10 WAYS YOU CAN TAKE BETTER LANDSCAPE PHOTOS ON YOUR TRAVELS
Nothing makes me more happy than travelling the world and taking photos of the vast landscapes I am so lucky to explore and experience. However, photographing landscapes isn’t as simple as taking a ‘point and shoot’ approach. But sometimes even I am guilty of this because constantly photographing my travels can get exhausting. However, this doesn’t stop me from reading and researching ways in which to take better landscape photos. I am sure I am not the only photographer (novice or professional) who is constantly learning and evolving, but what I want to say here, right now, is that photographers should not fall into the trap of buying new gear in the hope they will be able to take better photos.
This is not the solution. Practising your craft is how you take better landscape photos. So here are 10 ways you can take better landscape photos on your travels, without breaking the bank and buying new equipment.
1. CHASE THE BEST LIGHT Whilst there is no such thing as bad light, it can be difficult to photograph landscapes that have impact in the middle of the day. Years ago, a photographer friend told me that he never shoots in the middle of the day when the sun is high. This is because the sun is harsh, it creates dark shadows and washes out colours. Good light happens when the sun is low in the sky because it creates warmth, depth, softer highlights, better texture and scale. I always talk about ‘magic hour’ being my favourite time of day to photograph, which is at sunset and sunrise. The light and the way it adds amazing colours to a landscape gets me every time. So my number one rule for taking better landscape photos on your travels is to chase the best light!
2. LOOK FOR STORMS Some of my most popular photos on Instagram are when I happen to be in a great location when a storm rolls in, aka I have this thing with storm chasing. The contrast in light and the cloud breaks create very dramatic scenes in a landscape photo. The build up to a storm rolling in has always evoked a weird energy and buzz inside me; in fact one of my favourite movies is Twister and I’ve always wanted to see a tornado in real life. But you do need to be careful. If the storm is about to get intense or there is too much lightening around, I urge you to see safety and cover.
3. STAY FOR THE RAINBOW When there is rain, there is a rainbow. After a storm passes, the clouds break up, and the sun begins to peak out, more often than not you will be rewarded with a rainbow. The clear air, the wet ground and the colourful light from the sun can change in an instant, so make sure you’re ready.
4. SCOUT FOR LOCATIONS I have recently moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and sadly I haven’t had much time to scout for ideal magic hour locations. I have been too busy travelling, working or spending time with my friends and family. Slap on the hand. But what I have been doing when I am out and about at home is scouting for locations, so when I do have the time, I already have a list of options to work with. This means getting up before the sun does, staying outdoors when the moon starts to rise, hiking to remote locations, packing flash lights, extra layers of clothing and a warm drink to keep me awake (and cosy) in the dark hours of the morning and night. But even if two or three hours of preparation give me a short three minute window of opportunity, it’s always worth it.
5. HAVE PATIENCE My biggest piece of advice when photographing landscapes is to go with someone who it like-minded, or go alone. Nothing unsettles me more than taking someone with me to photograph when I can hear them tapping their toes with impatience or boredom. It kills my creativity. Additionally, I might have spent two hours in the dark of night hiking to find the best view of sunrise, only to find the light sucks. This is where patience kicks in. As well as the little friend on my shoulder called “What If?” What if I left and ten minutes later I miss the best sunrise of my life? What if I stay and I end up wasting my time and capturing nothing? It’s alllllll about patience, whichever fork in the road you choose.
6. DO YOUR RESEARCH I know I touched in location scouting earlier on, but sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time to drive aimlessly to find inspiration or the best location ‘ever’. So my best piece of advice is to look in your own backyard. Do your research; speak to friends, see where people are going on Instagram, read blogs and get friendly with Google Maps. And whilst we all know the area we live really well, you don’t know everything. So if you do have time, get in the car and go find those places you’ve researched. Sometimes I struggle with finding beauty in the landscape I call home because it’s something I see every day. But so many of the people who read my blog and follow my travels on Instagram will have never been to my home, so even if it might be boring or normal to me – it will be new and exciting for so many other people!
7. USE APPS TO INFORM I use a few different apps to help me plan a landscape photography session, which you can read all about here. Before I head out to photograph a landscape, I use these apps to determine whether or not it’s going to be worth my time. My best tip? Make sure you check these apps before you head into the wilderness where you possibly might not be in range to access mobile data. Screen grab as a safety net. I haven’t experienced any major issues, even throughout Canada, but I am going to Iceland next week (!) and having data issues will be more than likely.
8. DON’T PHOTOGRAPH THE ORDINARY Earlier this year I met my landscape photography idol, Chris Burkard. One of the most pivotal things he said to me was not to photograph the ordinary. When I want to photograph a landscape, or a subject in a landscape, I need to walk above it, around it, through it, and over it. I need to hike in mud, cross rivers, trudge through wind – whatever it takes to get a different photo than everyone else. By changing my point of view, I am able to change the composition and by doing this, I am able to get an epic photo that will keep people engaged on my blog and Instagram. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, but also not doing anything too dangerous. In fact, I recently read more people this year have died taking selfie’s than being killed by sharks. Errr…
9. USE DIFFERENT LENS Never photograph landscape with the same lens! On the flip side, you don’t need 12 different lens. Trust me. I shoot with a wide lens and a longer focal length, and find these are the best for what I want to achieve. Plus it’s very important to shoot in Manual mode so you have full control over the impact you are working to create.
10. BONUS TIP Unfortunately it’s not easy getting up before sunrise and making your way home, or eating dinner with your family, when the light at the end of the day starts to fade. Being a landscape photographer is a constant ‘social’ battle that many of us photographers have to deal with daily. My biggest piece of advice is just go for it, but choose your moments. The end goal is always work life balance, so ensure you are spending enough time with your loved ones, or sleeping in, as much as you are getting outdoors and taking that killer photo.
At the end of the day, landscape photography is not as glamorous as the end result. It’s hard work and uncomfortable. I am often freezing, hiking dangerous cliff edges, perched on rocks teetering over an ice cold lake, battling the elements and having endless conversations with myself as I often shoot solo. But if you’re anything like me and love a challenge, these moments blissfully fade away when I get that one truly magic shot.