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Landscape Photography (It’s All About the Light)

Landscape Photography

If you ask a landscape photographer – what is the key element that can help you make prize winning landscape pictures; the answer, most certainly, would be – “get out of bed early.” Landscape photography isn’t as simple as you think it is. There’s lot more to it than just getting out of bed pretty early. You need to have a good understanding of light and know how it behaves at different times of the day. You will need to know why a professional landscape photographer will hardly ever shoot when the sun is in the middle of the sky.

Your understanding of light will also help you to make better judgments in terms of the exposure. You will be able to use the light better and create astonishing images, the kind of you see on magazines or winning photo competitions.

So, what’s inside a Landscape Photographer’s Bag?

A very popular question indeed. What equipment does a landscape photographer use? To start off, a digital camera that can shoot in RAW and has the ability to capture a bigger dynamic range makes for a good camera for shooting landscape pictures. A lens that has a wider field of view makes for an ideal combination. A 16-35mm lens, for one, is a good choice if you are shooting with a full-frame camera.

A tripod is a must have too. Every landscape photographer would use one because it more or less cuts out the element of image shake while an exposure is made. There is a thing called remote shutter release. They are available in wired and remote versions and are very cheap. They prevent accidentally shaking your camera when you press the shutter release.

Landscape Photography - Sunrise at Lake Ossiach by Thomas Fabian
Sunrise at Lake Ossiach by Thomas Fabian

Finally, no landscape photographer would leave home without his trusted set of filters. Filters give you the option to further tweak light. A graduated neutral density filter (Grad ND) e.g. helps you to balance the exposure. A typical sunrise scene will have a blown out sky and a dark foreground. With a Grad ND filter you would be able to hold back the sky and therefore balance the exposure.


Neutral density suggest that the filter stops all wavelengths of light equally and does not render any color cast. ND filters come in different light stopping powers. An ND 2 is the same thing as a 0.3 ND (there are two nomenclatures in use). They will both reduce one-stop of light, allowing you to balance an exposure where there is about one stop of difference in light between the foreground and the sky. Similarly, an ND 4 is the same thing as a ND 0.6 both reducing two stops of light. I will write a detailed article later where I will put in more information about these filters and their mounting systems.

Landscape Photography - Sunrise from summit of Mount Fuji by Ludovic Lubeigt
Sunrise from summit of Mount Fuji by Ludovic Lubeigt

A circular polarizer is yet another trusty piece of glass filter that helps you to cut down glare and haze, making colors look more saturated. These filters can be compared with your polarizing sunglasses except that you put them on your lenses. They are useful when you are shooting brooks, waterfalls, lush green vegetation drenched in dew, sweeping vistas against a backdrop of sky and so on.

Camera Settings for Landscape Photography

There is no such thing as a single setting which will work in all situations. Some photographers prefer to shoot at the smallest aperture they can get away with without inducing lens diffraction. It is recommended because the smaller the aperture, the more of the frame is in focus.

Shutter speed depends on the effect that you want. Some creative results warrant that you use a longer exposure to get some motion blur going. A smaller ISO is ideal. Higher ISO numbers will induce digital noise and additional work in terms of cleaning the image up.

Landscape Photography - Sunrise thru the Forrest, The Netherlands by Ralph Popken
Sunrise thru the forrest, The Netherlands by Ralph Popken


You will need to have a post processing workflow to ensure that the final image is close to what you envisioned. Adjusting the white balance, doing a bit of dodging and burning, adjusting the exposure and working with the curves will give you the final image that you were after. Keep things as simple as possible. Doing manipulative image edits is never recommended. Having said that it should not make you over dependent on post processing. Try to get the image right as much as possible in camera.

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