Enjoying Landscape Photography
16 Aug 2007
In my travels while doing landscape photography I have found that it's the small things that can make or break a successful photo journey. These things wont help you to become a better photographer but they will definitely help to make your time more enjoyable, and less stressful.
1. Dress for success. There is nothing worse than being in the most picturesque place and being uncomfortable. When doing winter photography make sure you have plenty of insulation and layer your clothing. Wear a wool stocking cap, 30 percent of your body heat is lost through your head, and protect your fingers. Wool mittens with pull back fingers are indispensable. While taking pictures at the Grand Canyon Christmas 2006 I found myself having a hard time tripping the shutter and making adjustments to my camera with clunky gloves on. I found that having peel back mittens that only exposed the ends of my fingers and thumb allowed me to manipulate my equipment without freezing my hands off.
2. Keep your camera kit up to date. Make sure you have a bulb type blower and plenty of lens tissues. Dust is the number one enemy. The number two enemy is mist and fog. Tissues and a blower are crucial for keeping your lenses clean. Don't use anything other than a bulb type of air blower to clean your sensor. I used one of the after market types of cleaning systems for my sensor and wound up having to replace my Cannon 10D with a Cannon 20D sooner than I would have wanted to.
3. Bring lots of extra batteries. Running out of batteries a 5:30 in the morning trying to catch the first light is no good. On that same trip to the Grand Canyon I learned something new about digital. When temperatures drop below freezing even your best batteries will last for about 20-40 minutes and if you're doing long exposures in low light they will run out even faster.
4. Bring plenty of memory cards. With memory cards all the way up to 4 GB there is no excuse to run out of memory. For those extended 2-4 day trips an MPG player is just what the doctor ordered. During your down time you can upload your images to the MPG player and have clean cards for the next photo shoot. I have a 30GB Flash Trax its about 5 years old but it still works great and it has a large enough LCD to preview my images before I leave for home. I never want to be afraid to take an image for fear I might run out of memory for something better later.
5. Bring something to lie on. Having a blanket or towel to sit or lay on is a big help for doing low angle shots and close-ups of wild flowers, and keeps you from looking like you've been rolling around in the dirt.
6. The best times for landscape photography are during the golden hours, 45 minutes before sunrise until about one hour after sunrise and 30 minutes before sunset and 45 minutes after sunset. These times require fast lenses and long exposures. A must is a sturdy tripod that is also light weight. The new carbon fiber tripods are both lightweight and sturdy and usually have hangers underneath for adding extra weight for more stability.
7. To add to the sturdy tripod another important item is a tilt and pan head. This type of head allows you to make adjustments vertically, horizontally, and to tilt. It allows you to make smooth incremental adjustments and holds them steady. It also allows for you to tilt without having to make adjustments to the legs. There is nothing worse than having to fight your tripod head when you're trying to catch that elusive shot.
8. Another great item to have that's worth its weight in gold is a right angle view finder. This is ergonomically, a must, and will save you from many a stiff neck. Most of these have adapters to allow you to fit your type of camera and are very inexpensive. Having one of these allowed me to move freely through the Antelope Canyons taking many low angle shots without having to crawl on the ground or crank my neck to see what I was doing. My previous trip to Antelope Canyon precipitated my buying this item.
9. Researching your location is very important. If possible try to go to the location you are planning to shoot a day ahead. This will allow you to scope out some good spots to shoot from in the morning and will help you to find your way around in the wee hours. Heck you might even catch a good sunset. Having everything set up and ready for what happens is tantamount. Keep track of the weather. Storm photography is dramatic but you need a good exit strategy. Be careful for lightning, the images look awesome but being struck by it is a real possibility. Go back to places you like often. Weather changes can make a place look totally different from one day to the next.
10. Have FUN! If you take yourself too seriously, you'll loose your creativity.