It’s not unusual in landscape photography to put a lot of effort into the process of taking photographs, only to come home later and be disappointed when you download your images. You’ve probably researched your location in advance, got up before dawn, and hiked in the dark. You’ve reached your destination and now you’re just waiting for that golden light to hit your subject.
Doing all of these things will of course increase your chances of creating compelling images. However, there is still no guarantee. In this video, landscape photographer Mark Denney walks us through his thought process during an early morning landscape shoot and shares his best tip to improve your luck.
Most landscape photographers will use a tripod when out taking photographs. It has a lot of advantages. Firstly, you’re reducing unwanted camera shake and movement. This is the easiest way to ensure that you’re getting tack-sharp images. It’s also extremely helpful in low-light situations or where you want to show movement of one element in the image but keep the rest sharp, such as moving water.
However, Mark says that sometimes the tripod isn’t always your friend. At least, not when you first arrive at a scene and are scouting around looking for compositions. At this stage, locking your camera down onto a tripod could be detrimental.
Denney says that there are a few disadvantages to using a tripod too early on in the process. It runs the risk of creating an almost tunnel vision-like approach, where you are so intent on capturing this one image, you miss other better compositions.
Denney suggests before committing to one composition on the tripod, you should first explore other options, shooting handheld. This way you can move about over a wider area more easily, try different heights and angles, and you’re at less risk of missing the best light.
Once you find a composition you love, that’s the time to pull your tripod out and make minor adjustments to really hone the image further and ensure that everything is sharp and the exposure is perfect.
Of course, you’re not trapped in shooting this one image, you can still move about and find other points of view, however, doing that first usually gives you more options. This way, you are also likely to come home with several fantastic images, rather than just one hero shot, which may or may not be the best thing you could have shot that day.
In the end, landscape photography takes planning, effort, and just a little luck. Perseverance is the name of the game, and if you don’t get everything you want on one day, it’s always worth repeating the visit if you can to see what you can capture another day. It really is a numbers game.