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Landscape Photography

Lesson 7 from: The Storyteller's Guide to Taking Better iPhone Photos

Dan Tom

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Lesson Info

7. Landscape Photography

Dan shares his thoughts on shooting landscapes, and reviews his favorite shots from the field shoot.

Lesson Info

Landscape Photography

Landscapes were actually my first love. I remember seeing a photo from Turkey. The landscape there really influenced my next travel destination. I pretty much went there a month later. And so landscapes have always kind of had a special place in my heart, and being in San Francisco in the Bay Area, we are blessed with a lot of beautiful places. We have Big Sur, we have Yosemite, we have Mount Tam, we have the Golden Gate Bridge, all these kind of places within like a three-hour drive, if not less. So landscapes is where I really started to shoot a lot more, and that, with landscapes, would drive kind of where I would go, what I would wanna shoot. And those were also the first photographers that I really started following, and how I kind of fell more in love with photography was through landscapes. So with landscapes, there's specifics that pertain just to landscapes. So I think the first one is, it's about the location. Location, location, location, like it's so true. I think, when you...

're thinking about landscapes, usually you'll see a photo prior to that, or you'll kind of have a reference point to a landscape. So how I try to do it is, landscapes, there's a certain relationship with you and a landscape because... But your goal is to capture the landscape with the best light available or the best conditions that you want. So, because the weather is outside of your control, because the landscape isn't moving, it's there, you kind of have to do everything in your own power and ask yourself, well, what do I need to do to best put myself in a position to shoot this at the right time that I want? And I think that's super important to remember because you can't control the weather, you can't control the landscape itself, but you can control what you do. And that's where you put in the effort and kind of the research. So when I first got into landscapes, and my interest really grew with photography, I started following a few photographers on Instagram, who, they actually all did a Canada trip together. It was a campaign for I think Alberta, and Finn was on there, Finn Beales, Alex Strohl, Jared Chambers, heroes, and I think a couple more, but those were the four guys that I pretty much, whose work I really loved. And they actually influenced my work a lot because their photos from that particular trip and campaign in Canada and the landscapes that they got influenced how I wanted my photos to look at the time, and it made me kind of study how were they making their photos this way? What were they doing? What conditions were they trying to shoot it at? And that really sparked and grew my interest for photography even more. All right, so we just did a shoot last night at Mount Tam, and I'm gonna talk about a few photos that we took, or that I took, and just talk about landscapes, and how I try to approach landscapes. One is, in particular, you want to get to, getting to a high vantage point is typically a pretty good idea only because you can really see, and you get a better view for what's actually happening with the landscape. You get perspective, you get more depth because you're above everything else. And so, this one particular photo here is... I love how you can see the hills. You can see the water behind it. And there's like, you can tell there's a big distance between the hill and the water, so I think that gives the photo depth. but there's also these layers of the hills. And you have these kind of green trees that break up the hills, which I think create like a visual interest. But that's kind of something that I look for are just layers of landscapes and different textures and colors, and how those kind of intertwine and make a photo and cause for a good composition, but also just create a visual interest as well. I tried to get to the highest vantage point that I could, so that I can get an overview of what's really happening, but also create layers. The higher you get, the more layers you're gonna be able to see. So because of Tam's landscape and just the structure of it, there's multiple layers of hills, trees and water in the distance, and that's what I try to capture here. In the next photo, or in this photo, it's a bit closer, and so sometimes my approach to landscapes is to not shoot super wide but to really focus on a particular area that's of interest to me. In this photo right here, there is, the light is just hitting this one spot on the hill, and I love how it creates like a slice of light. And then, there's a path that kind of goes through the light, but the rest also creates kind of the zigzag composition between the water, the trees, and how the light part of the hill cuts across. So I thought that was really interesting 'cause... I think it's okay also to shoot multiple photos. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to just capture the shot all the time. I shoot multiple times. I think that's normal. And then pick the best one that you like out of the group. In this photo here, I love the leading lines of the road. And again, I tried to get to the top of the hill. There's multiple hills at Tam, so this is the third hill that we were on last night, and I love the road and how the S-shaped curve kind of cuts through the hills and creates a leading line visual for your viewer to really follow the road to the end of the frame. In particular, I think, shooting landscapes, the light will always play a huge role. And the more you shoot, you'll notice the colors changing, how the light hits, but there's a particular time of the day where the sun is pretty much down, but it's not dark yet, and that's considered blue hour. So that's when the light is the softest. And I never used to shoot blue hour, but because of guys like Alex Strohl and other photographers that I follow, I would stay later. It does require you to stay a little bit later, after the sun goes down, but you can get some really, really cool landscapes because the light is so soft, and it just creates a different visual for the same place that you were shooting 20 minutes before. So in this particular photo, I love how just there's like a slight hint of light on this hill, and in post, I'm gonna probably try to bring that part of the hill out, just focus on how the sun hits this hill. Another way to shoot landscapes is to show scale, and a lot of people love to do this, and I like to do this as well, but to have a person just for reference and to show the scale and how big the landscape is. In this photo right here, it's my buddy Tyler and his wife, and they were gracious enough to join us at Tam. So right now, it's more of a silhouette shot, but this was when we were on top of the hill, and I was walking down the hill, but they were still at the top of the hill. And I love the colors of the sunset, and how they're framed in the photo. And it just really shows how steep the hill is, and how high we were, but also just how large Tam is. It's a humongous place. There's tons of places to explore, and I think this photo shows that really well. When shooting landscapes, you also want to consider and be intentional with what you're putting in the frame. That's so important. A lot of people ask me, "Is it better to shoot landscape or vertical?" And there's really no right way to shoot a landscape. It's really about what you want to put in the frame. And so I actually tend to shoot more vertical, and that's just, I don't know why. Actually, I just happen to always be vertical, but a lot of people think landscapes need to be landscape. They don't have to be landscape. It's really up to you. The other thing too is I think this is kind of the tourist trap of landscape photography is that you might go to a popular place, like the Golden Gate Bridge or a waterfall, and just hold up their phone, snap it. But I think, really think about what is in the frame. Think about what you might want to crop out, what you might want to focus on, maybe center something on, and that'll also improve, and you can take multiple shots. That's the fun part. You can take multiple shots, look at them after, and then decide which one you like best. I think one habit that's good to develop in shooting landscapes, but even just in general, is to always check your exposure level. So how you do that is you, when you have the camera open, click on the screen, and you can adjust. There's a little box that comes up, and you can adjust the exposure up and down. One way that I like to adjust for exposure is to pick the brightest or whitest point of the photo and adjust my exposure for that, so that that is not overexposed or too white or too blown out. One reason for that, in particular for mobile, is because, if it's white and overexposed, that information is completely lost. Whereas if it's darker, you can always bring up the exposure or bring up the shadows when you edit the photo. Another thing when it comes to shooting landscapes is the rule of thirds. For composition, this is really important. And if you're new at this, or you're not sure how you might want to compose a photo, this is a great way to start. So the rule of thirds. Essentially, there's a grid, and there's actually a grid on your phone that you can turn on while you're shooting, so you can literally line up the subjects, foreground, background, that you might want into the rule of thirds. So the rule of thirds, how it works is there's four corners where the lines intersect, and those four corners are good points to maybe place your subject on just to create. It creates more visual interest than to just always center the subject or to center what you're shooting. And if you take a couple photos, you'll see that the rule of thirds creates a bit more interest, a bit more visual story, creates more depth and variety into your shot. I would love for you guys to pick a place to shoot a landscape of, and try to shoot that place at different times of the day. It could be sunrise and sunset. It could be midday. But I would love for you guys to see and realize how the light changes, and why that shapes the photo in a different way, and how that impacts the result.

Ratings and Reviews

Lindsay Remigio

Great Workshop - Not just for iPhones This workshop was concise but packed a lot of great information. The things taught can not only help you take better photos with your iPhone but can also be applied to any format of photography. I particularly enjoyed the section where Dan edits viewers photos. I feel inspired to get out and try what I learned.

Déborah Mocquant

I like the way Dan Tom sees the world and how he is inspired. This is more than a workshop for me. I felt like I was in an other world. This workshop also gave me a lot interesting informations about photography. To be honest, I watched this workshop 4 times already.

Emily Guldborg

He has a definite passion for what he does and encouraging people to share their stories through photography. Not a huge time commitment and he refreshed my interest in sharing my perception of the world.

Student Work