05.09.2016

11 Surefire Landscape Photography Tips

05.09.2016

11 Surefire Landscape Photography Tips

At the surface landscape photography seems like a simple practice, but as you dig deeper you to start to uncover layers of nuance and technique. Quite simply, landscape photographers accomplish the same task in many different ways, and it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia. So let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and perhaps spark some creativity.

I really wanted to have the lighthouse isolated, which requires high tide, so I’ve been waiting for a sunrise with some decent conditions to line up. This is a 60 sec exposure with a telephoto and LEE Filters Very-Hard Edge 0.9 GND.
I really wanted to have the lighthouse isolated, which requires high tide, so I’ve been waiting for a sunrise with some decent conditions to line up. This is a 60 sec exposure with a telephoto and LEE Filters Very-Hard Edge 0.9 GND.

 

1 – Stay true to your vision

Pursue what interests you and stay true to your style. Definitely get inspired by the work of others, but don’t get caught up with what everyone else is doing. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and it’s really about how YOU see and interpret the world. As an artist that has worked in many mediums, I think perhaps this is my best piece of advice. Find your own voice and niche, and put all your effort into that.

Nothing better than being at the beach early in the morning. I found this awesome piece of driftwood and was able to  get a cool angle for sunrise. The drift wood stayed anchored as the surf washed around it for this 4 minute exposure.  LEE Filters Big Stopper (10 stops) LEE Filters Hard-Edge 1.2 GND (4 stops) LEE Filters Soft-Edge 0.9 GND (3 stops)
Nothing better than being at the beach early in the morning. I found this awesome piece of driftwood and was able to get a cool angle for sunrise. The drift wood stayed anchored as the surf washed around it for this 4 minute exposure.
LEE Filters Big Stopper (10 stops)
LEE Filters Hard-Edge 1.2 GND (4 stops)
LEE Filters Soft-Edge 0.9 GND (3 stops)

 

2 – Quality over Quantity

As a landscape photographer your goal should be to create works of art, which requires a level of thoughtfulness and technical execution. While you want to get good coverage of a location, especially in the ideal light, you want to make sure you get the most important shots right, the ones you have exhaustingly planned. Anything else after that is a bonus.

Here is a fun angle of Boston from Nahant. Looking out past Bass Point and over Revere (right) and Winthrop (left). It was really hazy which made for a great sunset. This was a 250 sec exposure using a Big Stopper in combination with one of LEE’s new “Very-Hard” graduated filters for precise positioning with a telephoto lens. LEE Filters Big Stopper LEE Filters Very Hard-Edge 0.9 GND
Here is a fun angle of Boston from Nahant. Looking out past Bass Point and over Revere (right) and Winthrop (left). It was really hazy which made for a great sunset. This was a 250 sec exposure using a Big Stopper in combination with one of LEE’s new “Very-Hard” graduated filters for precise positioning with a telephoto lens.
LEE Filters Big Stopper
LEE Filters Very Hard-Edge 0.9 GND

 

3 – Uncover cool locations

No doubt sometimes you have to get that landmark shot, as you should, but what other areas of the location, or near the location, also tell the story of the landscape? Try to think outside the box and find lesser known areas and new views. Look for points of interest and dynamic foregrounds. This can help you capture something really special that speaks to the essence of the location.

Here is a different exposure from a shoot I had a couple months ago. This is what I wrote then: This is a very unique angle of Boston I have waited a long time to get, and it was pretty exciting to finally go there. I got to believe in a decade these spots won’t exist anymore as the shoreline continues to get developed, so now is the time to take advantage. I decided to place the horizon line in the center because there were way too many vertical lines, and I don’t have a tilt and shift lens, so splitting the horizon gave me no distortion at this very wide angle. Canon 6d Canon 16-35mm 2.8L II at 17 LEE Big Stopper (3.0ND) LEE 0.9 Grad ND Hard LEE 0.6 Grad ND Soft f/13, ISO100, 120 sec  Live View, RC-6 Wireless Remote
Here is a different exposure from a shoot I had a couple months ago. This is what I wrote then:
This is a very unique angle of Boston I have waited a long time to get, and it was pretty exciting to finally go there. I got to believe in a decade these spots won’t exist anymore as the shoreline continues to get developed, so now is the time to take advantage. I decided to place the horizon line in the center because there were way too many vertical lines, and I don’t have a tilt and shift lens, so splitting the horizon gave me no distortion at this very wide angle.
Canon 6d
Canon 16-35mm 2.8L II at 17
LEE Big Stopper (3.0ND)
LEE 0.9 Grad ND Hard
LEE 0.6 Grad ND Soft
f/13, ISO100, 120 sec
Live View, RC-6 Wireless Remote

 

4 – Let light dictate your angle

As an outdoor photographer your world is dictated by natural light, so it’s important to plan your images around the position of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky. Some locations can only be maximized at certain times of day and under certain lighting conditions, so it’s important to plan your point of view and time the capture of your image appropriately.

Got lucky with a very colorful sunrise. It made waking up at 3:45am well worth it. This was a 6 minute exposure with the below filters. LEE Filters Little Stopper   LEE Filters Hard-Edge 1.2 GND LEE Filters Soft-Edge 0.9 GND
Got lucky with a very colorful sunrise. It made waking up at 3:45am well worth it. This was a 6 minute exposure with the below filters.
LEE Filters Little Stopper
LEE Filters Hard-Edge 1.2 GND
LEE Filters Soft-Edge 0.9 GND

5 – Check the weather

You can never be exactly sure what Mother Nature is going to serve up, but you can increase your odds of success by checking forecasts. For example, if you are looking to do daytime long exposures with cloud movement, keep on the lookout for fair days when cumulous clouds are likely to pop up, and be ready with some locations in mind. By that same rationale, if you’re looking to shoot stars in the night sky, you’ll want to plan for a clear night with the desired darkness.

Made my way down to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir after the clouds cleared out from winter storm Lexi. I wanted to take advantage of no moon and cold clear skies, as well as the snow still clung to the trees, which was the point of this venture. This is 60 exposures over 20 minutes using Canon TC-80N3 with 1 sec in between exposures. Custom white balance taken in camera with LEE Filters white balance cap. Stacked from RAWs via Photoshop CC.
Made my way down to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir after the clouds cleared out from winter storm Lexi. I wanted to take advantage of no moon and cold clear skies, as well as the snow still clung to the trees, which was the point of this venture. This is 60 exposures over 20 minutes using Canon TC-80N3 with 1 sec in between exposures. Custom white balance taken in camera with LEE Filters white balance cap. Stacked from RAWs via Photoshop CC.

6 – Show up early

Since you can never know the exact conditions at a location until you show up, it’s worth showing up early to give yourself enough time to change plans if the conditions aren’t what you expected, or to give you time to dial-in and grab some different looks. When I go shoot sunrise I like to shoot twilight through the golden hour, and the reverse of that at sunset.

I could tell it was going to be a twilight burner this morning, and the wind was pretty low, so I paid a visit to the Charles River on the Cambridge side before sunrise for a skyline shot. Decided to take advantage of the boats on the water as the winter is coming up and took this classic Charles River Yacht Club scene. Canon 6d Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 16 LEE Little Stopper (1.8 ND) Singh-Ray 0.9 Reverse GND f/11, ISO 100, 250 se
I could tell it was going to be a twilight burner this morning, and the wind was pretty low, so I paid a visit to the Charles River on the Cambridge side before sunrise for a skyline shot. Decided to take advantage of the boats on the water as the winter is coming up and took this classic Charles River Yacht Club scene.
Canon 6d
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 16
LEE Little Stopper (1.8 ND)
Singh-Ray 0.9 Reverse GND
f/11, ISO 100, 250 se

7 – Shoot long focal lengths

Sometimes a wide angle lens is the right tool for the job, but a telephoto can open up a world of possibilities by changing the way you interpret what you see in front of you. It’s a more selective process that forces you to think and become not only more intimate with the landscape but more aware of the interplay of light and shadow in the scene.

greg-dubois-image-8

8 – Use filters and create motion

Every landscape photographer should have a circular polariser and neutral density filter in their bag. The polariser will cut haze to deepen sky and make colors pop by reducing glare on reflective surfaces. With neutral density filters you can adjust your exposure length to create an array of motion effects with non-static subjects in the scene and create striking images.

This is going to sound random, but when I order take out food for lunch at work sometimes I pick it up and eat at the graveyard. Today I had a pizza, and I parked in my usual spot off an access road at the bottom of a hill in the least travelled area. The cloud conditions were perfect for long exposures and I toyed with the idea of using a tree as a subject. At first I thought the idea was ridiculous, but as I observed the large orange tree directly in front of me I realized it wasn't moving much and I should probably take advantage of the still conditions at ground level. I threw my gear together quickly and fired off three exposures before the conditions changed. This was my last exposure that I cut off early due to a wind gust, it ended up being the crispest. Canon 6d 16-35 2.8L II at 25 B+W 3.0 ND MRC 110M B+W KSM CPL XS-PRO Nano 71 sec
This is going to sound random, but when I order take out food for lunch at work sometimes I pick it up and eat at the graveyard. Today I had a pizza, and I parked in my usual spot off an access road at the bottom of a hill in the least travelled area. The cloud conditions were perfect for long exposures and I toyed with the idea of using a tree as a subject. At first I thought the idea was ridiculous, but as I observed the large orange tree directly in front of me I realized it wasn’t moving much and I should probably take advantage of the still conditions at ground level. I threw my gear together quickly and fired off three exposures before the conditions changed. This was my last exposure that I cut off early due to a wind gust, it ended up being the crispest.
Canon 6d
16-35 2.8L II at 25
B+W 3.0 ND MRC 110M
B+W KSM CPL XS-PRO Nano
71 sec

9 – Think about depth of field

In general landscapers want to achieve an image that is sharp throughout the frame. This can come with varying degrees of difficulty depending on focal length and the distance between subjects near and far. There are a lot of methods that can be used from focus stacking to utilizing hyperfocal distances to achieve a sharp image throughout the frame, but it really comes down to doing your research and learning what works best for you and your equipment. At the end of the day though there really are no rules, so don’t be afraid to incorporate shallow depth of field in your landscapes shots to achieve an entirely different look.

This old nautical rope is one of my favorite subjects in East Boston. I caught some nice sunrise light hitting the buildings downtown. Through the duration of the exposure several types of clouds travelled through the scene, resulting in an interesting effect to the sky.  LEE Filters Big Stopper  LEE Filters Hard-Edge 0.9 GND
This old nautical rope is one of my favorite subjects in East Boston. I caught some nice sunrise light hitting the buildings downtown. Through the duration of the exposure several types of clouds travelled through the scene, resulting in an interesting effect to the sky.
LEE Filters Big Stopper
LEE Filters Hard-Edge 0.9 GND

10 – Diversify horizon lines

I encourage you to not only keep your horizon lines level, but be aware where you are placing them in your images. Diversify where you position them, but let that be guided by the scene. If the sky is the most powerful aspect of the scene, pan up and grab more of it, and if the foreground is the most interesting part of the scene, push that horizon line up and include more foreground.

Took this a couple weeks ago at Hampton Beach State Park. At the time the clouds were great, but the wind was gusting way too hard to venture out on the beach. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way a couple times doing that, not worth the trouble of cleaning the gear. So I stuck to the dunes, and I set up all my equipment on the concrete away from the sand before venturing out. The wind was to my back and I was able to draft the gusts, which is the only I could have pulled off this length. Canon 6d Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 16 LEE Big Stopper (3.0ND) LEE 100mm Circular Polarizer f/20, ISO 50, 90 sec
Took this a couple weeks ago at Hampton Beach State Park. At the time the clouds were great, but the wind was gusting way too hard to venture out on the beach. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way a couple times doing that, not worth the trouble of cleaning the gear. So I stuck to the dunes, and I set up all my equipment on the concrete away from the sand before venturing out. The wind was to my back and I was able to draft the gusts, which is the only I could have pulled off this length.
Canon 6d
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 16
LEE Big Stopper (3.0ND)
LEE 100mm Circular Polarizer
f/20, ISO 50, 90 sec

11 – Incorporate people

This certainly isn’t a new concept, but it can be counterintuitive for a lot of landscape photographers, especially if you are trying to capture a natural scene. Fact is it can be really cool to incorporate people in a scene, not only to establish scale and perspective but also to lead the viewer’s eyes through the composition. Ideally this would be directed and intentional, but next time you are at a popular location and someone gets into your frame look at it as an opportunity to capture something unique. You can also experiment with shutter speed for interesting ghosting effects.

It’s incredible this scene is in the City of Boston. Had a great time exploring the area by Turtle Pond in West Roxbury during fall.
It’s incredible this scene is in the City of Boston. Had a great time exploring the area by Turtle Pond in West Roxbury during fall.

Greg Dubois

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.

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