scene. One of the finest wide angle lenses on the market right now is the Canon Zoom Super Wide Angle EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Autofocus Lens. It features water resistance, 3 high-precision aspherical lens elements, and improved AF algorithms to help the lens to focus faster and quieter.

Written by: Andrew Goodall
Photos taken by: Jim Worrall

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