Landscape Photography

Getting Started in Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is truly spectacular and I have a tremendous amount of love for this genre. I adore being out in nature and spend a significant amount of time living and exploring in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. With world class beauty a stone’s throw from where I call home it’d be a shame if I didn’t revel in my fortune and so I do. You’d think that residing as close as I do to the Canadian Rocky Mountains that I’d have been a landscape photographer for many, many years but actually that’s not the case. It wasn’t more than 4 years ago that I started to immerse myself within this genre. Being that my journey into landscape photography is fairly new I can still remember what it was like when I first dabbled in this genre. I have a few tips for those of you interested in and just starting out in landscape photography that’ll get you up exploring and photographing the jaw dropping beauty that is nature.  

1. Start with the gear you already own

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quite attached to all of my landscape photography gear and accessories but when I was first starting out in this genre I really had nothing more than the camera equipment I used to photograph my children. I captured most of my beginner landscape images with my 35mm lens and a $25.00 tripod. No joke here friends. Of course I think you are going to fall head over heels in love with landscape photography but if you find this genre is not for you then you’ve lost nothing if you use the gear you have. Quite the opposite actually, you’ve gained the experience and knowledge that comes with exploring other genres, which is invaluable. But when you do fall in love with landscape photography you can slowly add to your collection of gear. 

If you like to take a look inside my landscape photographer backpack you can do that here.

ISO 800, 70mm, f14, 1/500SS

ISO 800, 70mm, f14, 1/500SS

2. Use a tripod 

A tripod is in my opinion absolutely necessary for any landscape photographer. You don’t have to break the bank here either. There are many options and brands out there. The most important thing is that your tripod is study enough to support the weight of your camera and lens in addition to withstand natural elements like strong winds. It’s also very helpful to have a tripod that folds down fairly small, mine fits quite nicely into the side of my backpack. It’s also nice to have flexibility when it comes to adjusting the legs of your tripod as I find I’m often photographing a scene on uneven ground and I want my camera remain level. 

ISO 31, 16mm, f22, 1/4SS

ISO 31, 16mm, f22, 1/4SS

3. Use a time delayed trigger release

A time delayed trigger release is incredibly useful when capturing landscape images. Landscape images are often taken with shutter speeds that are much slower than when you capture hand held images. The simple act of manually releasing the shutter has the potential to introduce camera shake when using slower shutter speeds. Use of an internal camera timer set to a two or so second delay will allow for you to depress the shutter and then remove your hand from your camera prior to shutter release increasing the likelihood of a sharp image. Better yet, you can purchase a cable or wireless trigger release system. They can range in price from quite affordable to expensive. I’m going to suggest to you that the inexpensive trigger releases are the way to go. They work just as well and if they break purchasing a new one won’t be costly. Some trigger releases also come with an intervalometer which is a more advanced landscape topic but it’s nice to have incorporated into your release for when you’re ready to learn this technique. 

ISO 200, 24mm, f13, 300sec

ISO 200, 24mm, f13, 300sec

4. Compose thoughtfully 

Composition in landscape photography is a dynamic topic. When you are just starting out in photography my recommendation is to simple compose a scene with thought. There are so many different ways in which a single scene can be captured. Sometimes it’s worth while to walk around and observe a scene from different viewpoints then go about capturing that scene from your favourite spot. It is also always worthwhile to capture a single scene from various perspectives so that when you get back home you can decide which perspective you prefer. 

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 2.5sec

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 2.5sec

4. Shoot in manual mode

Manual mode is truly queen when it comes to photography in general but when it comes to landscape photography I think it really is necessary. There are some photographers that shoot in aperture priority mode but manual mode really does allow you to have full control over your settings. As a tip to get you started, when it comes to your exposure triangle settings, try and maintain as low as an ISO as possible when shooting day hour images. This allows for the best quality file. Also, do choose a smaller aperture so that your whole scene is in focus. I find my main landscape lens is sharpest around f14 so I consistently stick to an aperture around that setting when capturing daytime images. From here, set your shutter speed in order to expose your scene well with no blown out highlights. These rules of thumb will get you off to a good start. 

Now having said that, once you’ve captured your scene play around with your settings a bit. If you can, try a longer exposure. Without a neutral density filter, which is again another more advanced topic, you may want to try longer exposures in situations when there’s less light, like just before sunrise or just after sunset or when there is not a large variance in dynamic range.  

ISO 100, 19mm, f14, 1/6

ISO 100, 19mm, f14, 1/6

5. Shoot in RAW and tweak in post processing 

No more jpegs please! Part of landscape photography is post processing a scene. RAW captures a full range of data within a scene. A scene that you’ve likely put a lot of effort and work into capturing. You can make adjustments to jpeg images however this is not advisable. RAW preserves all the data your camera has collected and allows you to make tweaks in post processing in a way that infuses energy and life into an image. Even if you’re new to post processing having some ability to practise on files in programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, Camera Raw or ON1 Photo is a vital part to landscape photography. 

ISO 100, 20mm, f13, 120sec

ISO 100, 20mm, f13, 120sec

6. Practise, practise and practise some more

I think the learning curve in landscape photography is very steep but don’t dismay. There’s truly always something to learn and to work on. I’m constantly learning new techniques and new ways of doing things. The journey of personal growth in the field and in post processing are endless. What will get you learning and growing as a landscape photographer is practise. Bite of small pieces and learn that technique then move on then revisit that technique if need be. Learning and growing as a photographer in landscapes is something I thoroughly enjoy. I absolutely love the challenge and I just know you will too!  

ISO 500, 22mm, f4, 441sec

ISO 500, 22mm, f4, 441sec

Landscape photography is incredibly rewarding in so many beautiful ways. I hope these tips will leave you feeling inspired and help you get started in this beautiful genre this summer while you are out and about capturing your family memories too.

4 Lessons Landscape Photography has Taught me that Make me a better Everyday Photographer

I have loved the Canadian Rocky Mountains since I was a little girl. As a child, I remember my sisters and I impatiently waiting for our father to arrive home from work while our mother hurried around packing up our motorhome in anticipation for another family adventure into the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I recall feelings of excitement as I buckled my seatbelt with my sisters beside me and my sheltie pup, Cindy, at my feet. There was a thrill in the air as we headed off towards the sunset and “my mountains”. Some of my happiest childhood memories are from these mountain trips. It’s been many years since I was a child but my connection to the Rockies has only grown stronger as the years have gone by. Now it’s my turn to take my own children into “my mountains” to create cherished moments and beautiful memories.  

As a mother my passion for photography was initially being fed by my desire to photograph every single moment of my sweet little children’s lives. However, in 2015 my desire for personal photography development branched off into me exploring landscape photography and I haven’t looked back since. This genre is truly a perfect fit for me. My love of nature and all things outdoors, my passion for spending time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and my love of photography has melded together and made me into the landscape photographer I am today. I’m about as passionate a landscape photographer as they come and as my priorities to my family allow.

Photography has given me so many amazing gifts. There’s nothing more thrilling then watching the morning sky fill with beautiful warm coloured light while listening to the good morning songs of the mountain birds or watching the sun fight stormy clouds during a dramatic sunset over mountain peaks while breathing in the scent of fresh rain or standing in silent awe beneath a sky twinkling with stars that shine so brightly it’s as if they were touchable…it takes my breath away, every, single, time. The giving doesn’t end there though. The friendships I have made, the laughter so fierce that your belly hurts and your eyes well with tears, the connections, the moments, the memories…all priceless and all because of landscape photography. There’s also applicable gifts that landscape photography has given me which make me a better everyday photographer. Those are what I want to share with you in more detail. 

ISO 100, 21mm, 14f, 1.6sec

ISO 100, 21mm, 14f, 1.6sec

1. Light is key  

One of my favourite all time photography quotes is from George Eastman who stated, ”Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” 

Landscape photography has taught me how to embrace, admire, love and above all know light. As a landscape photographer my relationship with light found an all new level of respect. I cannot manipulate light when I’m out immersed in landscape. I must embrace and accept light for how she shows up. I’ve come to learn that all types of light are beautiful and that knowing how to work with any given light is truly the key to photography. There’s power and beauty in all types of light. 

ISO 100, 24mm, 13f, 20sec

ISO 100, 24mm, 13f, 20sec

2. Composition matters

One of the first lessons a new photographer, of any genre, learns is that composition matters. Then, usually, the rule of thirds is mentioned but composition is so much more than that. Landscape photography has taught how to thoughtfully consider the elements present within my scene and to use them in a way that helps tell a story in a meaningful, visually pleasing and creative way. 

These lessons have impacted my everyday photography. When I capture my children as opposed to just snapping away I try to always compose very thoughtfully. I’ve also become more comfortable with embracing creativity and it was landscape photography that opened my eyes to this possibility.  

ISO 400, 16mm, 11f, 25sec

ISO 400, 16mm, 11f, 25sec

3. Post processing matters 

I find that there are two type of photographers…those that loathe post processing and those that adore it. I’m in the latter category. I think that there is an incredible amount of post processing freedom within the digital manipulation of a landscape image. I’ve embraced those freedoms and thoroughly enjoy creating an artistic image. 

The freedom I have found within processing landscape images has most certainly translated over into my everyday images. I enjoy manipulating and creating something beautiful.

ISO 100, 17mm, 14f, 3sec

ISO 100, 17mm, 14f, 3sec

4. Embrace your own creative self and infuse you into your images

When I was a new photographer learning all the things I could possibly learn I remember feeling anxious whenever someone talked about photography style. Did I have one? Or didn’t I? What if I didn’t? I needed one! When would my style develop? How would I know that I’d found my style? What if I never found my style? Ha! Well these days I’m much more relaxed about such things. Why? Well because I’ve learned, but sometimes still have to try hard, to let go of what I think others will think about my images and instead embrace my own creative self and infuse that into my images. Landscape photography has taught me that no two photographers will ever capture the same scene in the same way. The differences might be subtle, in some cases, but will never be identical. Landscape photography has taught me that as a photographer I need to trust in myself and then capture my images in a way that no one else can ever replicate. I need to always capture what I love, from my own heart, and in my own unique way. 

ISO 1000, 16mm, 10f, 3sec

ISO 1000, 16mm, 10f, 3sec

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to co-facilitate: Enchantment in the Rockies with Kristen Ryan of Kristen Ryan Photography coming this November 6-10, 2019. This retreat has been created for women and will be held in my beloved Canadian Rocky Mountains. Priority registration opens up tomorrow, Wednesday, April 24, 2019 for those subscribed to my website. I look forward to meeting the ladies who attend. I’m thrilled to be able to have the incredible opportunity to connect, learn and grow with each of you as women photographers.