Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Landscape lessons

Lyn Ogwen, North Wales - 2004

This is the first of a series of posts where I'll be giving a few tips that help me take great images. This first post looks at landscape photography - the most popular choice of subject for many photographers.

So you've found your view and want to photograph it and capture its beauty.

First of all you want to create depth in the photograph. I always think of depth as layers in a photograph; these are items in the image that lead the viewer's eye to the scene itself and act like a guide - in essence, you are aiming to create a photograph that is interesting to look at from front to back. In the photo of Lyn Ogwen above, layer 1 would be the rocks in the foreground and layer 2 would be the grass and rocks of the outcrop of land. Layer 3 is the lake itself and layer 4 is the range of mountains. The final layer is the sky which has to have some detail if possible. A blue sky with white clouds is perfect but dark stormy clouds (my favourite type of landscape cloud) can add some mood and look terrific.

The second item is perspective which can affect the depth of the photograph. I always try to survey a scene before picking a camera up. Find something interesting to use in the foreground of your image and then concentrate on the background. Perspective and depth provide the detail that draws the viewer in and makes the image work. I personally look for the depth before looking for a perspective but you could easily do it vice verse. With the Lyn Ogwen image i could have chosen a lower perspective to bring the rocks closer to the foreground. I photographed the scene standing up but it could have worked just as well lower down. Play with perspective and think of unusual angles; look how different lense alter the look of the landscape.

The final item is light which can make or break an image. My photo of Lyn Ogwen was taken in typical Snowdonian weather so bright light was not on the cards; the light reflects the changeable environment that you get in the mountains. I avoid shooting images with cloudless skies because the light can be very harsh; clouds often act as light diffusers, softening the light. I also avoid overcast skies but it often depends on how detailed the cloud is. If the light and overcast cloud adds to the mood of the image -use it. Finally think about the time of day you intend taking your landscape images. Most landscape photographers tend to shoot at either end of the day, capturing the landscape in early morning or late afternoon/dusk light.

For a landscape image to work you need all three of these attributes in some shape or form. If one is missing, there is a good chance that the image won't work or will be poor. The key thing is to experiment and look at other landscape images to see why they work/don't work.

I hope that these rough guidelines will prove helpful. The next lesson is in portraiture and will be posted next week.

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