Best Photography Tips – Shooting Landscapes 2

Read Part 1 of the series here.

Include objects for a sense of scale

Photographs do not convey how large or small an object is. To add a sense of scale in your pictures, add some elements that helps the viewer imagine the dimensions of the whole frame. For landscape photography in the mountains, humans can be a great frame of reference. This makes the picture more interesting besides showing the scale of the mountains.

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Picture courtesy – Smita Saurabh Chatterjee

Follow the Rule of Thirds

According to the Rule of Thirds, do not keep your main object of interest in the exact centre of the frame. It needs to be at one of the intersecting points of the two horizontal and vertical lines that divide the frame.

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Also, your horizon should not be exactly in the middle, but at one-third or two-third of the frame. It works most of the time, but do not hesitate to break the rules and try something new. You might come up with something really interesting.

There are times when I do not follow the rule – especially when I see good reflections. Reflections show symmetry and hence the horizon should be in the centre. More on reflections a little later.

Use filters

There are at least two filters which I recommend using during a trek – the UV filter and a Polarizer (or CPL).

A UV filter cuts down the extra haze in your picture and also protects the lens from any damage. It is much easier and less shocking to replace a filter than replacing the lens! Polarizers are undoubtedly the most useful filter for landscape photographers. It enhances the sky color and reduces unwanted reflections from water and makes the picture look more pleasing.

Apart from these two, a Neutral density filter (ND) is quite useful. It’s just a piece of dark glass that cuts down the amount of light coming in, allowing you to shoot at slower shutter speeds to blur motion. ND filters are available with different intensities. This is the trick used for shooting waterfalls with the snowy effect.

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Use Narrow Apertures

Narrow apertures (high ‘f’ values) allow you to have maximum sharpness in your images.
For a good depth of all the elements in a frame, from the foreground to the background, you will need to shoot at narrow apertures (large ‘f’ values). This means that your shutter speed has to be slower to compensate for the less light coming in. That’s the reason why landscape photographers use tripod even in broad daylight.

Shoot in Aperture Priority mode like most professional photographers. If you are shooting in this mode, your camera will suggest a suitable shutter speed for the correct exposure – you don’t need to worry about it.

Use low ISO

Use the lowest ISO setting available in your camera. ISO refers to the amplification on the light signals to achieve a well-exposed picture in low light. Using high ISO will allow you to shoot at higher shutter speeds without a tripod but it will make your picture noisy.

Noise in a picture? In photography, noise refers to the grains that are added to a picture at high ISOs. Always use a tripod and shoot at slower shutter speeds to compensate for low light.

Tip: If you are shooting at high ISO, make sure you change it to the default value when done. You might end up getting noisy pictures unnecessarily.

Use the Histogram

How do you check if your pictures have been correctly exposed? If your answer is using the LCD; beware! The brightness of the LCD is dependent on the ambient light. If you are using the LCD in dark, the LCD will glow and even underexposed pictures would look bright. On the other hand, if you are shooting at midday, the LCD will appear less bright.

So, what is the correct way to judge the correct exposure? The answer is using the tool called Histogram or the highlight warning (colloquially referred to as blinkies).

A histogram is a graphical representation of the distribution of tonal data in a picture. It can be used reliably to check the exposure of your picture. There is no perfect histogram; it is very subjective and depends on the kind of picture you are taking. For low-key pictures (predominantly darker tones), the histogram will shift towards the left hand side, while for the high-key pictures (predominantly lighter tones) it will shift towards the right.

We will have a separate article on how to interpret histograms.

Shoot Reflections

One of the things I love to shoot while trekking are the reflections. You will always find water bodies of different sizes with mountains or jungles in the backdrop. These can make a very special image. The best time to shoot reflections is in the morning, when the when the weather is calm and the wind low or absent.

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Don’t underestimate your small camera

Most of us do not have dSLRs due to their cost or because it is cumbersome to carry. I might have heard this a hundred times – ‘I cannot take good pictures because I don’t have an SLR’. A Point and Shoot camera is still a camera. You will be amazed to see what an ordinary camera can do. Of course, there are limitations but that doesn’t mean that it’s useless.

Let me give you an example. In one of my classes, we were reviewing some pictures. The youngest of us was a high-school kid who showed us a picture of crow babies in a nest. This was taken using a point and shoot. The guy climbed onto a tree to take the shot. He put many of us who have telephoto lenses into shame.

This is one of my pictures shot using a Sony Cybershot P72 (3.2 MP camera) that got published.

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Vista from Chandrashila Peak, Tungnath trek

Thank you for reading the post. You might like to read my previous posts.

This article is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a professional photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer’ through his photo tours and Photography workshops.

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