Landscape Photography

Long Exposure in Landscapes

Several weeks ago, I wrote about My 3 Favourite Landscape Photography Techniques. A few weeks after that, I discussed How to Capture a Static Landscape Image. This week, I want to elaborate further on that first post and talk about long exposure photography. Long exposure, in landscape photography, is a creative technique in which movement is showcased. Most often, long exposures showcase movement in clouds and water. Long exposure photography is gorgeous, and once you try it, I think you’ll fall in love with this technique. If you are interested in trying long exposure photography, I have a few tips to get you started.

1. Use a wired cable or wireless shutter release

I am of the opinion, when you are learning a new genre of photography, that you should jump right in and get started even without having all the fancy tools. If landscape photography is something you find you enjoy I highly recommend your first landscape photography specific purchase be a shutter trigger release. Wired (cable) or wireless both work and there is no need to go expensive here. The inexpensive triggers work well. I use a Neewer Shutter Release cable. A shutter release will prevent camera shake when you begin and end a long exposure.

ISO 50, 16mm, f14, 136sec

ISO 50, 16mm, f14, 136sec

2. Use a Neutral Density filter

If you are enjoying landscape photography and interested in trying long exposures I suggest you invest in a neutral density (ND) filter. These filters come in different stops. My two favourite ND filters are my 6 and 10 stops. ND filters are like very dark sunglasses for your lens and limit the amount of light entering your camera. This allows for you to capture longer exposures.

ISO 100, 26mm, f14, 120sec

ISO 100, 26mm, f14, 120sec

3. Set focus before attaching your ND filter

It will be difficult and even impossible for your camera to focus on a scene when a ND filter is attached. Be sure you set focus and then attach your ND filter being careful to not bump the focus on your camera.

ISO 100, 16mm, f13, 1/6 sec

ISO 100, 16mm, f13, 1/6 sec

4. Set a base exposure before you attach a ND filter

You will need to have a good base exposure before you can determine how long you’ll need to run your exposure with your ND filter attached. The best practice here is to determine the settings for proper exposure without the ND filter attached. Expose for your highlights so that they are not blowing out but are very bright. Take a test shot to ensure your exposure is good. Now it's time for some math. When you add your ND filter, you are darkening your exposure. For example, if you plan on using a ten stop ND filter, you will be darkening your exposure by ten stops. The time you will now need to attain proper exposure is going to increase by 10 stops. The easiest way to determine the time you will require for appropriate exposure, when using a ND filter, is to use a long exposure app. My favourite long exposure app is the LEE Filters-Stopper Exposure. When using a long exposure app, you enter the settings you used for proper exposure without the filter. The app then calculates the time you should exposure your image for with the ND filter attached.

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 90 seconds

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 90 seconds

5. Use Bulb Mode

When I use my 6 or 10 stop filters, I am usually looking at exposures that are minutes in length. To be able to capture exposures longer than 30 seconds, I must shoot in bulb mode. I set my ISO, aperture and shutter speed to determine my settings for proper baseline exposure. I then use my long exposure app to determine the time I need to expose my image with the filter attached. If the time exceeds my camera’s 30-second exposure ability, I dial in bulb mode. With my shutter release cable, I open the exposure and close the exposure once my desired time has passed.

ISO 50, 16mm, f14, 120sec

ISO 50, 16mm, f14, 120sec

6. Practice and experiment

Long exposure photography takes practice. You’ll learn lessons as you try out this technique. You’ll also learn what shutter speed looks best in certain situations and, more importantly, what you like in your long exposures. Take time to experiment with different shutter speeds. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy being creative with this incredibly beautiful technique.

ISO 50, 16mm, f13, 30sec

ISO 50, 16mm, f13, 30sec

Long exposure is a gorgeous and creative landscape photography technique. It’s a favourite technique of mine, and I almost always prefer my long exposure over the static exposure I take in the same scene. Long exposures also add fantastic variety of a single scene without even having to recompose! Have fun experimenting with your landscape images.

How to Capture a Static Landscape Image

A few weeks ago, I wrote about My 3 Favourite Landscape Photography Techniques. If you missed that post, you can find it here. In that post, I talked about my three favourite techniques for capturing a single landscape scene. One of the methods I mentioned was static exposure. Static exposure is essentially photographing a scene as it is, and freezing it, as you see it, in time.

When I began my landscape photography journey, I had very little knowledge about how to capture a good landscape photograph. I had never photographed a landscape scene before. Also, I'm a mom photographer and was used to chasing my children around snapping images with wide-open apertures. My child subjects didn't stand still like a landscape scene. As I explored landscape photography, I quickly learned that my approach to capturing a landscape image was different than the approach I took when photographing my children.

Static, or regular exposure, of a landscape scene is the most basic of captures when it comes to landscape photography. However, this does not mean it’s easy to execute this type of exposure. There are a few tips I want to share with you so that you can get off to a good start when out capturing static landscape images.

1. Use a small aperture

I shoot in manual mode both as a mom photographer and as a landscape photographer. I find it gives me exceptional control over my final vision for an image in both genres. As a rule of thumb, landscape images are photographed with a small aperture (f9, f13, f22). When shooting a landscape scene, most photographers want the entire image from the foreground through the background to be in focus. Shooting closed down allows for a large depth of field and full focus throughout a frame.

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 92sec

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 92sec

2. Use a low ISO

There are exceptions, but typically landscape scenes are photographed with a low ISO. Using a low ISO, such as ISO 100, will usually allow for higher quality images with less noise, and this is preferred in a landscape image.

ISO 100, 19mm, f13, 1/40sec

ISO 100, 19mm, f13, 1/40sec

3. Use a slow shutter speed

Use of a small aperture and low ISO is almost always going to result in a slower shutter speed than recommended for a handheld image. A tripod is a landscape photographer’s best friend. Don’t be hesitant to use as slow of a shutter speed as you need to capture a well-exposed for landscape scene. As long as you use a tripod, you won't have to worry about hand-held camera shake.

I also recommend a wired or wireless shutter release for landscape photography. These releases prevent accidental camera shake when a photographer manually depresses the camera’s shutter. I currently use a NEEWAR shutter release and intervalometer cable.

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1/5sec

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1/5sec

4. Consider composition

Landscapes aren’t running around like our children do. I think this is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to landscape photography! It’s the peacefulness! Since a landscape scene stays put, I’m able to scout or walk around a location before I set up my camera. When I'm walking around the environment I want to capture; I like to think about how I can best compose my image. I highly recommend you do this too. Thoughtfully composing an image will help you capture a solid landscape photograph. Don’t be afraid to try new things as well. There are always alternative compositions that are beautiful. It's good practice to try different arrangements of elements within a scene.

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1sec

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 1sec

5. Consider light

It is the photographing of ordinary things, in extraordinary light, which results in extraordinary photographs. (David Young).

This quote shines true across all genres of photography. Light is photography and light should always be considered when capturing landscape images. It is entirely possible to photograph a beautiful landscape image at any time of day. However, the most sought out light is, typically, in the hours before, during and just following sunrise and sunset. The light during these hours of the day is spectacular, and the colours with sunrise and sunset are often breathtaking. It’s well worth it to make an effort to head out into nature to capture a landscape scene during sunrise and sunset.

ISO 100, 17mm, f13, 1/13sec

ISO 100, 17mm, f13, 1/13sec

One of the best ways you can learn a new genre or get better at a certain genre of photography is by practising and experimenting over and over again. The best lessons to be had are always the ones learnt through experience. So be sure to get out there and start photographing this beautiful world while learning along the way.

My 3 Favourite Landscape Photography Techniques

There are many different approaches a landscape photographer can take when capturing a single scene. This is, in my opinion, where much of the artistry in landscape photography is born. I’ve been asked before if I ever get bored of shooting the same scene over and over again, and my answer is always, “Absolutely not!” Weather conditions, light, and seasons change. Those changes add beautiful difference into a scene. However, a photographer does not necessarily need to wait for a different day to capture a scene differently, as it unfolds. There are three ways in which a photographer can capture a single scene that will yield a different look with different results.

In the below three images I’ve captured the same scene, the iconic Three Sisters in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. However, I used a different technique in each of these images, which resulted in different looks.

My three favourite landscape photography techniques when approaching scenes are:

1. Static or normal exposure

Static exposure is capturing a scene as it is. Typically, it is necessary to maintain a faster shutter speed in order to eliminate any possible water or cloud movement. It freezes the beauty of a moment in time. This is an excellent technique to use when there is dynamic cloud definition, or the scene is quiet and reflecting.

ISO 100, 18mm, f14, 0.5sec

ISO 100, 18mm, f14, 0.5sec

2. Long Exposure

A long exposure is a stunning technique with beautiful results. Longer exposures capture movement and infuse a pretty softness into moving clouds or water. It’s a technique that will often require a neutral density filter, such as a 6 or 10 stop filter. Capturing a long exposure is a good choice when there are a clouds moving through the sky. Long exposure is probably my favourite technique when I’m out capturing landscape scenes.

ISO 100, 19mm, f13, 270sec

ISO 100, 19mm, f13, 270sec

3. Night Exposure

Waiting after a sunset shoot until Astronomical Twilight is well worth it. Shooting at night quickly became an attractive technique when I started capturing landscape images. There’s spectacular beauty in the night sky. When everyone else is sleeping stars light up the sky and twinkle their magic down upon a scene. Most people don’t have the opportunity to see these incredible scenes at night. The camera also can pick up details in the night sky that the human eye is incapable of seeing. When photographing during the night you can try both a static and long exposure. A static night sky image will capture a breathtaking star-studded sky. A long exposure at night will capture gorgeous star trail movement creating a stunning and unique effect.

ISO 400, 16mm, f4, 481sec

ISO 400, 16mm, f4, 481sec

In each of the above scenes my subjects remain exactly the same however there is significant variety between the three scenes due to the choices I made in my exposure setting techniques. Next time you are out capturing a single landscape scene I encourage you to try capturing the scene in both a static and long exposure mode. Capturing a scene at night might take a little more effort but it is well worth the effort. The results are captivating.

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. Practice, practice and practice 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 practice. 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.