Capturing Landscapes - Part 1
landscape photography can be approached a lot of different ways, and the traditional way that most people think about is the glamorous photographer standing on a cliff, tripod legs out, sunset coming down with dramatic views and dramatic light and wind blowing in your hair and all that stuff. But it's not always about that is about sometimes working quickly, working with light, working with the scene and trying to figure out exactly what the best way to capture the sense of place and the scale of the place is going to be. I mean, it's really about conveying a story and also thinking about what is going to be the strongest element. And it's not always going to be a natural element. Landscape photography means sometimes, including a human element. Maybe it's a road. Maybe it's a person. Maybe it's a bench. One of the things I like about this particular scene in this particular shot is I'm not forcing this to fit into something that it's not. I worked the scene, spent a lot of time locati...
on scouting, working my way along the ridge, looking for cracks and rocks and great foreground elements, and I found some stuff that could potentially work, But I wasn't overwhelmingly excited about those. And as the light changes, I'm not sure if it's still really going to work. But I know right now this is still looking fantastic. I've got a blue Lake. I've got a great bench in the classic National Park Overlook, and I want to bring all of those elements together. Ah, with this landscape photo. So I'm gonna work with some of what I kind of consider my basic settings for handheld landscape photography. I'm not gonna use a tripod. I'm not gonna have my whole bag of tricks and all of the elements that I might have, like a polarized or neutral density filters. I'm going to simply use ah, wide angle lens because I've got a wide scene. So have a 16 and lens. I'm gonna leave it on auto focus. I'm gonna have image stabilization on an image stabilizer is just sort of an electrical way toe to smooth out your handheld. I'm shooting aperture priority mode, which means I'm picking the depth of field and we'll talk a little bit more about that throughout the lesson. But I'm gonna choose my aperture of F 11 sort of a middle of the road. Pretty good depth of field, especially for a landscape photo. It's not all the way to Max up the field at F 22. It's not real shallow depth of field or the background out of focus at F 2.8. It's right in the middle on. That's generally what I'm going for for handheld Ah, starting place. And I'll change all of these as a scene in the light in the clouds and everything else changes. I'll work those, but this is just my starting place. And then I have my I s o my eyes. So is 400 400 is it is a really good sort of middle of the road place to start. It's fast enough that you won't have to worry about camera shake and maybe having a blurry ah shot because your shutter speed is too slow for your aperture and I'll get into the detail on that. But really, what I eso is is about sensor sensitivity. How fast is it able to read the light? How much can it read that light without creating noise or what we used to call in the old days is grain All those little speckles of red and blue that might get in a very low light shop we've ever shot at night. And you notice that it looked like there were stars in the sky that weren't stars. That's the stuff that I'm talking about. So I'm gonna start out at 16 mil. I'm gonna go with I s 0 400 aperture f 11. I'm gonna have my exposure compensation. We'll set right in the middle. I'm gonna look at my memory card, see if it's been formatted. I've got about 1400 shots or so on here to go, and I've got somebody who's gonna help me out with this. It's not going to just be a bench. I'm gonna bring a human element in with an actual human. So, Aubrey, if you wouldn't mind joining me and be my model for this authenticity is key. If you don't mind having a seat on this side when you have people shots, if you're hiking with somebody or you know, a lot of photographers might be out on their own, you really want to not be stiff. I see a lot of shots where you have somebody just sort of standing there like this, and it just looks like a self timer. If you're going to go the self timer out or you're photographing somebody who you're really familiar with, your on a hike with, you want to keep it as a natural as possible, and that reasons for that are, of course, because you wanted to feel authentic. You want to feel forced or staged or is a produce shoot. But authenticity is really important if you decide you want to maybe market your work later. But if you don't want to market it, authentic images also work better in social media, and, ah, and just people are able to relate to it a lot more. So I'm gonna work this scene handheld with settings that I said wide angle and Aubrey's looking a little stiff so ivory. If you wouldn't mind just relaxing a little bit. Sit back, kick your feet up, put your hands behind you. Let the wind sort of take the moment, and now I'm gonna start to work the scene, so you notice them taking a couple steps back. I already kind of know in my mind. 16 millimeter lens might zoom into goes to start real wide. Looks a little too wide. So meeting lower and you'll notice One of the things I typically do is avoid eye level photography. I'm never shooting like this. You're never gonna see me like that cause that's how most people experience the world. Especially me. Because I'm average height, average p a person is seeing the world exactly like this. You want to show a new angle, a new perspective. The second you get a new perspective, people are gonna be like, Oh, that's a new way of seeing it. It's the little subtle subconscious changes in your images that really could make them sing. So I'm gonna start by getting lower. I'm gonna center the bench. I've got Aubrey on the rule of thirds on the right hand side of the frame. She's looking natural, relaxed, taking in the view. And I'm gonna work from 16 get a sense of it, and I'm gonna get higher up. And I'm looking at the shape in the line. And I love that the fact that the lake is here and what it does is because it's a lighter color, really separates her the outline of her head and which is where most people will naturally look. They usually make eye contact or look sort of at where other people's head or their faces. And if she turns her face a little more to the left, Yeah, that's gonna be one of the areas that you first connect with. But I want to watch and make sure that branch isn't overlapping. I want to make sure that all of these little elements are coming together because you don't want to have it look like a ah branches coming out of the side of your something funny. But the lake works well, but with darker hair, I kind of like the idea of seeing the lake and moving her over to the left hand side. So all over, if you wouldn't mind moving over the left of the bench right about here, Same sort of position. Now my fear initially is that she'd blend in with the background and you don't want that you wanna have the lake and she's clearly separated here. We don't want to just get lost. You don't Teoh have the darker hair getting muddied up with the darkness of the trees and the evergreens you wanted to be separated for. The nice part is we have angular light coming across, and that's catching a beautiful sort of silhouette of color and light around her. That's bringing her outline out from that dark background. And so it helps create a little bit of separation in the image and allows me to keep her in a relatively less interesting area. The pine trees in the evergreen trees. They're kind of consistent throughout, where we really want to see this, this vibrant blue colored lake down below. And so this allows me to move all of those different scenes together and build the layers that I'm looking to build, having the bench and a person in the foreground having the lake in the middle, in the trees, having these overlapping layers come in. She's on that nice compositional side, and then I have the mountains out in the distance. That sort of concluded, I'm not hyper focusing on the technical pieces of the shot. Right now, I'm simply focused on composition, from paying attention all the elements, how they come together and then figuring out does it work down there? Do I need to completely change my view, get higher up and get a different shot? And this works whether I'm gonna be shooting stills or motion, I want to be able to figure out what is gonna be my final shot. What composition? So I want Oh, come together. And you know, motion for this could be great as a clip. And I could set this up on a tripod, do some pans, get the hair blowing in the breeze. Maybe a little slow motion. Maybe you even shooting with your IPhone, you could put it in slow motion and get a nice little camera movement that you can put up on. Social media is a lot of different ways to work this. So what I'm trying to do right now is shoot figure out the different compositions, figure out the different layers, and then I'm gonna commit by bringing out my filters, bring out the tripod and slow by. Process down. One of the great analogies that I think really describes the role of a landscape photographer is is that of a painter, and a painter has an empty blank canvas that they constantly add to a landscape photographer don't have that luxury picking and choosing what elements you have. And so, as I'm moving around shooting and taking different frames, I'm taking elements out, taking out a branch or rock that might be distracting. And I'm looking at all four corners of my frame, looking to see what different pieces I might want to remove because they're taking away from the symmetry or the overall look and feel call of the composition that I'm trying to create. And so when you set up your shots and you're setting up your landscape photos, you want to think about what don't I need, unlike the painter who's trying figure out, what is it that I do need to make this the type of painting or the type of creation that I wanna have? So continue working the scene from a scroll through, take a look, see which ones I like, see which one's the light really worked well with. And then I'm gonna slow my process down, bring in my tripod, bringing some filters, maybe try a different apertures, shutter speeds and I esos, which I'll go into more detail about how those work and how I'm going to make those work for me in this scene and try different things. And then I'm not gonna edit. I'm not going to sit here and say yes, no, delete. That's something you do when you get home. When you get back to the studio and that's something that will do with these images. I'm just gonna keep shooting and keep firing away, and then we'll start making decisions. When you get home, worry about things like color balance. I usually leave it in auto white balance or pick one white balance and just stick with it because that's something you can do in studio. That's lossless. I won't do any of that out here. I'm really just gonna focused on creating the best raw file, but I can create. This is the chance to create your negative. This is a chance to create something that when you get home, you can manipulate it in photo shop. Perfect it. Bringing the color, make sure that you haven't lost something in the sky. I'm really just focused on getting all of the information, all of the raw materials. Then they need to go and create the best landscape photo possible. So that's what my focus is. And now that I feel like I've got a good sense of the compositions that I want to get, I'm gonna get technical with it. So now that I went in running Gun, as I like to say and not use a tripod, not use any of the peripheral elements but work the scene over to figure out what compositions I like, I have the luxury of being able to shoot when the sun is still out on the composition is relatively the same. In fact, the compositions changing. There's some clouds coming in. I'm getting a brighter, more diffuse sky. So I really need figure out how many control that I'm gonna make that work because they said earlier, I really have an opportunity to get the best possible file and negative or raw file that I could work back home or in the studio. So I got the tripod out and and the truth is, there's a very good chance that I've already got my end shot on my card. I might not need to do this, but this is the step, and this is a luxury that whether you're shooting with. People are shooting with a landscape photo that I highly recommend in this particular situation, where there's an abundance of light and you're able to hand hold without, really worry about quality or loss of resolution with relatively basic out the door settings. Um, when you're shooting a very low light, where you might have 32nd exposures, where the focal range and distance might be a little more hard to call, I strongly recommend maybe you shoot handheld to figure out where your composition is, but then slow that process down and make sure you get the right aperture, great focal range and distance. You make sure they have good shutter speed to convey all the different elements you want. So whether I'm shooting something that might work in mid, mid or brighter daylight, we're shooting in lower light. This is a very important step just to make sure you banks the shot and to make sure that you got what you need. And it's great because once you get on the tripod, you figure this out. You can also bring out the fluid head and get emotion clip, so the idea is you. It's nice to double up whenever possible, especially if you're shooting for stock. And you want to maybe make a few bucks and not just on your still photographs, but by having a video clip. Or maybe you're trying to tell a story about your trip and you want to shoot video all of the same rules. Generally speaking, apply slowing your process down, thinking about your composition. So you notice I got the camera on the tripod. The first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna work my settings and bring them to the optimum settings. So now I can slow this process down and think about it. So the only thing I really need to think about is motion. And I'm not talking about shooting a clip. I'm talking about the hair blowing, the trees blowing. I got the clouds moving. Even though they're slow, sometimes they will add up, especially with the 32nd exposure. So I think about those elements. I'm not gonna address them just yet, but I want to be aware of these is sort of the variable movement or changes in my frame. I've got the cameras set up and I've got this two point ball head. So I've got to be different pivot points this one which allows you to pretty much do anything from horizontal to vertical. And I like this because it's super super fast You a lot of flexibility, especially leveling out your horizons and things like that and then the swivel. So once you've got your composition or maybe doing panoramic so you can go and work the horizontal access a lot easier access a lot easier. So I've got my tripod. This was about the height that I was at when I was crouching down and shooting that I really, really liked. So I've got it set up here, so that's first. Now I'm gonna start to work the settings before we even take another frame. When take that, I s so I'm gonna bring it down to the optimum setting for a landscape photo. This is theoretical 400. In this light or 100 you're not going to see much of a difference. But you might. If you're blowing the thing up, you wanna have just why take the chance create the best file possible? You might manipulated a lot. A lot of different reasons. Why you might want to make sure you have it. So I'm gonna go from I s 0 400 which is more sensitive. And if you all that 25,000 or something like that, you'll really see what the sensitivity does. I'm gonna go from 400 by hitting the ice, so But bring it down. I s a 100. That's what I like to be for landscapes. It's also where I like to be If I really want to slow my shutter speed down. This is a dance, and the dance is about sensitivity. 100 your aperture, which is how wide the lenses open. And in this case, it's set on, uh, f 11 earlier, and that's sort of the middle of the road and your shutter speed. Those are the three key pieces. How fast is this thing open? How? Why does it open when it goes? And when it finally opens, how sensitive is a sensor? Those are the three pieces. I s O aperture and shutter speed. Once you understand those, you pretty much understand everything you ever really need to know about still photography. And then you can just focus on creating creative compositions, So I'm gonna bring it down. I s 0 100 because I want that maximum quality. So now I want to figure out what sort of depth of field do I want for this scene. So I really want it's a landscape photo. I don't have everything. Sharp depth of field means how much death you have before something goes out of focus. A shallow depth of field F 2.8, for instance, would be when you see a shot and in the nice part of the digital camera, try it, try it at home. Taking camera, bring it down, F two point a, get close to something, focus on it and take a picture and you'll notice that you've got a lot of blur in the background. That's what I'm referring to. So in this case, I want maximum sharpness, maximum depth of field throughout the frames. I'm gonna go from 11 to 22 again, these are just starting settings. I'm going all the way to the other end of the range of what I call ideal. I might not need 22. It might be too slow, but just go to that far into the spectrum and then work my way back as I start to move in through the scene. So I s 0 100 f 22 I'm gonna think about my shutter speed. This is where the dance really starts to take place. Of those three things working together at F 22 I'm getting a reading. When I push the button halfway that says that shutter, that little curtain is gonna open for 1 25th of a second. That's actually pretty slow. It's still pretty fast. Sounds pretty fast. That's pretty slow. But the truth is, at 1 25th of a second at these exact same settings, my folk away, it's 16 millimeters. I could handhold that don't want to get too much into the detail on that exactly right now, because that's sort of 1/4 element. But I wouldn't worry too much about it because the truth is, I'm gonna probably put filters on this, and I'm gonna slow down that shutter speed even more. It's gonna go from 1 25th of a second down to a slow enough time that I am starting to get blur, so I'm gonna keep it at 22 but I'm letting the camera pick the shutter speed. Now. If I went to Shutter Priority, said Aperture priority, then I could go and pick the shutter speed. So if I know I wanted her hair and everything to be absolutely frozen, I'd pick a fast shutter speed 1 2/50 of a second or 1 5/100 of a second. Uh, but I'm not too concerned about that right now. In fact, I kind of like the idea of getting a little blur with hair blowing. So I want a slower shutter speed to capture that same thing with you. When you're capturing water, waterfalls, slower shutter speed, let's everything blur. A slow shutter speed is aggregate. Anything that moves around in the frame while that curtain is open is going to be blurry or soft or a little out of focus creatively. That could be really great. It could also be devastating to your shot. You could have everything out of focus, and your frame is a ruin, and that is ultimately what a slow shutter speed is, the speed in which the curtain is open and how much you're able to capture that movement. So I'm letting the camera choose it right now because I want to add another element to this, and that's my filters. With digital technology evolving, there are more options than ever before. How you wanna control highlights. There's great ideas and options from HDR to simply shooting two different frames and blending them together. Teoh Using filters I've always used filters that help me control color. Uh, help me control shutter speed in situations where you might not be able to control it in very bright situations like snow. But you want to slow things down, and so I'm gonna use them here today so that I can try and make sure that I don't lose the detail in my sky. So I've got this thing, which we've already got a lot of wind out here today. But this is make sure that all many dust on the lens I've also got a lens cloth. But this thing helps kind of get the pieces off, and then I'm gonna go and actually attach the filter ring which goes on the lens. It screws right on the front, never lens pan as well, which is always great for making sure things are clean, so attach this onto screws right in. And this is a 77 millimeter diameter ring. You have to check your own lens to see what diameter it is. Depending on the filter set, they all very you buy. This goes on and this little piece snaps on. We'll go into more detail filters another time, but I'm going to use a basic filter just for the sky. We'll go over filters in a different lesson in this course. So I'm gonna pick sort of my middle of the road filter just to bring a little bit of the highlights down. The key is, I don't want it to overwhelm. I don't want you to know I'm using a filter. I just wanted to be ableto save that sky, so I'll just take. So now it's time to actually going compose. So I've got all the elements they need. I'm an F 22. I saw 100 to get the filtering on the holder. The filter come out about the height I want to get. And so now Aubrey has to look authentic. I should have said anything, So if you didn't know I was shooting you would've been more relaxed. That's the key. And actually, it brings up a good point when working with people authenticity and spontaneity in any of your shots is going to be ah, captured if they're least expecting it. And it's tricky because you want to direct sometimes, especially if you're shooting for stock and trying to make money from your photography, you might be tempted to direct it, but the best images of the ones that are spontaneously captured because they convey that authentic moment that somebody's in she's relaxing, enjoying this great, beautiful view here. So I'm gonna go and take a look. I'm gonna compose. You'll notice I loosen this wheel right here. I've got a little bit of an axis, so I'm gonna make sure that my horizon line is straight. Just one of my biggest pet peas and I mean it just sort of center up the frame first and figure out where before I even touched the filter or any settings. I'm just still focusing on composition. I'm gonna zoom in a little bit just to make sure this other benches out of the frame you don't know anything jutting in. That's the one thing. I want to make sure that she separated from the background. I want to make sure that we're looking at all the different elements and how they play together. And then I'm gonna go and move the filter down, Just the touch over the sky. Now I'm gonna check my focus. Looks good. I don't need image stabilization. Does it stabilized on a tripod? I'm gonna actually turn autofocus off. You could certainly use it. There's a lot of different ways to focus. Uh, you can focus by the depth. I want to make sure that my focus is about 1/3 of the way through the frame, which making sure she's here at F 22. I could focus pretty much make sure on her, and everything else will be really sharp. I might want to go a little past her, set my focus, look at my filter and make sure everything is straight. Make sure everything's in frame the way I want. And so I'm working My eyes. I looked through around the edges. Ah, great landscape. Photo is all about the corners, the edges, the background. All of the elements are very, very difficult images because you're not just shooting a macro where you might have the all these other pieces. I mean, every great image really have to look at all elements of the frame. It's It's your square footage, right? You wouldn't just decorate one part of your room. You know, if you think about the blueprint of your house, you don't just put one couch TV and everything in one corner. You're sort of put everything out so that it works is an ensemble you want to do. The same thing here will make sure all your elements air covered. You don't want toe soda can or a cigarette butt or something laying in the shots. You want to make sure that you work around all of that, make sure nothing's judging in now things interrupting my subject in the frame here. And then I'm gonna look and pay attention of the light clouds blowing through house the wind. Okay, the wind picks up. So now maybe I want to take a shot and you can hear it slower. And but it wasn't slow enough, and it looks a little darker. And now I can actually use what's called the exposure compensation wheels this wheel right here on the back of the camera, and I can simply push this button the shutter, but not all the way, but a little bit. And move this wheel to the right and you'll notice that on your camera that the little bar on the top will start moving to the right if you go to the right. If you go above, you're going to get a longer shutter speed. Your scene is going to get brighter. You might lose things like the sky or the bright highlights. You go the other direction if it's too bright and go below the middle of the line and start Sandra expose and against darker, simply put, brighter image, darker image. And what it's doing is because you're an aperture priority mode. It's not touching your aperture. It is the priority. It's adjusting the shutter speed to create that desired effect. It's letting that shutter stay open longer, so you've got an aperture of F 22 very small opening, and it's capturing the scene with now instead of 20th of a second or 25th of the second. Like the first shot, I'm ah, full one stop brighter. So Now I'm getting the lights changing a lot, so I'm getting about 1/ of a second. And so you can hear instead of a quick clip. Quick shutter. It takes its time. You kind of get it open and close. But there's no wind. And I want that slow shutter so that I can have her hair sort of blowing a little bit in the wind and create that drama, capturing a little bit of the motion in the landscape photo. And it's important to note that she's not the focus of the picture. She's just an element. She's an element, no offense, lover. Very important element were one element that gives a sense of scale. It gives a sense of context to this scene and by adding some drama to it to other than just somebody sitting in the frame, I'm able to now show how vast this area is, how vast the valley is in the size and scale of the Northern Cascade Mountains. Here in Washington state. It really allows me to bring all these pieces together and show you that this isn't just a landscape photo. I could take a landscape photo this and you wouldn't really know how big it is. You would have something as a reference point, so she's adding a great contextual element to it. But I'm not zoomed in on keeping her small a part of the frame. I'm giving people a chance to connect with the human aspect of it and hopefully add a little drama. Wait for the wind to pick up. Wait for the sun to come out. I don't need to look to the camera. Manual Focus. Shutter speed. Everything's been picked. Pushed the button. Keep pushing the button. Wait for that moment to come and see if it works, you turn your head a little more of the left. What? See? Which way is the wind blowing? Yeah, I don't have as much air, and that's really all there is to it. It's that dance of that balance. Now I could go and bring my aperture from F 22 which is Max all the way down to, let's say, four point. Oh, or two point am. I think this is a four point Owens. So 4.0 is all I can do on here. You hear how it gets much faster, so I'm letting all that light in the opening is now much larger. And so my shutter speed went from 1/6 of a second. We're half of a second even earlier, all the way up to 2/100 of a second. So now, if the wind blows doesn't matter. Hairs will be frozen in that moment, which might not work as well. Maybe get like one hair kind of going up on an angle on a look. A little funky, right? So it all depends on what it is you're trying to do. Freeze motion. Stop it. Maximize your depth of field. Minimize it. A lot of sensitivity on your sensor or not. Really. Aperture and shutter are your primary focus on your creative control. I eso is about quality control and how much you need of it. On a minimum level, what is the minimum amount you need to be ableto work the aperture in the shutter speed to where you want to be? It's something that trial and error will make. All the difference in the world is the kind of thing where you go out and just shoot an aperture priority mode. At 2.8 everything get real close and focus and see your results. Go to the other end of the spectrum and get 22 see your results. Practice makes perfect trialling air makes it perfect, and we'll really show you what the depth is and how to do that balance so that you can get the effect that you want in the scene that you want and ultimately you'll own and control every piece of your landscape photo, and hopefully you'll also have the best landscape photo you've ever taken.