Landscape photography is not for the faint of heart. Us landscape photographers rise before the earliest of birds begin to sing their morning songs. We skip meals and ignore hunger and fatigue. We hike through forests and fields, hoping that the animal tracks in the snow are not fresh or that the howling wolf pack is farther away than they sound or that the bear frequenting the area signs are old news and he's actually up over the other side of the mountain. We haul heavy gear and wear layers of clothing through weather elements most would remain inside for. We wade through streams and hop into rivers to achieve the perfect composition for sunset. We stay up way past reasonable hours to witness night skies and drive home in dense fog and enveloping darkness. But we love every single moment of this passion.
With all of the efforts we put into getting to a location and with all of the other unknown elements at play like weather and light, us landscape photographers never really know what we'll come away with. Despite the unknown, there are a few things we can do as we aim to capture strong images.
There's incredible beauty in simplicity. Learning what to exclude from your frame is just as important as learning what to include in your frame. More does not always equal better. Before capturing your image, look around your frame. Ask yourself if the elements present are detracting or adding to the frame. Be sure only to include essential features. A simple frame can be compelling and create a stronger image.
There's power in perspective. Showcasing your subject front and centre is very important in landscape photography. Think about how you can vary your perspective to strengthen a scene. Try moving your tripod lower to the foreground or higher and see how that impacts your scene. Think about your choice in focal length and how that impacts the strength of your image. Consider including foreground elements as a way to layer your image, which will create depth and potentially add visual interest. Look for ways in which you can frame your subject through foreground trees. Move your position right or left, varying your viewpoint a touch. The possibilities here are many. Don't be afraid to consider an alternate perspective, as this will result in you creating stronger landscape images.
Cropping is an important topic in photography. As a mom photographer, I learned early on about preferred cropping when it came to my children as the subjects in my photographs. As a landscape photographer, cropping matters too. Watch for unsightly crops like tops of trees or reflections chopped awkwardly. Think twice about chopping shrubs in half or including only half of a mountain. Take the time to look through your scene so that you are not cropping elements awkwardly.
A pretty landscape image is nice to look at, but a landscape image that tells a story is captivating. It's not easy to tell a story without words. When you are capturing a landscape image, think about what it is you are trying to say. How can you best photograph the scene in front of you to enhance the story unfolding before you? Perhaps you are photographing a thunderstorm rolling through a farmer's field. Compose your image in a way that showcases that storm. Perhaps you want to showcase beautiful calm tranquillity. In this situation, a centre composition enhancing feelings of balance and harmony will help strengthen your story. Be purposeful in your composition by considering what you will include and exclude in your frame. Think about how you can compose to strengthen the story unfolding before you as you stand in awe of how beautiful nature is. Strong stories within a landscape image result in stronger images overall.
There's always going to be a debate between landscape purists and landscape artists. It's my opinion that neither is right or wrong. Ultimately you are the creator of your image. There are no two people that can photograph a landscape and then identically process that image. We all infuse bits and pieces of ourselves into the art of our images. Don't be afraid to infuse your vision into your photographs, as this will result in you creating stronger landscape images.
There are many different ways a photographer can create stronger landscape images. These tips will help you create stronger images, but remember that practice is probably the single most important thing that you can do to improve your landscape photography skills.
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