Planning Your Landscape Photo Shoots

In this article we'll discuss some steps that can use to plan ahead and help you take your landscape photography to the next level.


Choose Your Location

This one seems easy enough, yet you'd be surprised how many landscape photographers just go out and shoot random stuff that they come across. While this can yield some good results from time to time, you'll most likely get better results with a little more planning. Capturing an epic shot often requires an epic location, and these take some time to find and learn about.

Always be on the lookout for potential locations, even when you don't intend to take pictures. Every time you leave your house and go somewhere, be on the lookout for great locations. When you see a great spot make a note of it, so you can check back and start learning the location.

Learn the Location - Study Conditions and Lighting

landscapeOnce you find a location you want to shoot, it's time to start learning about it. Some locations only look good at certain times or when the sun is in certain places during the day. When at your location, study the location of the sun and how the lighting reacts with your subjects. The point here is to learn the location, and you'll probably need to return to the spot many times at different times of the day and during different conditions. Each time you stop back by a location you'll learn more about it, how the lighting changes, what times of the day are best, etc.

It's a great idea to take test shots each time you visit so that you can review them later and compare them to shots taken there at other times. Not only will you learn the effect that the lighting can have on your subject at different times, but you will also have a collection of images to look through and help you decide what composition works best for a spot and so forth.

Watch the Weather - Look for Unique Conditions

Now that you have chosen a great location for your image, and you have spent some time getting to know the lighting, it is time to start watching the weather for conditions that may be special or out of the ordinary. Anyone can snap a picture of a place during average conditions, but epic landscape captures can take a little more than that. A great location is a good start, but the best landscape photos feature a great location during great conditions. When you capture a great location during weather and lighting conditions that are extraordinary, the result is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

By doing a little homework and watching the weather, you'll start to learn what conditions create great sunsets or dense low laying fog. For example, if you have found a location that would look great in the fog then you should make sure you know when fog is coming and get there. Different locations shoot best at certain times and during certain conditions, the point is to put some effort into planning your landscape shoot and you will be rewarded with those elusive captures that have that "special something".

Bring the Right Gear in your Kit

Now that we have a good idea of what we'll be shooting, make sure to bring the right gear in your camera bag. Make sure to bring that graduated ND filter in case you need it to tame down the sky, or that standard neutral density to alter shutter speeds for your waterfall. I prefer to travel fairly light so I can easily get where I need to and capture the shots. You don't want to bring a ton of gear with you as it often slows you down, but you need to make sure you have the important items for what you'll be shooting. When shooting landscapes you'll of course need a good tripod, your camera, the proper lenses for your subject, and a selection of the normal landscape filters like a Neutral Density and a Graduated ND are always useful in case you need them. A remote shutter release can also be very useful.

Take Test Shots - Wait for the Shot

spirit bearMake sure to arrive a little early to get set up properly. Now that you are on location at your chosen spot and the conditions are expected to be great, make sure that you are not in a rush. Take your time to set up properly, dial in your composition, make sure the camera is outfitted with any necessary gear like filters and a remote.

Since you are now all set up a little early, now is the time to do the incredibly important step of taking some test shots. Shoot some test shots and review them, making sure everything is looking the way you want. This allows you to fine tune settings and get them tailored to your specific scene. For example, if you were at the beach photographing the surf at sunset you might need to adjust your shutter speed just right to get the best effect on the moving water.

Once you are all set up and happy with the results of your test shots, it is important now that you be very patient and take your time. Wait for the conditions to be at their best. Shoot a new image from time to time and make sure that your exposure is set properly, as it will naturally change as the lighting and conditions do. Just stay with it, and watch for that amazing moment to happen when everything comes together. With a little luck, you'll capture the ever elusive "Epic Shot". Make sure you stay on location as long as necessary so you don't miss anything, your patience will be rewarded from time to time. Some of my best shots were captured as other photographers on the scene were packing up their gear because they prematurely thought the good conditions had ended.

The weather won't always work for you and do what is expected, so if it doesn't happen on that try then just use what you learned and try again. With a little planning, you'll be far more likely to capture something amazing. Do your homework and eventually something incredible will unfold right in front of your camera lens.

I hope these tips will help you to improve your own photography. Use the links to navigate forward, backward, or go to the "Main Menu"


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