Taking better Landscape Photographs
Being out walking in the Great British countryside is inspiring - and with such a range of landscapes available in this country, its little wonder many walkers enjoy taking photos of their hikes.
But how many of these snaps never turn out as good as they could? Well, our friends at The Camera School have shared these top tips for better landscape photographs. And in the third edition of our monthly Walking and Outdoors Podcast features an interview with professional photographer Dan Santillo too.
Make best use of the Rule of Thirds
Cracking The Rule of Thirds is a sure-fire way of getting better framed pictures. Imagine dividing the picture into nine equal parts by two lines top to bottom and left to right. Now, place objects along those imaginary lines - so that the line of the horizon should be put on either the upper or lower third - or a tree should be either on the left or right third - but not in the middle.
Also, pay great attention to the horizon - make sure it is straight. Although you can straighten photos later on a computer, it is always best to get it right in camera.
Look for a Focal Point
All shots need some sort of focal point to them -landscapes especially. Without one, landscape photographs end up looking rather empty and will leave your viewers eye wondering through the image with nowhere to rest.
Focal points can take many forms in landscapes and could range from a building or structure, a striking tree, a boulder or rock formation, a silhouette, your fellow walkers etc.
Also, don't just think about what the focal point is, but where you place it - remember The Rule of Thirds here.
Use foreground interest
Having something in the foreground of photographs helps to both draw the viewer's eye into the scene and give the scene some sort of perspective and depth. Look around you - there's always something you can use, such as a bush, a stone wall, some rocks or wild flowers.
For best effect, use the Rule of Thirds here and move the object out of the centre of the photograph and more towards the sides.
Find interesting shapes in nature
Look out for interesting shapes and patterns in the landscape which are just crying out to be used.
A row of trees form an arrow pointing to the end of the row; a river which run out of sight often has an S-shaped form which draws the viewer's eye into the scene along the river's shape; the rise and falls of mountains in the distance provides interest.
Keep the right focus
There are 2 most common problems with many photos taken whilst out walking -the first is focusing. We've all got photos of a blurred subject in the foreground standing in front of a perfectly focused background.
To avoid this, lock your camera's auto focus by keeping the shutter button half-depressed whilst the area you want to focus on is in the centre of the frame.
Then reframe using The Rule of Thirds for the best composition before
The second most common problem with walking photos is camera shake - where the camera is moving at the time the photo has been taken. To reduce camera shake, always try to use both hands to hold the camera - and tuck your elbows in underneath the camera instead of sticking them out.
Better still, use a tripod. There are many lightweight tripods available which are good for taking on walks, but if you don't want to carry on more gear, try using a walking pole as a make-shift monopod (a tripod with one leg). Failing that, a tree, boulder or stone wall all make excellent ways of keeping the camera steady.
Be early - or late
Since light is so important for good landscape photography, the best times of day is often sunrise or sunset. Indeed, many professional landscape photographers only take shots in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset.
For the best sunrise/sunset shots, use a tripod and make sure the flash is turned off. Then, dial in -1 on the exposure compensation to help enrich the colours. Some cameras have a programme setting for sunrise/sunsets, and you could experiment with this.
If the thought of getting up at 5.30 in summer to take a sunrise photo doesn't appeal, then wait until winter. The later sunrises of the winter months makes taking a sunrise shot a great excuse for a winter walk.
Use both portrait and landscape formats
Most photos of landscapes are in landscape format - that is to say long left to right like a TV screen. But try taking some in portrait format and you'll breathe fresh life into a scene.
If you have found a great foreground for a picture and would like to make the most of it, a portrait format often allows you to emphasise it more. Also, a portrait format allows you to show differences in sizes between objects easily.
Change your Point of View
We all instinctively want to take photos with the camera at our head height - but there's a world of exciting photos to be had by changing your point of view.
Crouching on one knee or even lying on your belly can provide a completely new and interesting perspective to a scene. If you want to make a habit out of low-angles, a bin liner in your rucksack will keep you clean. Getting higher by climbing on a boulder and a fence offers a completely different view point.
Explore the environment and experiment with different view points and you could find something truly unique.
Remember - be prepared
On a long walk, it's easy to take hundreds of photos, so make sure you've got enough memory for the job. Before you set off, copy any existing photos off the cameras' memory cards - and take as many cards as you have with you.
Also, taking hundreds of photos means you'll need plenty of power - so always charge any batteries you need before. Rechargeable AA batteries are more cost-effective, but may not last as long as normal ones. If your camera takes special power packs, they may need to be charged whilst inside the camera, so perhaps a spare one would be a good buy.
It's handy to keep a spare card in a case and a set of spare batteries in a zipped coat pocket - or even in the mobile phone pocket on the straps of many rucksacks.