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Hints and Tips - Photographing the American Landscape

Hints & Tips is supported by: Light & Land Photographic Tours & Workshops

Using your forefinger and thumbs, form them into a rectangular shape to view compositions and see if there is a photograph to be made.

Allow yourself to become absorbed in the photograph you are going to take. Think about why you find it beautiful, intriguing or breath-taking. What is the story?

Take your eye around the viewfinder a few times to familiarize with all that exists on the outside of the perimeter. Crop out distracting elements or elements that alter the balance or ‘story’ of your photograph.

Consider small details and think simple.

Check to see that your image is tack sharp front to back. Out of focus foregrounds can be distracting. For flowers and extreme close ups, however, the background and foreground can be thrown out of focus.

If you have a tripod, try to use it whenever possible. A tripod allows for sharp images by eliminating camera movement. It also enables the creative technique of long exposure photography.
When photographing a scene with the sun facing you make sure you use a lens hood to avoid flare. Keep an eye out on the front element of the lens. If the lens hood is not providing enough coverage, use your hand or even your body to shield the lens and prevent flare.

If the sky is lacking in interest, ie. too bland or too blue or grey, then try leaving it out altogether. If the sky is compelling then let it have its say. Try devoting three quarters of the photograph to the sky if it is remarkable.

Include whole clouds if possible. With reflections, try to include entire clouds. ‘Every cloud has its certain valid moment’ Minor White.

Zebra Aspens by Steven Friedman Image

Settle into your photograph and, if time allows, try not to rush. Haste and pressure are barriers to creativity. Equally, see next point...

Photographing the USA Image
‘Chance favours the prepared mind’ Ansel Adams, photographer, after Louis Pasteur.
If there is no landscape in front of you, look around; there may be one at your feet.
Study the shadow areas and how dense they might be. A deep black ‘nothingness’ can dominate a photograph as much as unwanted highlights. Find a balance. Squinting at the scene is a good way to evaluate brightness range.
Big views are difficult, but try to make them coherent. Look for leading lines and an anchor to draw the eye into the image.

A photographer must be acutely aware of the nature and quality of light and how the light is falling on the subject. Light is everything. Study the impact of light on a particular scene at different times of the day; late evening light just after the sun has set can produce an afterglow creating a lovely luminous light.

Orange Horse by Carol Brightbill Image
Cloud shadow can provide a greater sense of depth and dimension to a landscape, or conceal the impact of unattractive features.
Lone trees are often used. Most photographers cannot resist them, especially with a lovely sky. Try to include the base of the tree, and try not to cut the top off. If you do so, try to ensure that it was intended and not because you didn’t notice.
Think about the effect that a prevailing wind may have on your photograph ie. consider using a long shutter speed to convey a sense of movement within the greenery.

With digital photography, there is no wastage from an experiment that failed.

City Abstract by Anil Sud Image
Look at other people’s images in books, exhibitions and magazines and postcards. See what works and what doesn’t.

Don’t be afraid of filters as they are wonderful tools for photographers. Polarizers can reduce glare and saturate color and neutral density filters can darken the lens element therefore allowing for long exposures. Neutral density graduated filters can also be useful by keeping subtle tones in the sky.

Lantern by Daria Bareza Image

Technology is constantly developing and cameras of all types, including camera phones, have increasingly sophisticated functions. Learn how they work and enjoy experimenting.

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Zebra Aspens by Steven Friedman Image

Photographing the USA Image

Orange Horse by Carol Brightbill Image

City Abstract by Anil Sud Image

Lantern by Daria Bareza Image

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