Landscape photography is one of the more iconic styles of this art. Sweeping views of stunning vistas are what this style is all about. Fortunately, with the right gear and a bit of practice, anyone can immortalize a landscape in digital film.
Wide angle lenses are essential
I can get away with a decent photograph with most lenses so long as I’m in the right location to make up for the focal length I have to work with. But the best lenses for landscape photographs are undoubtedly wide angle lenses.
Wide angle lenses are exactly as they sound. They provide a much wider field of view compared to other lenses. Generally speaking, any lens with a focal length of 35mm or less can be considered a wide angle lens. But I really want to be working with focal lengths of 20mm or less to get a beautifully wide sweeping view of my scene.
Something important to note is that each focal length increment makes a much larger impact in the lower focal lengths. Going from 310mm to 300mm will hardly be noticeable. But have a look at the examples below. The first photo was taken with a focal length of 18mm.
This field of view is the usual minimum for DSLR and mirrorless camera kit lenses. But take a look at the difference using a lens with a minimum focal length of 12mm from the same position.
Big difference, right? This is why I always want to be using a wide angle a lens as possible for landscape photography.
Tripod over handheld in landscape photography
I should be using a tripod most of the time while shooting landscape photography. This gives me more freedom in choosing narrower apertures, which reduce the amount of light entering the camera. By narrowing my aperture, I can increase the depth of field. Depth of field is how much of a scene is in sharp focus. And when shooting landscapes, generally I want the entire scene to be in focus.
But because I’ve narrowed my aperture, I’m letting less light into my camera. As a result, I need to use slower shutter speeds. This becomes especially noticeable when shooting in low-light landscapes like a forest or sunset. But if I try to use a slow shutter speed in dim lighting, chances are I’ll end up with blur from my own body and hand motions. Therefore, I want to be using a tripod to maximize image sharpness.
If a tripod is too bulky and will get in the way of a busy hike or casual shoot, consider buying a monopod instead. Monopods collapse and extend far faster than tripods. And while they don’t offer as much image stabilization they’re a good deal more stable than even my steadiest handheld pose.
Timing for a given scene
Lastly, I also want to think about the time of day I’m going to shoot. The Golden Hour is one of the most popular times to shoot landscape photography. The diffused light from the sun softens harsh shadows and creates an excellent fill light. It’s easy to calculate the local Golden Hour with this handy Twilight tool. The Blue Hour is similar, only it’s the first hour after the sun has set. I can use this tool to be in place for precisely the ambiance I’m trying to create in my landscape photography.
Lovers of the ocean should also consider whether the tide will be low or high so they get the photo they wish. Fortunately, there’s a great app for your smart device that can do just that. The Tides Near Me app for Android or iOS will give you the precise times for local tides.
When shooting landscapes, the location is going to be your prime consideration. But from there, you have all sorts of influences that can make or break the photo you wish to take. Armed with the right tools and digital aids, I can get the most out of any scene. Hopefully, you’ll take the time to get to know these tools, too. Happy shooting!