Landing the perfect landscape photograph

Sunday, June 2, 2002

Landscape photographs capture Mother Nature's beauty in all its splendor -- a beauty we can experience again and again when viewing and sharing our images.

With the summer travel season approaching, many shutterbugs will be exploring the great outdoors in search of good landscape photographs. If you plan to be one of them, here are a few tips to help you land the perfect landscape picture.

Subject selection. Some photographers get so overwhelmed with a landscape that they try to capture the entire scene with their cameras. In those cases, the essence of the scene -- the main elements -- get lost.

When composing a landscape, think about which elements should be included, and which ones can be omitted, for maximum impact. Try not to cram everything into your viewfinder.

Foreground element. Generally speaking, landscape pictures without a foreground element (rocks, trees, a fence, flowers, plants or even a person) look flat because the viewer has no reference point from which to view the scene. Include a foreground element, and you convey to your viewer the same sense of depth you felt when you took the picture.

Time of day. Landscape pictures taken in the early morning and late afternoon have "warmer" colors (deeper shades of red, orange and yellow) and are more pleasing to our eyes than are pictures taken around noon, when the light is "cool" (a bit blue). Also, early morning and late afternoon landscape pictures have long shadows (if the sun is shining) that add a sense of depth and dimension to pictures.

Lens choice. Wide-angle lenses are a good choice for landscapes, because they have a wide field of view and because they offer good depth-of-field. Telephoto lenses can be used, too. They are good for isolating elements in a landscape, say a barn in an open field.

Tripod. Small f-stops, required for maximum depth-of-field, often require slow shutter speeds -- sometimes a second or longer when shooting early and late in the day. To reduce blur caused by camera shake, you need a tripod. But a tripod does something else. It slows you down and forces you to "stop and smell the roses." It forces you to really look at the scene and little details (like a pop top from a soda can or a cigarette butt) that can be distracting.

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