Getting It Right In Camera

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When I first started out in photography, I would look at stunning, sharp photos with vibrant colors and perfect composition and wonder what it would take to get it right in-camera? When you’re first starting out in landscape photography, there are so many factors to consider. Where should I go? What should I shoot? How do I focus properly? Is the light right? What tools should I use to find the right exposure?

I soon discovered that every landscape photo is different. Sometimes the challenge is to get the correct exposure, sometimes you have to overcome drought, sometimes you need to creatively focus on your subject, and other times you simply need to put yourself in the right place at the right time.

Selecting the Correct Composition

The photos below were taken at a very well-known place called Schwabacher Landing in Grand Tetons National Park. When I shot these photos, there were several other photographers at the same location photographing under the same conditions. All of them were concentrating on photographing the typical scene.

  • Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming (WY), USA

    Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming (WY), USA

  • Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming (WY), USA

    Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming (WY), USA

However, the conditions on that particular morning were nothing special. So, instead of concentrating on the typical scene of the mountains, I turned my attention to the direction of the sunrise… and was captivated by the contrast between the deep blue skies and the back-lit mist. By simply choosing a different composition, I was able to create a stunning image from a rather ordinary looking sunrise over Grand Tetons.

Bracketing Your Photos

On the other hand, the composition alone did not help with the following image from Ozud, Morocco.

Although I positioned myself to catch Ozud Valley’s rising sun as it came over the waterfall, the dynamic range was so great that it was impossible to capture the shot in-camera with a single exposure. I had to bracket the shots. The following are the three bracketed shots I later blended in Photoshop using layers and masks.

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Darker Image @ -3.34 stops

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    Dark Image @ -1.67 Stops

  • Ouzud, Morocco

    What the camera saw

To get the bracketing correct for this photo, I had to manually override my camera’s default bracketing sequence and ended up using the bracketing sequence seen in the above photos. You can read more about it in How to Bracket Your Photos.

Getting Everything Sharply in Focus in Bad Weather

When you look at the extreme tonal range in the following image of Death Valley, you may assume that it also required bracketing. Not only was this image captured in a single shot, but the majority of the processing was done in RAW Converter (only a few small curves adjustments were needed in Photoshop). The challenge in capturing this particular image was getting everything sharply in focus in the middle of 35 mph wind with blowing sand. To succeed, I used protective gear to protect my camera and the hyper focal distance principle to set my focusing point.

  • Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park, CA

    Death Valley National Park, CA

  • valley-of-shadow-of-death-post-processing

    Post Processing, Death Valley National Park, CA

As you can see from the examples above, getting it right in camera is about more than just knowing how your camera works. It’s about putting yourself in the right place at the right time and then using local knowledge, the right equipment, key composition strategies, essential camera skills, and a good dose of creativity to overcome the ever-changing conditions of nature. This is exactly what our upcoming Getting it Right in Camera course is all about. Filmed in diverse terrains of Iceland and Hawaii, this course shows you how to approach landscape photography as a workflow to get it right in-camera every time.

Furthermore, when you combine this course with Anne McKinnells’ Practical Lightroom Course Vol-2, you will get a firsthand look at how a professional exposes and edits an image from start to finish.

Check out the following tutorials on Visual Wilderness:

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