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5 Tips on Improving Your Landscape Photography

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MCP-FEATURE-600x397 5 Tips on Improving Your Landscape Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

The leaves are finally drifting away, and the cold is setting in. The time for winter landscapes has arrived. Though landscape photography can be a little intimidating because of all the specialized gear that they carry, but never fear. Landscapes can be captured with whatever gear you have. Being mostly a portrait photographer, I mostly work with standard and telephoto lenses, but have found landscape and streetscape photography an easy way to still hone my photography skills while relaxing and not focusing on a client. So during this wonderful time of year, make sure to give yourself the gift of relaxation by trying out a different genre of photography.

Here are my Five Tips for Better Landscape Photography.

#1 – Tripod, Tripod, Tripod

This is the obvious one. When someone paints an image of a landscape photographer in their mind, they see a camera on a tripod. Being a handheld shooter, I had to really learn to work with the constriction caused by the handy device.

I have used many types of tripods over the years and yes, having an extremely nice tripod is great but not necessary if you are just trying it out! For exposures under a minute, you can feel safe with a light tripod unless its an extremely windy. Before I invested in a nicer tripod, I was just using a bargain bin Kodak brand tripod that I picked up at a yard sale. (If you have a light or flimsy Tripod, make sure to weigh it down). I normally tie mine down with my camera bag or slightly bury it in the earth. One of the largest tips I can pass along is frame your shot before attaching your camera to a tripod, that way you will not feel constricted by the tripod, but instead see it as a steadying tool.

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#2- You Don’t Have to Use a Tripod

Tripods are not always a necessity. One thing that every camera backpack I have ever owned have in common is the nuisance of carrying a tripod along. Sometimes you spend so much time working on setting up your gear to be steady that you miss that perfect moment where the sun is at just the right angle. Learn when to carry one, and when not to carry one. My rule is if I only have a few minutes to arrive at my location, I will hand hold, or use something as a brace, but if I am able to spend some time getting things exactly how I want them, I will bring the sticks along.

 

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#3- HDR is Not Required

This image is a single image and not HDR. Dont get me wrong, HDR is a beautiful thing and when done right it can create some of the most astounding images. People like Trey Ratcliff really show how amazing you can make these look, but I rarely shoot an HDR that I am happy with. So, to cut down on some editing time, I shoot in RAW file format and expose for the mid-tones. This gives me a great base image and then I can show the image a little love with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to be completely happy with detail in most all of the dynamic range. MCP Actions has some presets to achieve a faux HDR look in Lightroom that can make it quick and easy too.

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#4- Stopping Down at Night Hurts More Than Helps

The first few times I tried my hand at long exposure night photography, I was using really small apertures such as f/16 or f/22. My theory was that small apertures would make sharper photos, and in many cases that is true. But what I figured out, and you will too, is that larger apertures (such as f/2.8 or f/4 ) focused at infinity will look the same as stopped down exposures will but the larger aperture will take less time for the same exposure. For example: Having an exposure at f/16 ISO: 100 with a shutter speed of 30 seconds is the exact same exposure as F/4 ISO: 100 with a shutter speed of 2 seconds. How crazy is that!?!?

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#5- Focal Length Can Be Your Best Friend

Landscapes or Streetscapes can be taken with any focal length lens; what changes is the look you are trying to achieve. When I shoot landscapes, I normally pack a standard length (35mm or 50mm, Most likely the 35mm), an ultra wide (14mm) and a Fisheye.

The Nikon 35mm 1.8  for around $200, Canon’s 50mm for just a little over $100 and Rokinon have manual lenses in all three of these types ranging from $200 – $500 each. With longer focal lengths in this category, such as a 50mm or and 85mm, it is very hard to hand hold without shake in lower light situation. I try to never shoot a focal length at a shutter speed slower than my focal length (Example: I wont shoot an 85mm at 1/60 of a second, but I will shoot a 50mm at 1/60th of a second.)

My favorite type of streetscapes are with my 14mm or 8mm fisheye where I steady myself up against a light pole or a wall and bring my shutter speed down to around 1/15 or 1/20 of a second (If I am really steady, I can do 1/2 second exposures this way. The image about is an example of this type). This allows me to catch the blur of cars going by and also expose for enough ambient light to capture the scene without causing too much, if any, camera shake. Are these pictures perfectly tack sharp? They can be, but even if they are not you will have a ton of fun taking them. All in all, a shorter focal length will produce better handheld shots than longer ones when using slower shutter speeds.

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Thank you very much for reading.  Like and share with your friends to pass along the relaxing art of landscape and streetscape photography!

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Jarrett Hucks is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His revealing journalistic story-telling has helped him find his voice in a saturated market. He is very active on his Blog and his Facebook Page sharing his commissioned work, personal work and street photography!

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