In our last blog post we spoke about the best times to photograph and working with the right light to help capture great landscape images.
Continuing with our series on Landscape photography we will now discuss some of the best techniques to use.
Getting the right exposure for your landscape photos is an important part of the capture process. You are best to shoot in Manual mode so you can control all the setting you need to. Starting with ISO you ideally want to be photographing at the lowest possible speed so as to get the finest grain and the best colour range possible.
Shutter speed will be dependent on whether or not you are using a tripod. When using a tripod you do not have to be as cautious with your shutter speed as you would if you were hand holding. General rule of thumb when selecting the best shutter speed, when hand holding, is not to go below the shutter speed that is closest to the focal length of your lens. For example, as a guide, if you photographing at 28mm then you should use nothing slower than 1/30 sec shutter speed. With more and more lenses coming out now with an image stabilizer built in, this will enable you to hand hold at 1-2 stops less than normal.
If you are using the camera on a tripod then shutter speed is not an issue, this will then be related to your subject matter, for example if you are wanting to photograph moving water i.e. a beach scene or a waterfall then you will need to use a shutter speed at a minimum of 1 second to be able to get that nice mist look you get from blurred water.
So the last deciding factor in your exposure calculations is your aperture selections. The deciding factor in this will be how much depth of field you want. Typically when photographing Landscapes you use a smaller aperture such as f11 or f13. This enables you to get the long depth of field needed so that everything from the foreground to the background is in focus. The key to getting this right is setting the focus on a subject in the foreground so that you get the best depth of field range.
It can be hard to capture the full range of the exposure detail when photographing landscapes so it always important to shoot raw files. Raw files record a better dynamic range than Jpeg which is especially useful when it can be hard to capture the full exposure range for a scene which includes a bright sky as well as a darker foreground.
Once you have the images back in your chosen raw converter you can then work on the images to create a better exposed image.
Another couple of ways to help improve the process are as follows.
First up is the using of a filter such as a Neutral density filters (ND) or a Graduated neutral density (NDGrad) filter to be precise.
The filter itself is generally a plastic/glass square filter that starts clear at the bottom and progressively moves up the filter from the clear to light grey to dark grey depending on the intensity of the filter.
See the density of the darker parts of the filter allow you to reduce the exposure needed for the brighter parts of the subject and which then enables you to exposure more evenly giving you a near finished images straight out the camera.
It mounts to the camera via a screw thread ring on the front of the front of the lens followed by a filter holder which attaches to the ring and then the filter drops into that. The holder is then rotatable so that you can move the filter to suit your framing and to be able to get the optimum result. The filter can also be moved up and down in the holder so that the intensity can be adjusted to suit the scene.
These graduated filters come in different intensities from ND2’s to ND4’s to ND8’s then you can go for ND16, 32’s and then 400’s even. The darker you go the longer the shutter speed you will need, so this can also work well with being able to get movement and blur in the image i.e. Beach scene with blurred waves.
Neutral density filters are also available in screw on filters as well, while they are not graduated they can still be used to help darken the image and reduce exposure so that you can use a slower shutter speed in brighter conditions.
The second way to capture the full exposure range is to bracket your exposures and the combine in software.
By bracketing your exposures you can capture all the details from the highlights through to all the detail in the shadows and by then combining into a piece of software like Photomatix http://www.hdrsoft.com/ or Nik Software HDR efex Pro https://www.google.com/nikcollection/products/hdr-efex-pro/ , the software can then combine the images into one file which covers all the detail through the exposure range.
This kind of image is called a HDR or High Dynamic Range it is a very popular technique but can result in an overdone look if you’re not careful when working with the software. There are some good photographers out there that make it not it look not too overdone.
Some examples of that are Trey Ratcliff, he runs a great website with lots of information about the technique http://www.stuckincustoms.com/ another photographer to follow is the man behind MySpace Tom Anderson, his work is just amazing https://plus.google.com/+myspacetom/posts