While I don’t agree with everything Declan O’neil shares in this article, there is plenty of good content to share. If you’re wondering what I disagree with, its mainly his idea on how to post process. I say photography is art and you’re free to experiment and do what you want with your shots.
On to the Article…
10 Tips For Landscape Photographers
by Declan O’neil
“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.” – Ansel Adams.
So many times I have pointed my camera at a landscape simply because it was there and looked beautiful. This was a a trap. I had been lured me into believing that simply taking the photograph was worthwhile in itself. All I had done was hold a mirror up to nature. I had not made the photograph. The image made no statement and expressed nothing about my own perspective.
Ansel Adams understood that the photographer needs to find a voice through the landscape. For years I floundered because I had nothing to convey other than the obvious beauty of the land. I realised that I had to find a way to engage with the landscape because, if I couldn’t, then neither could the people who saw my photographs.
The following tips are just reflections based on a personal philosophy of what I believe is important in landscape photography.
1. Have Something to Say about the Landscape
The land takes time to read and to understand. You have to stand still and see the way light changes the contours and shapes. As the sun moves, it lights forests and streams in dramatically different ways.
It took me a long time to see that light gives landscape its own voice. Light creates mood and emotion in landscape. The land is a huge canvas on which light paints a complex and delicate picture.
For me, photography is about capturing the way in which light transforms the land. My decisions, therefore, about what to photograph and how to compose the shot are all dictated by the question, ‘Does this say something about light and landscape?’ This simple question leads me to reject many frames which, while beautiful, present no opportunity to explore my chosen theme.
2. Get up Early!
If given a choice between dawn and sunset I would always choose the former. I have nothing against sunset shots but I usually find that there is nothing original that I can add to the thousands of sunset photographs I have seen.
Dawn light, however, is always surprising. You never quite know what you’re going to get as you wait in the darkness.
It is rather like wildlife photography because you might get the shot you have wanted for years or you might get nothing. Dawn light can range from the most delicate dusky pink to a warm yellow.
Keep an eye on weather forecasts because, if you are lucky enough to live in an area with really cold nights and clear skies, you can sometimes catch wonderful cloud and vapour effects which have disappeared by the time the rest of the world is awake!
3. Imperfection is Fine!
Landscape photography is made especially difficult by the huge dynamic range you encounter. There is no way of controlling light balance in the field.
ND filters sometimes help but I find them fiddly and often not right for the particular location I have chosen. Often I have to reject a magnificent opportunity because there is simply too wide a dynamic range.
I am not a fan of HDR techniques or software. They give themselves away and I feel that they destroy the integrity of the shot. Most shots can be light balanced on the computer. Sometimes, however, the shot is actually better because of impossible dynamic range.
The photo of mussel beds in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand would probably be rejected by most camera club competitions. It might have been possible to grab a little detail from the land but I rather like the mystery of the black geometric block against the hammered silver of the water.
It’s technically a rather poor photograph but it has something that draws you to examine it more closely. Look beyond getting the perfectly lit shot and see the potential of the subject.