Breaking the Rules in Landscape Photography

All rules are made to be broken… isn’t that what they say? This is also for landscape photography. When we first start shooting nature photos, the rules are drilled into us by the instructors: don’t shoot during midday and make sure everything is sharply in focus. But these rules are just guidelines to help you get started. As your photography skills and creative vision grow, it’s time to go past these guidelines and create some unique and compelling images.

Shoot at Midday

How many times have we heard that the best time to shoot photos is during the golden hours? While this is correct, it’s not the only time to shoot. Sometimes the best time to take a photo is during the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. This is exactly what we did on our recent trip to Mana Island in Fiji. We used the midday sun to bring out the deep blue and turquoise colors in the water.

  • Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

    Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

  • Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

    Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

The image on the right was taken during the golden hour. Notice that the colors on the water take on the warm tones seen during that time of day. The image on the left (taken on the same beach during midday) brings out the deep blue and turquoise colors in the water.

Capture Out-of-Focus Photos

Make sure your photos are sharp! Focusing is one of the first technical skills that you learn and for a good reason. After all, you want to be able to see your photos’ sharp details and textures. This is especially true if you are using a wide-angle lens to capture the images. But there are times when out-of-focus photos create a dreamy or artistic effect.

Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

Here is a high speed out-of-focus photo used to capture the sea shell on the shore. By keeping the background blurred, I was able to give the viewers a sense of place.

Use High Shutter Speed

When we think about landscape photography, the first thing that comes to mind is slow shutter speeds to smooth the flow of the water. Photos taken with a high shutter speed rarely enter the mind of a landscape photographer. But a little out-of-the-box thinking allows you see that high shutter speeds can be used to get some awesome and creative shots.

  • Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

    Can be taken with a lower shutter speed, Mana Island, Fiji

  • Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

    Need fast shutter speed to freeze the bubbles, Mana Island Fiji

Above is a photograph on the left of a crab sitting on the rock… a rather boring shot that is little more than a snapshot. But when you use a high shutter speed to capture the same crab with waves about to crash down on him (right), it transforms your snapshot into something more interesting that holds your viewers’ attention.

Include Man-made Objects

Yes, we all know that including man-made elements in nature photos is not allowed by many competitions and camera clubs. However, including people and/or man-made elements can add a strong point of interest. Here is a photo of Moulton Barn near Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming. By including this barn in the shot, I created a point of interest in the photo that was lacking.

  • Moulton Barn, Wyoming by Jay Patel

    Moulton Barn, Wyoming

  • Mombacho, Nicaragua

    Mombacho, Nicaragua

You can also use man-made elements (such as fences, trails, boardwalks) to create leading lines in your image like I did in the photo from Mombacho’s cloud forest in Nicaragua.

So next time you are out in the field… don’t be afraid to experiment by tossing out some of the typical landscape photography rules. You might just come away with something unique and wonderful.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams