This is an area that I am drawn to and I’m sure many of you reading are too. It can be very straightforward or it can be very calculating. Let’s start with the mode button on your camera. The purpose of this pre selected program is to enhance outlines, colours and contrast. With a wide field of view and vivid colours you are set to take stunning vistas.
Many of the shots I take nowadays are just snap shots, which I find great for documenting and journaling my journeys in the most Gonzo way I can think of. Most of my pictures are taken with my digital compact 3 mega pixel camera (yes it’s that old) that fits in my pocket.
Now the complicated bit. A landscape shot can be a snap shot or it can be something you want frame don your wall. A snapshot can easily be turned into a great shot by simply being there at a different time of day. LIGHT IS YOUR FRIEND. This of course being down to the sun. Knowing where the sun is going to be at what time can be the best bit of knowledge a photographer possesses. I’m sure you can all relate to this observation. For me living on the east coast of England it’s the sunrise I feel more connected to. So typically, to go out with the intention of photographing the sunrise I would have to ensure what time sunrise was, roughly whereabouts on the horizon it would rise (hmm a stone circle would come in handy) and arrive about 30 minutes before. Of course it’s all down to luck as you never know what the weather is going to do. Too many clouds is a wasted journey and usually no clouds at all is a waste. But if nature decides to throw a few clouds into the mix, it’s picture frame time.
The light hitting clouds approximately 30 minutes before and up to 30 minutes after, both sunsets and sunrises is the perfect light for such photographs. Known as the golden hour.
Midday practical exercise- White balance tricks.
On a sunny day, with beautiful blue skies and happy little clouds, go out and take a landscape picture in the midday sun. Happy? Quite plain?… Tell your camera who’s the boss, put it on MANUAL and set the white balance to cloudy. It should add a warm tone to the overall picture, making that standard snapshot stand out from the rest. I can't promise the outcome here as all cameras are set up differently
On the subject of the sun, try to take your photo, either with your back to the sun or at a right angle to the sun. This will give you a blue sky and your subject won’t be silhouetted against the sky. If it isn’t possible to move around the subject, try pointing the camera at the ground. Half press the shutter-release button; this will cause the camera to take a meter reading without the glare of the sun. Still with the button half depressed, point the camera at your subject, compose the shot and press. You should be able to see the subject clearly against a probably white sky. You have to decide if the subject is more important than the sky.
Another time you will have to deceive the camera is in the snow. The cameras sensor just cannot cope. You will often find pictures looking grey and dull. What needs to be done is, is to put camera onto MANUAL mode and overexpose the shot by +2 or +3 to bring some of the whites to life.
Here is a quick example of underexposure (because there is no snow around at the minute to show you overexposure). In the auto exposure picture the camera has tried to get an equal balance between the light and dark. This has resulted in it taking a slightly washed out picture. The underexposed shot (underexposed by -1) has brought detail to the centre of the flower and made the colour of the petals deeper. It is down to personal taste though.