There is just too much to talk about Landscape and completely beyond one blog. There are many books written with just that title “Landscape Photography” and it also has multiple dedicated magazines like the one I subscribe to, outdoor magazines.
Landscape photographers are hard workers and “Absolute Suckers” for Sunrise and Sunsets. We don’t seem to have a life! We get up very early to hit the road to get to the desired location and you got to be there at least 45-60 min to set up your gear and find the right location if you have not done so a day before, and sometimes it is even double the work. Most of us do a surveillance trip a day before to feel the location, look at the scenery and possible photoshoot angles, locating the spot, and using all the tools we got like an App PhotoPills to find an awesome spot to shoot the next day and while ALWAYS thinking about possible compositions. So, there is lots of thinking and planning involved, and logistics like how to get to this or that location on time, etc.
You can see below using the PhotoPills App the sun and moon rise and sets and direction and also using the “Augmented Reality”, it will show you where in the scenery you are looking at the sunsets or sunrises. In this scenery, the sunset is going to be by that big tree. It helps to plan a shot.
This diagram shows what photographers have to work through. There are stages you need to complete and the concept is the key and remains the mainstay of work, otherwise, everything we do falls apart and has no connections to the main idea.
In the photographer’s world of jokes, if I was watching a beautiful sunset with my wife, I would be thinking, how should I use the Aperture at f/11 or f/8 and how to use my camera speed at 1/250s or 1/125s! We always do some Math behind the scenes. That is how we think! Do you get that?
Sometimes we have to drive many miles into the mountain, then even hike to the location of choice if needed, so all of that needs to be taken into account for the trip and how we get that one sweet shot. Some other times, I just take the backpack with basic needs and hit the trail, in search of things to take photographs, so I can be outside, enjoy nature and have a blast with my camera. I took the below Video at Tahoe Meadows Chickadee Ridge 2 years ago, hiking on a blue sky but a storm came in later when I was still snowshoeing to the top of that hill to get a better look at Tahoe and it took me 5 hours to hike back to my car because snow blanketed everything so fast, there was no trail to be seen. So make sure you have enough battery supply for the phone and preferably a Satellite SOS Communicator if needed on longer hikes, especially in Sierras.
Extra batteries are VERY important in cold weather, and a functional, not-so-large backpack. I exclusively shoot in “Aperture Mode” (AV or Aperture Value on Canon Cameras or just A) because I do not need to freeze action usually in TV (Time Value Mode) when I do landscape photography. Make sure you set your ISO (Sensitivity) always to 100 as you will be using mostly a tripod. Most landscapes are shot at f/11 for best front-to-back sharpness. You can still get a good sharp image at f/8 or f/16 but my to go to f-stop is f/11. A lot of awesome lenses can go to an Aperture of f/22 or even f/32 but due to a phenomenon called “lens diffraction”, smaller f-stops (the one with larger numbers, remember!) become softer and less sharp, so be mindful. You do not need to worry about Shutter Speed because you put your camera in Aperture Mode which can automatically adjust exposure time for you.
Make sure you dial your ” White Balance” in camera to “Cloudy” in landscape photography. It would make it for a warmer picture, and you may not need that much post-production correction and it will save you some time. It is also to remember that all can be changed in post-production if you (and hopefully only) taking RAW images. Set your focus mode to “One Shot” only. No one needs a burst mode in Landscape photography! If you are using a Cable Release, make sure you set your timer to 2s (Seconds) only as you do not want to wait too long for a shot. It saves you time and sanity if you do not want to use a remote cable release.
I would recommend trying the App “Magic Hour” for beginners or even more advanced to gauge when you need to be at a scene for the best photoshoot in the evening. Usually, it is between 45-60 min before to 20 min after Sun has set. For the Sunrise photoshoot, you should be there 45 min before. The “Blue Hour” happens about 15-20 min after the sun has set, and there is more opportunity to shoot awesome pics (at f/11 and ISO 100 for best results).
I follow a handful of great photographers like, Michael Frye, and William Neill, who both frequently photograph Yosemite. Since we all live so close to Yosemite National Park, I encourage the photographers in you to download the App that Micheal has created in case you go there and trying to find things to photograph of. Their work is truly amazing if you have time to check it out.
Lastly, if you have a large area to focus on and you want to get it sharp from front to back (at f/11), focus on an object 1/3 of the distance into the shot, so, you have a good point to focus on. There is so much more to landscape photography. It is truly the most exciting but also time-consuming, but the one that gives you the most exposure to nature and beauty surround you which will help your health and endurance as well.
For me, it is a kind of “Zen Time” and connecting back with nature, when I am out there and a way to express myself. I am still learning and there is so much to learn.
The oldest tree in the world, a Bristlecone Pine. It is south of Bishop, Ca. A beautiful 20+ miles into the mountain and a 4-mile hike after that. The oldest tree is about 4500 years old but photographically was not as visually striking, so I went for the second oldest which is estimated more than 4000 years old (see below). It is definitely worth the visit. I should have waited for the sunset but had to leave. I personally like the Black & White version of it better because harsh sun lights and no clouds does not make the picure intersting and more dramatic but I took it anyway because I can switch that to Black & White later especially if I have a boring sky with no clouds like below.
We always don’t get lucky to shoot an image on the first appearance when we get to a scene. A lot of times we have to make multiple trips if we want a certain shot and also have to be satisfied with what we got if for instance there was not much cloud in the sky to make it more interesting and dramatic. Landscape photography is a hardcore sport for sure. Paul Zizka can attest to that with his absolutely amazing and inspirational images, which I encourage you to check out.
I would encourage you all to also check award-winning Canadian Landscape Photographer, a family physician like me, and also a photographer for Canadian Geographic, Scott Forsyth, who is producing one amazing work after another and his book.
Overall I believe you can create an Ok landscape picture with a smartphone in good lighting of course that can be shared on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and with family in the photo streams. These smartphone images are not even close to what you can produce on a Mirrorless or DSLR (the latter are a dying breed).
I was planning to go to Yosemite this past week to shoot some new images, but unfortunately, recent California wildfires ruined that trip and forced me to postpone it for the near future.