Landscape photography is, as its name suggests taking images of landscapes. From flat arable farm land to green fields containing herds of cattle or sheep to from rolling hills to high mountain ranges to beautiful exotic beach scenes, there is no shortage of subjects for landscape photographers to take digital images of.
In order to get the type of images seen in various outdoor and nature magazines, many professional landscape photographers carry a lot of expensive photographic equipment. Much of this photographic equipment will be too elaborate and out of reach of enthusiast photographers. However, much of this specialist photographic equipment is not required and the landscape photographer enthusiast can bag some exceptional landscape images with a few essential items of photographic equipment, as detailed below;
1) A camera with live view mode
The live view mode on a digital SLR camera forces the image on to the LCD panel on the back of the digital SLR so the landscape photographer doesn’t need to look through the view finder. This is advantageous because it allows the landscape photographer to move the photographic equipment to achieve the most pleasing composition. Some digital SLR cameras will superimpose a three by three grid on to the LCD screen allowing the landscape photographer to use the rule of thirds, or any other rule of composition when framing the shot.
Many digital SLR cameras have a live view mode, although some of the entry level digital SLRs do not, so this needs to be borne in mind when choosing a digital SLR camera.
2) Wide angle lens
When taking images of stunning landscapes, many landscape photographers will want to try and capture as much of the scene as possible and the best way to do this is to use a wide angle lens. Any lens with a focal length of 28mm or less is considered to be a wide lens, although there are super wide angle lenses which typically have a focal length of 8mm – 10mm. Many landscape photographers will not go for the super wide angle lens and will opt for something like the Canon EF16mm - 35mm L lens.
When using a digital SLR with an APSC sized sensor you need to remember to take the crop factor in to consideration. For example, if you are using a Canon EOS1000D a 10mm lens, when taking in to account of the 1.6 times crop factor, has an effective focal length of 16mm so this needs to be borne in mind.
Landscape photography doesn’t need a fast lens, i.e. one with a wide maximum aperture because a tripod is usually used, small apertures are often required and there really is no need to keep shutter speeds high. Therefore when buying a lens for landscape photography you don’t need to consider the speed of the lens.
A good quality and sturdy tripod is an absolute must have for all landscape photographers. When taking images of landscapes it is important to have a deep depth of field, i.e. front o back sharpness throughout the whole image. Achieving this depth of field requires narrow apertures, i.e. high f numbers, which in turn will increase the amount of time the shutter remains open to achieve the correct exposure, i.e. slow shutter speeds.
When using slow shutter speeds the chances of camera shake increases and the slower the shutter speed the increased chances of camera shake. Using very small apertures will often reduce the shutter speed to half a second or even more making it impossible to get pin sharp images, therefore a sturdy tripod is needed.
4) Remote shutter release
The action of pressing the shutter button may be enough to create some camera shake, which will result in blurry images. No matter how careful the landscape photographer is or how gently the shutter button is pressed there is always a chance of camera shake. The best way to overcome this to use a remote shutter release.
Remote shutter releases can be either cabled or wireless and the option available will depend upon the type of digital SLR camera owned. The majority of wireless shutter releases work via infrared and if your particular camera doesn’t support this technology the only option is a cabled shutter release. Both cabled shutter releases and wireless shutter releases can be picked up for little money from any photography website or photographic equipment retailer.
5) A selection of filters
Many digital photographers would argue there is no need for filters since the effects can be reproduced during post production in Photoshop Elements or some other digital image processing software. However, in order to do this the landscape photographer must be competent in complex digital imaging. Unfortunately, many landscape photographers do not possess these skills, therefore filters are a must have accessory.
Neutral density filters, such as these ones made by Cokin, are an extremely useful accessory. These filter are used to extend exposure times in order to create artistic blur and movement.
There are any different types of filters available however there are only a handful that can be considered essential for everyday landscape photography and these include the neutral density filter, the graduated neutral density filter and the polarising filter. The neutral density filters allow for more creative shots by slowing the shutter speed and increasing the exposure time to allow movement to be captured. The polarising filter removes unwanted glare and reflections from lakes, rivers and the like.
By owning the photographic equipment described above any photographer will be well on their way to taking some exceptional landscape shots. Owning the right photographic equipment is not enough and it is just as important to know how to use it to get the most from it. Getting to know your photographic equipment is simply a case of using it so you need to get out in to the field and practice, practice and then practice some more.