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Beauty is laid all around us whether at home or on holiday.  In this section you will learn how to capture wonderful landscapes and record the world around you.

When thinking of landscape photographs you will have natural vistas in mind, with little or no human element within them.  They may be rolling fields, majestic mountains, solitary trees or waves of sand dunes.   But don't forget to focus in on details within your environment as well: a gnarled tree; a babbling brook or a single flower.

© Olympe B.

For landscape photography the "rules of photography" and composition that we covered earlier are very important. When you look at a vista you are sensing the space, the weather, the wind, the sunshine (or otherwise) and you need to capture that sense in a dynamic and interesting way. Composition will really help you create a captivating image.

The best landscape photographs will show depth through by including three key elements:

© Patrick Smith



A foreground: typically at the base of the picture. This may be as simple as a plain of grass or include a strong object such as rocks on a beach.

© Patrick Smith



The midground: probably the key aspect of your image. This would be some feature: a road, a fence, a lake, a forest. In a shot of mountains it would the mountains themselves; in a beach shot it would be the ocean.

A perfect example:  the trees and plants form the fore-ground.  The jetty leads us out to the mid-ground water and the trees and sky form the background.  Nicely framed by the arching leaves at the top.
© Simon X



The background: For those mountains or ocean the sky is the background. For the road, fence, trees it might be the sky, or it might be hills and mountains rising behind.

Rule of Thirds in Landscapes


You want to place those three elements on the rule of thirds, going up the frame. Consider each third. If the sky is bland then maybe push it all the way to the top so there is just a small sliver of sky - or remove it altogether. The same if the foreground is dull. You only want to put interesting things in your picture.

Then if you have an object in the view: a church, a house, a tree, a rock formation then you want to try and put that on one of the intersection points of the rule of thirds.

© Patrick Smith

© Dene' Miles
Look for leading lines, natural lines in the scene which will lead the eye across the image.

Patterns in the Landscape


Landscapes are also about patterns. A ploughed field can be interesting in its own right, in which case you would crop out everything else and just leave the abstract pattern.

© Clăˇudia

© Dan Ballard
Or the patterns might be the lovely curves of desert dunes. The shapes are reminiscent of oceans or even the female form. Look for the graphical shapes, think of them as simple lines - are they interesting?

Get Out of the Car!


I have been involved with judging national competitions for over 10 years. Every year there will be shots of Lindisfarne Boats and Bamburgh Castle, both in Northumberland. They are always shot from the same viewpoint. When I visited these locations last year I discovered that those shots I had seen time and time again were taken from the car park. I'm willing to bet for a number of them the photographer never even stepped out of the car.

Instead of the standard shot this photographer got up early, considered where to shoot from and made artistic decisions about colour, shutter speed, viewing angle and composition.
© Henk Meijer Photography

Now don't get me wrong, they are perfectly fine pictures, seen on their own they are worthy of hanging on the wall. It is only when you know that each time they are stepping in the tripod points of every other photographer that the shine is lost.

So when you get to a spectacular view. By all means take the instant and obvious vista. But then move around; see if there are other ways of shooting the scene.

The best landscape photographs have often involved long hikes or hours (or even days) to find that perfect scene. For those photographers often the journey is as important as the final image.

Location Planning


If you know you are going to a particular location then research it on the web. See what photographs have been taken; find out where the most interesting places are. It would be silly to travel 100's of miles then miss the most interesting view because it was just around the next bend.

Look at the time of the day those pictures were taken. The scene may only come alive when the sun is shining in the right direction. Check on a map of the area, where will the sun rise and set (remember your best pictures will be in the "Golden Hours" of sunrise or sunset).

Sample screen shot from Google Streetview showing Bamburgh castle - you can explore all around the building.
If you are travelling with a non-photographer partner then think about the morning locations where you can go out and do your thing then pick up your partner to share the rest of the day.
You might want to plan a route which takes you from sunrise scenes to sunset scenes with suitable stop-offs on the way.
Google is your friend here, using the combination of maps, streetview (which has a lot of landscapes in it), satellite view and linked pictures you have a very strong research tool.   Use websites like Flickr to see other images.



Midday sun is usually a killer for landscapes, when the sun shines right down you lose all the shadows and crucially all the texture in your scene. The sunrise, sunset hours are more interesting because of the golden tones and the longer shadows.

Bad weather can be your friend - a dark, glowering, thunderous sky can be magnificent. Think of light shining through clouds, revealing landscapes like God's own torchlight.

© Angus Clyne

The mist, the light, the lines of the trees all work to create a great sense of depth.
© Jan Van Der Hooft -...
Fog and mist are your friends. A light mist across a landscape is fascinating in its own right. A little fog and haze will add a huge sense of recession into far away objects - creating a strong sense of depth to an image.



Every location changes over the seasons.  From the dark, sparse and contrasty nature of winter, through the colourful spring flowers, the green of summer and the orange tones of autumn.
Some locations are definitely at their finest at one particular time of the year.  Arboretums for example are definitely autumn scenes.  But that is not to say there isn't something to shoot there all year round.

© Svetlana Peric

Camera Setup


A landscape photograph really needs to be crisp and sharp with a lot of tones and dynamic range.   Use your camera's landscape preset, or set your camera manually.

You want to set a moderate aperture (f/11) to give a good depth-of-field. Keep your ISO low (ISO 100) for best quality. This is likely to lead to slower shutter speeds, so mount your camera on a tripod.

If this is a walking holiday then a monopod will work nearly as well.

Bright skies and dark landscapes are the worst combination for cameras. Bracket your shots at different exposures. One exposure may be perfect, or you may need to composite exposures later.

Use HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography to really get the best of the tones.

Use RAW as the file format - this captures a much wider dynamic range than JPEG files and will give you much more flexibility when processing in software.

Landscape Check List


When you take your test shots you want to check the following:  
1) Good composition - if not recompose.
2) Good focus - if not refocus - or try a smaller aperture
3) Horizon level - straighten it up
4) Good dynamic range - check your histogram - adjust exposure
5) Skies burnt out - use a polarising filter or Neutral Density Graduated filter.    
6) Skies burnt out - with no filter, reduce the exposure until detail appears.  Consider taking two shots, one of the sky, one of the landscape.

Shooting Water


There are two key methods for shooting water. The first uses a fast shutter speed to freeze the water. The second uses a slow shutter speed to blur the water for a silky, milky look.

Without the water being caught in the air we would have no sense of the power of this wave.
© Linda
To freeze water you want a shutter speed of 1/100th or faster. Set ISO 100 and use aperture to control overall exposure. A tripod is a benefit, but not a necessity at these shutter speeds. A polarising filter will cut down reflections in the water, but may leave it looking muddy and removing its sparkle.

For moving water shallows, rapids and waterfalls are best.  These provide interesting shots of the water splashing around.   To shoot lakes you ideally want smooth water, so you get still and clear reflections.  To shoot the sea you ideally want strong winds to whip up the waves.

For milky waters you want a slow shutter speed of at least 1 or 2 seconds, often longer.   You will need your ISO as low as possible and your aperture wide to get that long exposure without over-exposing the image.   You may need to use a Neutral Density filter to cut down the light to maintain the long exposure.  You must use a tripod.

The milky water really gives a sense of speed through the rocks even though it looks smooth.
© Clayton Wells

© Angus Clyne
A long exposure of lake water will make the water look more still even if there are some ripples. This will help any reflected shoreline look more detailed.

Shooting seas, especially as they come into shore around rocks, at slow shutter speeds can produce some very interesting shots. Looking out to sea produces a very soft and muted look.

© Paulrojas



No excuses, there are landscapes right outside your door.
You don't have to make some mammoth trek to Iceland to get good landscapes.
Go to your local park, woods, forest, river and find something to shoot.
You should now be getting comfortable with technique.  It is time to work on the "eye", on finding and seeing images around you.