Last week, in the new series How I Shot My Summer Vacation, professional photographer Tim Fraser taught us how to take dramatic sunrise/sunset photos. See a gallery of reader-submitted photos here. This week, it's all about landscapes.
Landscapes are easily my favourite photographic pursuit. They can also be one of the more gruelling photos to take, depending on how determined you are to get that perfect picture. And getting that perfect picture means going the extra mile – but isn't that what makes it worthwhile? You want something to hang on your wall, not just something you'll throw up quickly on TwitPic.
I tend to follow two pillars that go hand in hand in elevating your picture from snapshot to spectacular: preparation and perspective.
While it's best to have your camera handy in case that pristine picture appears before you, often it's not that easy. Great photographers have an ability to prepare for what they are shooting. They stare, analyze and anticipate. In the case of landscapes, they're spending a lot of time just looking at what they want to photograph before even lifting a camera. They watch the light and position of the sun and how it plays with what's in their frame. They're asking: How will this look three hours from now? At dusk? At dawn? They're looking at weather reports, monitoring conditions. From there, they're assessing what tools – like tripods and lenses – they'll need. The better you understand how the environment interacts with what you are shooting, the more prepared you'll be to shoot when the conditions are ripe.
While it falls under preparation, I consider "perspective" equally important. If you could shoot your landscape from anywhere, what spot would you choose? What angle best eliminates distracting elements and brings to light what you would like to photograph? This may require a bit of hiking, paddling, climbing – or, in some cases, flying – but the end result will make you glad you did. Get down on your stomach for a worm's-eye view or climb a ladder if you must. Look at your foreground and find natural elements such as trees or rock formations to frame, accentuate and add new layers to your image.
Once you find that perfect perspective, shoot lots! It costs nothing in a digital age. Zoom in. Zoom out. That shift in the light that happened in the past 60 seconds, or that shift in your zoom – either could make all the difference in your masterpiece.
The ultimate point here is to get away from simply pointing and shooting. Become a thinking, hard-working photographer. The more of yourself that you throw into making a better landscape, the more you will swell with pride upon seeing it hanging in your home.
Send your landscape photos to The Globe and Mail Camera Club (find out how at tgam.ca/photo-desk). Our favourite will be published next Friday (preference will be given to photos taken during the week of the call-out) on the Pictures and Prophecies page in Globe Life.
Next week's column: People pictures.