Capturing Beautiful Landscapes | by Saranya Shanker
Unlike many mom togs, my first inspiration to pick up camera wasn’t my kids; it was nature. When I was a stay at home mom, I carried my camera out with me every day for a walk after I dropped off the kids at school. That one hour of walking and observing nature inspired me and elevated my mood. I started shooting a range landscapes from “seeing the bigger picture” to intimate landscapes around my feet.
For those interested in following a similar course, I want to share these few tips I learnt after I started into landscape photography.
Composition is one of the most important elements in getting beautiful landscapes. When I look at a scene I try to imagine a post card of that scene, it helps me in deciding what to include and how to compose the shot. Some of the composition techniques that help here are leading lines, having an interesting element in rule of thirds, using natural frames, layering using different natural elements.
Sometimes the little things can make or break an image. For example, making sure your horizon is straight is a simple thing to add to your mental checklist when capturing or editing the photos. Also look for distractions (e.g., an overflowing trashcan) and see how to manage them.
Mostly for landscapes I like to use narrow aperture (f8 or more) to get all the elements in focus, but sometimes a wide aperture can be used in shots creatively. It can be used to establish a relationship between foreground and background or to highlight the details of a scene which you would otherwise miss.
Slow shutter speed
Using a slow shutter speed can help in freezing motion and creating visual interest. It is tricky to use it in day time when the light is bright without a ND filter, but when it is cloudy and the light is even you can try playing with slower shutter speed without blowing out highlights. At dusk and after sunset it can be used to capture cityscape and light trails. When using slow shutter speed it is important to use a tripod to avoid camera shake and motion blur. A remote is useful too to avoid the shake of the camera while pressing the shutter.
High dynamic range: Capturing sunrise and sunset fully
The soft glow of light at sunrise and sunset is absolutely magical to capture, but the complication here is the high contrast between the bright sky and the land. In this situation bracketing exposure is a great way to preserve details in the whole scene. When bracketing exposure, you would need a tripod. After setting up the camera on a tripod and getting the composition right, click 3 pictures, one using the camera's recommended settings, one intentionally underexposed, and one intentionally overexposed. Some cameras have inbuilt bracketing option, when you select that it automatically clicks 3 pictures back to back with bracketed exposure.
When you take the pictures to edit, in LR, go to library mode, select all 3 pictures and right click, then select Photo merge – HDR (Shortcut Ctrl + H). LR merges the 3 exposures and gives a single picture that is quite evenly exposed, you can then go ahead and do your custom edits to this picture.
We all wish to travel to exotic locations to get stunning landscapes, but with little children it is not always easy. So to get some interesting shots of an old scene in a new way it is important to use new angles and perspectives. Get low to capture a perfect reflection or get a high above shot to get a bird’s eye view.
These shots are all from the same place just outside my house, a big puddle forms whenever it rains and it is one of my favourite places to get reflection shots.
Symmetry and pattern
Lines, patterns and symmetry all add lots of visual interest to landscapes. Pay attention to them before composing a shot. If there are pillars on two sides of a place, compose in such a way that the pillars are spread out evenly. If you’re capturing a reflection shot keep the horizon right in the center of the frame to give it a three-dimension effect. When there are light and shadows compose in such a way that it enhances the contrast and shows the depth.
Our world is filled with so much beauty and I hope the next time you look at a scene and wonder how beautiful it is, you feel inspired to capture it in camera and these tips help you do that. Feel free to ask any question you might have.
You can find Saranya on Instagram @saranyas_silhouettes