With all the specialties in landscape photography this could become an exhaustingly long list, but there are some basic considerations that apply to almost any landscape endeavor. You want to be able to put yourself in the scene with the perfect light and have the equipment to execute your vision. Are you ready to get out there and get the shot you’ve been dreaming of?
This is Boar’s Head on the north side of Hampton Beach on the New Hampshire Coast. There are some good sets of rocks depending on the level of the tide. On this day it was something like 10 degs F and there were chunks of hardened snow that got pulled out by the tide. Gotta love the beach when it’s close to 0 degs, no one is there!
3.0 ND and 0.9 Hard GND
f/5, ISO 100, 3.2 sec
3.0 ND and 0.9 Hard GND
f/5, ISO 100, 3.2 sec
Landscape readiness checklist.
1) Directions and Plan
Now this may seem obvious, but you should know where you are going and have a plan before you head out on a photo mission. Have any street addresses, GPS coordinates, and maps you’ll need, and if you don’t have the opportunity to scout an area in person, do so through google maps/earth and image searches, so you’ll feel oriented when you get to the location and able to find the angle you envisioned. Have any apps and guides you’ll need for navigation, weather forecast, sun and stellar positioning, and exposure calculation. If you are heading out far or into nature, take a mechanical compass and physical maps to mitigate the risk of any electronic devices failing or losing signal. Understand the risks of the location and conditions you’ll be shooting in and factor safety into your decision making process. Make sure to tell someone where you are going and when they should expect to hear from you next.
2) Clean Optics/Image Sensor
In my opinion this might be one of the most important but often overlooked items on the checklist. There is nothing more frustrating than fixing sensor spots on an image in post process, or worse, repairing a large section due to a greasy smudge on a filter or lens. It’s worth putting in the time up front so you can process your photos instead of repair them. Make sure to clean the lenses and filters you plan on shooting with before you pack them. Address the cleanliness of your image sensor on a monthly basis or before an important shoot. Make sure to take your cleaning equipment with you so you can perform maintenance in the field. I always take pre-moistened lens wipes, a few microfiber cleaning cloths, and a rocket blower.
I really wanted to highlight the decayed pier on this exposure, so I balanced the sky with the water and calculated an exposure to maximize highlights without clipping any channels. This was a 6 minute exposure with the below filters:
LEE Filters Big Stopper
LEE Filters Hard-Edge 0.9 GND
3) Don’t Forget your Tripod!
For landscape photographers a tripod is a crucial piece of equipment. It helps you achieve slower shutter speeds, which in turn allows for optimized ISO and deeper depth of field. Quite simply, you can always achieve a cleaner and sharper image with a tripod, even at faster shutter speeds. They’re also highly useful in composing images, providing a reference point so you can analyze your results and make small adjustments as you go. They also allow for a wide variety of special effects, multiple frame images, and high resolution panoramas. Whether you are driving into the city for a skyline, hiking for 8 hours in nature, or jumping on a flight to a different country, make sure to take a tripod that fits your trip and won’t hold back your vision.
4) Wireless Remote/Shutter Release
If you are shooting with a tripod you should be shooting with some sort of remote or shutter release, which will give you hands-free operation of your camera to minimize camera shake. By limiting your interaction with your camera, it will also help keep your camera accurately registered to a scene when bracketing exposures. It also allows you to shoot in bulb mode, so you have full control over your exposure length regardless of your camera’s exposure length options. When I’m shooting long exposures I use a simple wireless remote because I don’t want anything connected to my camera that could catch wind. But if I’m shooting multiple frames at fixed times, I use a wired shutter release/intervalometer that I strap to my tripod leg with velcro. Always carry a backup shutter release, or at the least carry backup batteries for your release.
5) Optical Filters
Being able to control the light in your scene is of the utmost importance, and using lens filters will allow you to do just that. Every landscape photographer should have a circular polariser in their bag to cut haze and increase color contrast. When used correctly you can reduce glare, enhance foliage, make sky pop, and control reflective surfaces. Another great filter to have is a neutral density filter, which will help you obtain longer exposure times for special effects like smoothing water and capturing the motion of clouds traveling through the sky. Using a graduated version of a neutral density filter will help you darken only certain parts of the image to help you balance the exposure and control shadows and highlights. For your next trip definitely take some filters with you to experiment and expand your creativity. If you are doing long exposures in bright conditions make sure to cover up your optical viewfinder or shade your entire camera with an umbrella.
Golden Sunrise over Sunflower Field with Blue Sky and Clouds, Co
6) Wide Angle and Telephoto Lenses
We could go deep on this subject. The reality is landscape photographers approach what glass they bring in many ways, all tailored to their specific needs and genre of work. For example, astrophotographers will want to shoot with a very wide lens with a large aperture to capture the sky, while a waterfall photographer may want to use a telephoto to capture an elegant and unique cross section of a popular fall. But generally speaking, what really matters is that you can cover both close and far distances in some capacity. Try to use a variety of focal lengths next time you shoot, it can change the way you interpret a scene. Carrying a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom is a great place to start.
7) Extra Batteries/Memory Cards
Make sure you have plenty of battery power for your camera and devices. There are a lot of cool products out there for portable power, so shop around before you head out on your next big trip. You definitely don’t want to run out of memory either, so bring extra!
Over the past couple months I have been scouting Scotland Road on foggy mornings. I have found the cows many times always in a slightly different spot, and have taken many photos of them in the fog. I never got what I was imagining though, so I kept my eye on mist factor every morning this late fall to give it another go. Found the cows the other morning very close to the road, I did a little bush whacking to get a decent vantage point. The backdrop was looking nice, and right as I started taking photos the tree line got illuminated with golden light.
8) Organized Camera Bag
You don’t want to be fumbling around in your bag trying to find something when the color and light are peaking, so check your gear before you head out. Make sure you have everything accounted for and positioned where you would expect it. A good way to do this is to pretend you’re standing in the field about to set up your shot, and run through the steps it would take to get the image. This can help identify anything you might have forgotten.
9) Appropriate Attire
Do your homework and understand exactly what weather conditions you’ll be shooting in and what type of footwear, clothing, and accessories you’ll need. From insulated wading boots for winter seascapes to wide brimmed hats and long sleeves for intense summer days, make sure you have the attire you’ll need to keep shooting comfortably and safely.
I took this from a five foot high sea rock surrounded by water, so it was a little sketchy. Those waves in the distance ended up clipping me at my thigh. luckily I saw it coming so I was braced for it and was able to get the camera up just in time. This is a 2 sec exposure.
LEE Filters Little Stopper
LEE Filters Hard-Edge 1.2 GND
Other things you may want to bring:
By way of the Southwest I eventually found my home in Boston, where I have been living for the past 7 years. I’ve been an artist my entire life, and have worked in many mediums. I’m a classically trained fine art painter with a BFA in Visual Communications, emphasizing in Illustration, and I’ve spent over a decade creating paintings using unconventional methods and working in the field of digital art and graphic design. Before that, I worked extensively with digital video and a 35mm film camera. Several years ago I was reunited with photography, and the passion quickly grew to an undeniable force. I find it the perfect outlet, and I see it as the culmination of my artistic career. Thanks for taking the time to check out my work, I hope you enjoy it.