All photographers are familiar with the famed ‘golden hours’ around sunrise and sunset and it’s probably fair to say that the majority of landscape images are shot in these periods. The low, warm light is extremely flattering to the landscape, so it’s easy to understand why. However, it would be a mistake to restrict your landscape photography to these times, as you would then miss the magic of the ‘blue hour’.
The blue hour is the period of twilight each morning and evening when the residual sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue. During this time, the sun is below the horizon, but it illuminates the upper layers of the atmosphere – the longer, red wavelengths pass straight out into space, while the shorter, blue wavelengths are scattered in the atmosphere. his results in images with a blue colour cast and saturated colour. The cool, blue tones in this period can create an atmosphere of mystery and romance – so if you like your landscapes moody, this is the time to shoot. Continue reading “True Blue: Shooting landscapes in the twilight with the GFX 50S”
Ah, the simple pleasures of life. They invigorate the soul! Changes and new experiences are great but it’s nice to do what you enjoy. It gives us you a lift. Genesis, my favourite band of all time, summed it up nicely when Peter Gabriel lent his unmistakable voice to, “I know what I like” and I am, sure many of you reading this will feel the same.
We are all ‘routined’ to a point and I suppose I fall into that bracket. Whilst I may be laid back I am never complacent. I regularly slip out of the ‘comfort zone’ and push myself, but if there is one thing I do not like to disrupt, it is enjoying a good night’s kip! A comfy bed with clean sheets, bit of a read, lights out and I am off.
I awake, have an invigorating hot shower, get dressed and breakfast. Then it is time to attack the day. I definitely know what I like and I approach my photography in exactly the same way. I love the mountains and great views. I will never tire of them but it would be easy to keep going along to regular haunts never being bored with them and marveling at what they give me. That won’t change. After 40 odd years of shooting professionally, I am still learning my craft and I enjoy exploring new ways to enrich my skillset. It was on one of my, “what can I do now?” days that I thought about wild camping. Continue reading “A Quest to Capture the Golden Hour: Wild Camping in the Lake District”
Creating beautiful landscape images, which invite the viewer to become immersed in the scene, can be tricky. X-Photographer Mark Gilligan gives us his advice on how to get the best from your landscape photography by focusing on your composition.
Whilst out and about on your travels, I am sure you have come across a view that demands your attention and you instantly reach for the camera. “Wow, we were on this ridge and the view? Well you should have seen it. I tried to photograph it but it didn’t come out right. Why could I not do it justice? It just didn’t look the same as I saw it.”
I hear this all too often. Now I have to say here that there isn’t a generic answer, as every location, the available light etc. is different at that time but we can put a process into place that will ensure we do capture it well. A phrase I use regularly is, “a beautiful view doesn’t necessarily make a beautiful photograph”.
The great man Ansel Adams said, “We don’t take a photograph. We make it.” He is absolutely right.
So what does that mean? Putting it simply, it doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it and create the best from what we have in front of us. To explain, I often refer this to the analogy of baking a cake. Stick with me please! If we give six people the ingredients for a fruitcake they will blend them differently. They will present us with a fruitcake and whilst some will taste similarly they will all come out different. Subsequently, if you ask six people to take a photograph of the same view… you can see where this is going.
So, I liken the natural features we see in the landscape as ‘the ingredients’ and how we blend them and present will decide upon the way the photograph looks. Told you we would get there….
We know it as composition.
Understanding how your camera works will always help rather than just putting it on auto and hoping for the best. They are good but they all need controlling by us. No matter how technically competent you are with a camera, your photographs will lose impact if they are compositionally poor. The two factors go hand in hand.
We will assume then that you do have the technical under control. I find that the majority of people who come on my workshops have a basic knowledge of the dials and menus but struggle with composition. I have to say that that is not uncommon with those who are proficient too. A good image will ‘pull you into it’ and make you want to keep looking at it. The beauty of photography is that it is subjective. You only have to look across social media to see a plethora of genres being put out there for us to view. Interest is the key, inviting the viewer to become immersed in the photograph. Once lead into it, their eyes then dance around the frame.
We all have our own perspective on what we see but there are some rules or guides that you can use to enhance your photography. Of course ‘rules can be broken’ and occasionally something that goes against convention can still work. The most common guide that we read about is ‘the rule of thirds’.
Most camera menus now carry the simple grid that you can ‘impose’ in the viewfinder thus helping you ‘balance’ the image by placing interest in all three sections.
This image of a waterfall with the magnificent Tryfan providing the backdrop is a good example of an unbalanced image. Whilst it is a nice memory shot for the photographer, it visually jars with you. Too much sky has made the photograph top heavy.
By changing position, introducing more interest into the frame (those ingredients again) and showing us how the falls integrate with the landscape, creates a much more pleasing photograph.
Earlier this year I was invited by Granada TV to take Kerry Gosney, one of their weather presenters out for a full day’s workshop. It was to be filmed and inserted into the local news programme, recorded in the Longdendale Valley in Derbyshire. I was delighted to be asked and having produced and directed many programmes over the years, it would be a change for me to be on the other side of the lens!
When we met, Kerry readily admitted that she had no idea about taking ‘real photographs,’ but wanted to be able to. She had a basic understanding of how the camera worked and I talked about ‘the fruitcake’. That’s the analogy not me…
After introducing her to the FUJIFILM X-Pro1, we put on our wellies and stood in a delightful river called Middle Black Clough. The director shouted “Action!” and Kerry said, “So tell me Mark, why here? It is beautiful, such a lovely spot; the trees, the river, its waterfall and lots of rocks but why here?”
I asked her what else she could see. She shook her head. Why did she think I had picked this particular spot when there were a lot of options to explore? She reiterated the features of the scene again and whilst I agreed, I then pointed to the grooves that had been etched into the fault plane right under our noses. They lead the eye to the waterfall she was admiring. You will often hear people quoting leading lines and these were classic. Of course I mentioned the ‘fruitcake’ again and how we now had all the ingredients for a nice photo.
After getting the settings, we then set up the tripod and I showed her how it all looked in camera. Kerry was literally taken aback. “Wow I would never have seen that. Amazing!” I had added more depth to the image, allowing the foreground to dominate and by using a wide XF10-24mmF4 lens that exacerbated the lines, drawing you into the picture. “So, you are telling us that we should open our eyes more?”
I couldn’t have put it any better.
The culmination of the shoot was to be an image that she managed to visualise and capture. As the producer said “We need a show stopper Mark, something that presents the development in a day.” No pressure then…
It was good to see Kerry being more deliberate about her choices and spotting things she felt were ‘good ingredients’ for a picture. After settling on a place by the river with a nice array of natural features, we set up and I liked what she had come up with.
This shot is thought out with the foreground rocks leading you to the little waterfall. You are taken into the image and then your eyes look around it. To give the photograph a little bit more appeal, I suggested adding a big stopper to create the swirls in the stream.
These are just a couple of examples of ways in which you can tighten up and present your photographs. Whilst you will initially be presented with a view that you come across, looking with your own eyes, it is good to approach the same vista by then looking through a lens. After all, that’s how the finished image will look. That’s the view you will present to people.
Never be afraid to experiment and you will find that different lenses will create different perspectives. Be choosy and only press the shutter when you are happy that you have the best of the scene captured. Just as importantly, enjoy what you do. It’s a great way of presenting the world the way that you see it to other people.
The natural world provides photographers with some of their most stunning subjects, from mountains and canyons to rolling hills and fields of flowers. Landscape photography is rewarding, but that does not mean the style is easy. You may think that, because the subjects are immobile, the composition is effortless. But this genre requires plenty of premeditation and attention to detail.
Bring mindfulness to your landscape photography by practising a few clever tips.
Go small with aperture.
You may find the occasional landscape shot that, because of textures in the near distance, warrants narrow depth of field. But most landscape photography works best with a small aperture setting and a large depth of field. Because a small aperture number brings less light into your camera, you may need to boost your ISO setting slightly to adequately balance the shot.
Get back to basics with the rule of thirds.
As you stare out at the landscape and wonder where to start with framing your shot, remember a basic principle of photography. The rule of thirds calls for you to imagine the frame as nine smaller squares, or vertical and horizontal thirds. Place your subject at an intersection of these envisioned lines. Be careful to make each of the nine squares contribute purpose to the artistry of your shot.
Image by Christopher Kirby – Captured using the X100
Find a focal point.
Most photos are best served by a specific and easily identifiable subject in the frame. Landscape shots are no exception to that rule. Even if you are photographing something grandiose, like a mountain or glacier, select a specific point of focus. Use light and shadows as your guide for picking a particular place.
Look for people, or their footprint, in the environment.
One way a landscape photo communicates a story is depicting people and their interaction with the natural world. Look for the roadway that weaves through the hillside. Include the section of the forest where trees were chopped for logging. Find the hiker climbing in the distance. Human influence is one of many facets you can use to communicate through landscape photography.
Frame your shot with a foreground object.
Your attention may be on subjects in the distance, but do not let that limit your creativity for framing. Nearby branches, bridges and foliage can fill your frame and distinguish your shot from many others.
Image by Greg Virgona – Captured using the X100
Schedule your shot for lively light.
All photography is the art of capturing light, so with landscape shots, like any others, the quality and quantity of light will separate tremendous photos from the mediocre. Golden hour is an ideal time for most landscape shots, as the warm hue creates both contrast and depth against your subject.
Invest time and patience in challenging pics.
Because we want to think of landscape photography as easy, you might feel dejected if a full day of shooting does not lead to the perfect shot. The natural world can be a fickle source of light, so remain patient. Invest hours, if not days, in capturing subjects in their optimal light.
With your settings, composition and outlook at their best, you maximise your potential to take landscape shots that tell stories and stand out among the masses.
Fujifilm offers a wide range of cameras to help you achieve the perfect landscape photo. Our eBook, Which X Series Should I Buy?, can help you learn more about the X Series and determine which one will help you with your landscape shots.
Eager to try out the FUJIFILM GFX 50S, professional landscape and wedding photographer Steven Hanna recently put the medium format system through its paces. In this interview, we find out how he got on.
Professional photographer and current PPANI Landscape Photographer of the Year 2017, Steven Hanna is from Northern Ireland and specialises in wedding and landscape photography. The FUJIFILM X-T2and FUJIFILM X-Pro2 are his usual weapons of choice, however eager to try out the FUJIFILM GFX 50S, Steven recently put the medium format system through its paces. In this interview, we find out how he got on.
I very rarely know what I am going to have presented to me when I go out to photograph a landscape. I know what I would like but we don’t always get what we want. Not only are we dealing with nature’s finest creations, we are trying to balance it with whatever the ‘greatest lighting man’ throws at us. This can often please or displease in equal measures. Continue reading “Take A Different View: 14 Variations of the Same Location”