How to Get a Great Landscape Photo: Part 2

Continued from…How to Get a Great Landscape Photo: Part 1

With a mastery of the technical skills, people often assume they can now go out and capture any photo they want. Remember… technical skills are only half of the landscape photography story.

Workflow & Creativity

Ok… so now you feel you’ve mastered your technical skills. This doesn’t mean that you can just rush out and capture a landscape photograph that makes people say “Wow!” Capturing the vision you have in your mind takes more than photographic skills.

Landscape photography is tricky. The light and environmental conditions you encounter aren’t predictable. Even with the best technical skills, you will often face challenging situations. For example, Varina and I went to Colorado to shoot Maroon Lake in autumn of 2012. The recent drought had devastated the area and the lake was more like a mud puddle. The beaver lodge was exposed and the beavers had moved out. Instead of a gorgeous pristine lake, we had an ugly mud pit. In a situation like this, your creativity and workflow must come into play. We were forced to shoot photos that were far different than what we had expected.

  • Maroon Bells, Colorado (CO), USA

    Drought @ Maroon Lake, 2012

  • Maroon Bells, Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado (CO), USA

    Maroon Lake, 2007

What’s the difference between technical skills and workflow?

Take a look at the following two photos…

  • 101_0168_RT16

    Olympic National Park, 2003

  • Siblings

    Olympic National Park, 2010

The one shot in 2003 is technically a very good photo. It’s properly exposed and well-processed. The colors are natural and the image has good tonal range. Everything is very sharp. I was able to capture the sea anemones’ colors underwater by using a circular polarizer. I had the technical skills to see a scene and then capture it the way I had envisioned it. The photo accurately reflected the reality of the scene.

But, despite the ‘on-point’ technical aspects of the photo, it simply doesn’t make someone say “Wow!”

To do THAT, I had to think more outside the box. For the next photo, I focused more on the sea anemones themselves rather than their environment. The tide was low enough to allow me to get close; I used a bottle of sea water poured to one side to wash the sand away. In regards to timing, I had to choose between late in the day or early in the morning to ensure the right light for capturing the brilliant colors. I chose to go in the evening (during low tide). The direct evening sun light lit up the anemones. By placing the sun behind me, I was able to bounce the reflected light away from the camera eliminating a need to use the circular polarizer. Because a circular polarizer slows down shutter speed and I needed a fast shutter speed to ‘freeze’ the movement of the tentacles, I had to rely on this perfect light (rather than the polarizer) to capture the anemones’ brilliant colors.

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.

  • Getting it Right in Camera Course

    Getting it Right in Camera Course

  • Practical Lightroom Vol-2

    Practical Lightroom Vol-2

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