7 Tips for Better Landscape Photos

By Jenn Gidman / Jeff Greene
Images by David Akoubian / bearwoodsphoto.com.

David Akoubian has had plenty of practice photographing the great outdoors. Whether he’s exploring the region around his Georgia home in the mountains or leading one of his photography workshops to the Grand Tetons or Apalachicola; David has a special love of nature that translates effortlessly to his photography.

lighthouseVFor this series of images, David used the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC lens, a full-frame F/2.8 standard zoom that’s compact and lightweight for a day shooting outdoors.

Read on for some of David’s tips to get the most out of your landscape photography experience.

Choose the right lens. 

When you’re selecting a nature and landscape lens, you want to pick a lens that’s incredibly sharp and has great compression/decompression abilities.

When trying to stretch a landscape, the wide-angle end of the 24-70 gives you the decompression needed, “stretching” the landscape out and providing the ability to use a compositional element to grab the viewer’s attention.

For example, in the lighthouse image above, Akoubian literally jammed his camera down into the rocks. The rocks look so much bigger than the lighthouse itself, mainly because of that decompression factor.

creek

The same thing happened in this

image of a river with little ferns in the foreground. It was a perfect compositional element-the ferns are maybe 3 inches tall, but they look huge in the foreground thanks to the decompression factor of that lens. The front of the lens is about 12 to 15 inches away from the ferns, so they look really huge.

Evaluate the Scene 

Decide what kind of mood you’re trying to set. If you’re photographing a river decide if you want a stop-action image with a faster shutter speed to show the power of the water, or if you want to slow the shutter speed down and create a more relaxing mood.

Look for S-curves and C-curves

Lead a viewer into a photo with an S or C curve giving viewers a way to travel through the image. The S-curve look, typically starts at the bottom left and moves through the image to the upper right. For example, that could be a river winding through a landscape. On the other hand, waves crashing against a shoreline with a lighthouse might appear more masculine-the land against the sea appears to make a backward “C” shape.

lighthouseH

Use the “Rule of Thirds”

If you were to take a tic-tac-toe board and place it over your image, the power points are where those lines on the board intersect. Studies show that our culture tends to read left to right, top to bottom, so your focus points are typically in the upper left and lower right of your frame. Ideally, you should try to place your center of interest on one of those intersections.

Evaluate the Composition

You might think you’ve got a great shot, with ferns in the foreground and a river in the background, but then when you go to look through the viewfinder, you might see a big, bright rock or other distracting element in the lower left of the frame. If that’s the case, change your angle of view, blur out the background, or do whatever it takes to eliminate those distractions.

cactusEvaluate the Exposure.

A camera’s dynamic range is fairly limited compared to what the
human eye can see. To remedy that, mount your camera on a tripod, take one picture exposing for the foreground, one for the background, then I blend them together in Photoshop.

Use can also capture a set of images, exposed in 1-stop increments, and use HDR (high dynamic range) enhancement for scenes with very high contrast. Keep in mind that you don’t want to over use HDR resulting in  fake looking image, you want it to be complementary.

 

Filters

Use a high-grade circular polarizer. The polarizer will reduce glare enhance the sky and clouds, and saturate the greens in your image to make them richer.  A neutral density filter is also handy to darken scenes enabling you to use a slow shutter speed to blur movement.

All this being said, just slow down and don’t sweat the technical stuff so much. Take the time to select a lens and focal length, select your photographic elements, and compose the scene..
 
Create an image, capture the mood, and enjoy the moment.

-JMG.