Saturday, March 15, 2014

A little need for Good Landscape Photography – Basic Soft-Skills (Non technical Stuff)

In all domains of Photography, Landscape photography can be started from minimal budget or minimal investment. The simple reasons are mainly, a good landscape photograph depends on Photographer’s creativity and Nature’s kindness (mainly on light).
While I said “Photographer’s Creativity” that does mean how a photographer can create impact on the viewers from a frame of a static land and objects which probably has been captured by millions of Photographers. So, according to me the beauty of a landscape image lays with Photographer’s power of unique visualization and his/her creativity.
So, to begin Landscape Photography any camera is good with default lens. The word “Default” means any leans in the compact cameras, 18-55 or any other Kit Lens that comes with the SLRs or lastly the high resolution mobile cameras. All the high end Full Frame camera bodies and landscape lenses of course produce top-notch results (Colors +Sharpness) but that doesn’t mean entry level SLRs or Point-and-Shoot Compact camera cannot produce “Superb” Landscape images.

Gear: When I have started discussing about Compact cameras or high end Full Frame DSLRs, lets discuss the importance of gears in Landscape Photography. I must say the gear range for Landscape photography is quite wide. As a starter you can start with Compact Cameras and then slowly you can move towards entry level / intermediate level and then move towards high end Full Frame cameras or lastly the mighty medium formats. For internet posting, the entry level DSLRs and Compact cameras are also quite good enough to post superb quality images. Even the High End Mobile cameras also produce quite good images for internet purpose. The main difference of the High End cameras occurs when large printing is required with all details. I must say the superb processor of the advance cameras also produces very nice color effect compared to those entry levels. But, that doesn’t mean the entry-level camera cannot create great landscape images. There is a very thin line of difference in quality of the products.

If, as a photographer your view point is unique, you can create magical landscape with any of these tools; I meant the cameras and lenses. J

This image was created by Canon 350D and Canon 18-55 Lens. As 18-55 cannot create an ultra-wide perspective, I have used two images and created a panorama to get this viewpoint of the sunset colors on the mountains.

I would also like to share one of my favorite images to show that even a compact camera can also produce great result of Landscape Image if all other basics of Landscape Photography are met.

This image from Iceland was captured by Canon Compact camera. It was raining heavily and there was no scope to take out the heavy DSLR Camera systems. But suddenly the rain stopped and the light behind the grey clouds created some magical moments and I didn’t take the risk of setting up my DSLR camera systems. Instead I used my Compact Canon S110 to make this image and within few minutes the light disappeared

Besides the tool of capturing images, the planning behind the images are the defining factor between an OK picture and a SUPERB picture. So, what I actually meant by the word “Planning”? And how planning could be 
so important for a Landscape Photograph?
Let’s see what actually are included in my planning for a Landscape Photography:
Location of Landscape Photography: Probably choice of the location is the most significant factor in Landscape photography.  For a same place the perspective of the viewpoint could be different and interesting from different angle of capture.
Identify the best Time of Landscape Photography: Obviously early morning or late afternoon are the best times for outdoors photographers for any kind of outdoor photography due to the soft light from the sun. And to me, the sunrise time and sunset time are the two most precious time zones for Landscape Photography. And choice of time between Sunrise and Sunset would be totally dependent on the location of Landscape. You may find some sea beach which is ideal for a sunrise shot, so you have to wait for the perfect time for a colorful sunrise. You may find a spot where sunrise cannot be seen due to obstacles but sunset 
colors would be amazing on the mountains or on the sea or some other objects.

Not only the sunrise and sunset time, but landscape photography has a great dependency on weather and natural phenomenon too. So, to be a good landscape photographer you need to understand your surrounding nature very well. A landscape photographer must have knowledge about the weathers such as time for rains, snow and all other adverse condition when photography is not possible.
Hence Location and Time – these two are deeply dependant to each other and are the most important factors for a good Landscape Images. To me, spend the maximum time behind these two factors to get some brilliant scapes. Again I want to mention the most important part of outdoor nature photography that the work is greatly dependant on weather condition. So, in any adverse condition when the photography is absolutely not possible, then just enjoy the surrounding nature without doing anything.

Composition: To me, as an artist the most important thing in any photography is the composition. Actually I believe the composition of a picture reflects the message of the artist. And in case of Landscape Photography this is the key thing for representing landscapes as a piece of art. You may read so many rules on composing images from different books or article but I believe this is purely artist’s vision that how does he / she want to represent his / her image. The composition sense is very much integral part of the artistic mind – this can be matured but seldom can be created. I would like to give stress again on composing an image – because composition part of any image actually showcases the view of the artist.

                      To me, composition of an image is not only the life of the image but also the pictorial way of the Artist’s message.

Planning behind an Image: With all the above criteria the other important aspect of a successful landscape image is the planning behind the images. And the planning of the images comes with the maturity and experience of the photographer. Truly speaking my planning behind an image was much lower 5 years before than what I do now and the same maturity reflects in my recent images when I compare them with the olds. Let me explain the above points with some example. In the below image, I have captured the Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls in South-Iceland. I must say this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. But if you search in Internet, you can see plenty of images of the same waterfalls. So, my objective was to capture some perspective of the waterfalls, which was rarely captured. And my homework started almost a month before I visited the place. And my objective was to create an image of the waterfalls during sunset to reflect the amazing colors of arctic sunset on the flowing waters. So, before I visited the place I had the data with me when the sun sets at that period of time, which should be the best location from where I can expect the last rays of the sun may fall on the water flows and could create some magical moments. If you as a photographer were prepared with all this data (Which is actually your homework) the execution would be much easier to get a perfect result.

                                                            Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls in South Iceland during Sunset.

Till now, I have tried to explain some of the very basic non-technical parts of Landscape photography, which are as important as the technical stuff but often, ignored.

I will try to explain the technical stuff (Camera stuff) in my next article. Till then, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your time.

Neloy Bandyopadhyay

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