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Photo Techniques - Landscape Photography

The following article is provided by My Digital Works. Please see the end of the article for more details.
Images © Calvin Hass.

How to Take Landscape & Scenic Photos

Desert Landscape

Landscape or scenic shots are one of those types of images that almost everybody takes, professional or not. The only problem is that so many of basic landscape pictures never look as good as it did in person. The reason may be obvious but it also marks the difference between professional scenic photographers and general consumers. The difference is the amount of detail that is able to be captured. Get more detail into your scenic shots and you will greatly improve your images.

The first trick to getting more detail has to do with the time of day the image was taken. Never shoot during the middle of the day if you can avoid it. Go for the Golden Hours as discussed before and take advantage of when Mother Nature looks her best. In landscape photography direct overhead sunlight kills landscape dimensions and makes them look flat and bleak.

A tripod and a shutter release cable are very helpful tools to have with landscape photography. Losing detail due to camera shake would be a terrible crime in landscape photography. In most cases, the landscape isn't moving - at least not a rate that we can tell. Take the time to properly compose and think about the elements in your shot. Look for hidden details within the landscape that can be focused on or even put in the sweet spots of your image.

Angola Waterfalls

Flashes are generally not necessary in landscape photography. This is mostly because the flash won't even hit the subject that you are shooting. If your camera tries to use a flash then force it to turn off. This will allow you to have slower shutter speeds.

Increase your depth of field. This can be done a couple of ways. The first way is to use the smallest aperture you can. This will give you a greater depth of field then with a larger aperture. A smaller aperture will also require a longer shutter speed. This is allowed in landscape photography since your subject is not moving.  Remember that a small aperture is represented by a large number such as f/22.

You can also increase depth of field by including a close by subject to make a contrast in size. An example of this would be if you were on one mountain ridge taking a picture of the ridge next to you. Include in your image a tree that is on your ridge but far enough away. You suddenly brought depth and proportion into your beautiful landscape.

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Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
2011-02-03K D Hempfleng
 Thanks for the information. I am getting close to retirement and have started photography as a hobby. thank you for the informaiton
 I don't have a comment on this, but a question. How can I take a landscape with lot's of mood in it? I need some help.
 great advice
2008-04-02rosalinda valencia
 this page helps alot thanks for the tips
i hope i take really good pictures on the mountain
2006-01-01Stephen Abbott
 Thanks for your easily read advice on taking landscape and scenic photos. With tripod and cable release I can avoid camera shake as you advise, but what about "mirror-slap",if my camera doesn't provide mirror lock-up? Is my only available strategy to ensure a shutter speed greater than say 1/125 sec? Will mirror-slap be a noticable problem anyway if I don't print larger than say 10x8 inches?
The reciprocal focal length rule for avoiding camera shake - for a digicam at a real focal length of say 20mm should this be converted to the 35mm film equivalent value before applying the rule?
 The loss in resolution from mirror-slap is due to the oscillation that is induced in the camera mount. This oscillation is caused by a conservation reaction to the fast upward movement of the mirror. As the mirror swings upwards quickly, it causes a downward motion of the body and camera mount. The camera mount (tripod or hand) will spring down and then back up, and if these vibrations are not damped enough, they will still be present during the shutter release period, causing a loss in vertical resolution.

Anything that increases the mass of the camera mount (or improves the damping characteristics) will help reduce this problem, as it is simply a matter of conservation of angular momentum (the mirror doesn't have much mass to begin with).
If your camera doesn't provide mirror lockup (MLU) then you can do one or more of the following to help mitigate the vibration:
  • Avoid shutter speeds between 1/60th and 1/2 of a second.
  • Place a second tripod under the lens to help support it so that vibration in the body does not have such a long lever-arm that will respond and magnify the motion.
  • Some cameras automatically lockup the mirror in the self-timer mode -- you can easily check this by: setting the camera to self-timer, depress the shutter, and then look through the viewfinder to see if its blacked out.
  • Place your hand on the lens barrel itself, above the tripod collar mount -- this assumes mounting a long lens. Many people have found significant improvements by either weighting the lens barrel or weighting the tripod legs.
For other suggestions, check out Moose Peterson's summary of long-lens techniques that help reduce MLU slap issues.

As for whether or not the mirror-slap will be noticeable at enlargements less than 8x10, it would be hard to say, but I believe so. This is especially the case with longer lenses.

Lastly, the rule of thumb should apply to the 35mm focal length equivalent (ie. after multiplying by the cropping factor, eg. 1.6x). That being said, I tend to skip the multiplication factor as it really comes down to how good your camera holding/bracing technique is.


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