1. Watch and wait
Lighting and weather conditions are often the most essential factors in landscape photography. “Landscape photography boils down to planning to be in the right place at the right time,” Paweł explains. “The best time to photograph is the golden hour, but it’s also worth noting that you can create effective photos before sunrise and after sunset, so you aren’t limited to the golden hour alone.
“Today’s photographers have tons of resources at their disposal, including weather applications and applications like PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which can help you plan for the exact moment of sunrise and sunset in a specific location. Use them!”
Even with thorough planning, you might have to wait for the perfect opportunity. “One of my rules is not to give up and keep trying to get better conditions for my photos,” Paweł adds. For him, time spent waiting and searching can also be a reward in and of itself. “I enjoy hiking in search of new interesting places,” he admits. “Apart from the photos themselves, being out in nature in the mountains brings me a lot of joy and helps me relax.”
2. Scout online first—and then in person
“I have to say that scouting locations is one of my favourite parts of photographing landscapes,” Chris tells us. “I spend hours on my laptop looking for beautiful spots to photograph, and it’s here that I start thinking about composition. I use tools such as Google Earth to get an idea of what I’d like to shoot and how. Of course, Instagram and Pinterest are also super helpful tools to get inspired.”
Once he’s on location, Chris takes his time searching for vantage points and compositions: “I usually scout first for angles, and I try out different lenses to have a better understanding of what I can get from them in different situations.” It’s important to him to look beyond what others have captured and photograph the landscape with his own unique—and previously unseen—perspective. “Sometimes, landscape photographers have the tendency to take the exact same picture, but the most meaningful photos to me are the ones that express my creativity,” he says.
3. Dig deeper
Zach echoes that sentiment, encouraging fellow photographers to explore the road less travelled. “When first starting, I travelled to a lot of the Instagram hotspots to capture similar photos to what I saw on the app,” he says. “Over time, my perception and values changed, and I began to seek out more unique locations and subjects in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, many of which have probably never been captured and maybe never will be again.
“There is something exhilarating about capturing photos of moments like raindrops falling from a limb, eagles flying through the forest, or fog flowing through the trees that cannot be captured the same again. I can know that my photos are truly unique and one of a kind, which keeps my passion burning.”
4. Embrace ‘bad weather’
“I used to hate rainy weather and would refuse to take photos at all in those ‘unideal conditions,’” Zach admits. “As I grew as a photographer, I challenged myself to take photos in the rain for a season, and I fell in love with it. There is nothing like foggy forests filled with raindrops. I take all kinds of landscape photographs, but I tend to focus on my ‘moody PNW forest’ themed photos.” Just remember to bring lens clothes and weather protection for your gear.
5. Pack wisely
One dilemma every landscape photographer faces is balancing the need for equipment and gear with the ability to move unencumbered. “On my mountain trips, it’s essential to have as little weight as possible,” Alexander explains. “In addition to my extra batteries and SD cards, my bag contains a few extra things I need on tour.
“In a few cases, I need a tripod, like when I want to take some long exposures or blue hour photos. It’s extremely lightweight and has a great stand. My L-Bracket is always by my side when I am carrying my tripod with me.”
Beyond your gear, pack what you need to stay comfortable and warm, like layers of clothing. “A foam seat pad often saves my butt—in the truest sense of the phrase,” Alexander adds. “I often wait for good conditions in the cold and don’t want to get sick. So I bought that seat pad to be able to sit on the ground without freezing.”
6. Wake up before the sun
“To catch an incredible sunrise photo, you have to get up pretty early, so it’s always dark when I start my photo trips,” Alexander continues. “Therefore, a headlamp is my final necessity for every trip. I use it to find my way to the perfect spot and then find my way back in the evening.” Early mornings and long days allow him to make the most of each session.
7. Incorporate a human element
Zach works full-time as a professional wedding photographer, but he’s continued to nurture his love of landscapes, and he often marries his two passions by photographing people in the environment. “The way I combine couples with landscapes and my more creative photos are what I am most known for and a huge reason why many clients hire me,” he says. Even when he’s travelling alone, he sometimes includes a human figure to provide scale and atmosphere. He tells us, “When I am out hiking, my tripod allows for self-portraits and the ability to add a subject to the photo when no other person is around.”
8. Make return trips
“Even with the perfect landscape, the wrong lighting will result in just an average photo,” Alexander admits. “So my best advice is to take your time and visit places several times to get the best out of every spot. In some cases, I’ve visited the same spot seven times and still don’t have the photo I want yet. The strongest photographers are often the most patient.”
About the contributor
Feature Shoot showcases the work of international emerging and established photographers who are transforming the medium through compelling, cutting-edge projects, with contributing writers from all over the world.