Take Better Landscape Photos – Prepare Properly
If you want to take better landscape photos then one of the most important things to consider is preparation. Quite simply, if you don’t prepare properly then you are relying far too much on luck. Increase your chances of getting a great image by preparing carefully. Do your research, think ahead and you will tend to get better photos more often.
Try to do landscape photography during a golden hour for better light
The middle of the day is not normally the best time for landscape photography. In summer especially the high bright sun creates a lot of harsh contrast. It also shortens shadows. The golden light around sunrise and sunset is far more interesting. Because the sun is low in the sky it also creates elongated shadows, which tend to look better as well. Quite simply, if you want to take better landscape photos, make sure you are there at the right time!
Make sure you check what time sunrise or sunset is going to be and then plan to be there at least an hour earlier so that you can get into position in good time. If you are unsure of the timing then look at a local weather forecast or simply search online for sunrise/sunset times in your area. Then, check how long it will take you to get to your desired location.
It is worth arriving early so that you aren’t rushing. You will have time to look for a good spot and see how the light is developing. You can also set up your tripod and think about whether you want to use filters. All of these things contribute to you getting the image you’re after.
Check the angle of sunrise or sunset
So, you’ve realised that good light is important. You know what time that will be. But, is your location going to grant you good opportunities when you get there? The sun rises and sets at different angles throughout the year. This means that at one time of year you can get a great shot from the same spot that might be lousy later on in the year. If you want an image of the sun setting behind that favourite windmill you need to know when it will line up nicely for you.
I suggest you use tools such as SunCalc to look up the angles of sunrise and sunset before you go on a trip. Other possibilities include The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which you can download as an App on your phone or computer. Simply type in the location you want to go to and the day you plan to go there. You can then check what will be happening with sunrise and sunset. If the angle isn’t right, try another location or look for a different day when things are better.
It is worth taking time to plan in advance if you want to take better landscape photos. You don’t want to waste trips. Bad sessions also can damage your confidence. So, give yourself every chance of things being as you want them to be by checking ahead.
Check the weather forecast – then check it again!
This should be really obvious, but it is worth saying anyhow. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast. No, it isn’t always 100% accurate. But it is generally a pretty good guide. There is no point in going out thinking you’re going to photograph a sunrise when the forecast shows it will be overcast, grey skies with no chance of the sun peeking out.
Don’t just check once. Make sure you look a few days before, the night before and on the day. Things change. In some areas the forecast can change very quickly by quite a large margin, so don’t give up if the forecast a few days before isn’t too encouraging. Also bear in mind that clear blue skies aren’t great for sunrise or sunset. You need cloud to get good colours. So, if it is a bit showery or patchy cloud then that could be a really good thing. Some of the best landscape photos are taken in between heavy showers or storms! So it isn’t always true that better weather helps you take better landscape photos. I guess it depends on your definition of “good” weather!
Get Inspiration from Other People
Look at other people’s images of the location you are heading to. Don’t just think of copying them. Try to come up with ideas of your own. Looking at other’s photos can help to spark off creative thoughts and it can help you see the potential in a location you’ve never been to before. Also, you might decide that you will go somewhere else to avoid taking the same photo as everyone else!
Get as much local knowledge as you can. Nobody knows the area like the locals. They can tell you places to go that most visitors don’t know about. Try and get to know people who can help you learn more.
Have your gear ready
Don’t leave it to the last minute to pack your photography equipment. Make sure your bag is packed and ready to go. Check that batteries are charged and memory cards have sufficient space. Clean your lenses and filters if you haven’t done so already. Think about what type of shots you want to get and pack the right lenses and filters for those shots. Do you need a cable release? Have you got your tripod out? The last thing you want is to find that you have some key piece of kit missing when you arrive for your shoot! I’ve left my eyepiece cover at home before when I intended to do long exposures – not great!
Take Better Landscape Photos – your preparation checklist:
- Find the right time to get the right light
- Find the right time and place to get the angle you’re after
- Check the weather forecast
- Get inspiration and local knowledge
- Make sure you pack your kit!
These things don’t guarantee you a great photo, of course. But, you increase your chances of getting better landscape photos if you plan ahead and do your research. You may get lucky if you simply turn up. But, it is always better to be prepared.
©Joe Lenton, June 2016
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