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Good landscape photography covers the range from serene peaceful themes all the way to awe-inspiring panoramas... It recalls special moments when simply looking ahead offers the pleasure of admiring the world we live in and its many wonders, both natural and man-made.
You’ll need the awareness and sense of observation required to feel how such vistas can touch your inner soul. But you’ll also want your left brain remembering a few fundamentals if you want your images to capture your feeling. So now that you’re inspired, let’s see what we need to do to make sure we capture the image that captures the moment.
Even if you’re overlooking a vast area, you need to decide on a subject that will dictate point of view, angle and composition. You can sometimes be successful at showing total nothingness... but it needs to be really total. As soon as there is one small tree in the frame, nothingness is gone... which is not a problem, because now, you have a lone tree to play with!
Usually, if a particular view captures your attention, chances are that there will be a dominant element. This can be a mountain, a cliff, the sun, a building that stands out from others, or many other things: you need to decide on a subject that will dictate the character of the image as well as its shape.
Quite often, you’ll find that geometry, light and perspective will draw attention to a specific subject: you can use such a subject to anchor a shot, even if you’re showing an entire area. Don’t be afraid to “work the shot”. This means moving around and looking around. A lot.
You’ll also need to make a decision about the horizon. Unless symmetry is your goal, it’s not usually wise to locate the horizon at the center of the frame. If you agree with this basic rule, the next decision is easy: which is more important visually? The sky above or the ground in front of me? Answer this question and your horizon line goes wherever it allows you to show more of the prime subject.
Landscapes are usually shot with wide angle lenses, which allow to take in a lot of territory. Take a long look at the area you’re covering and think ahead: maybe your subject calls for an aspect ratio that’s longer than your camera’s frame. Trying and visualize this before you shoot can be helpful. Nature wasn’t built in a 3:2 or 16:9 box!
A two-dimensional image is a challenging medium to show a three-dimensional subject, especially a large one. Look for objects that show the depth. A road or a river crawling into the horizon is great, but sometimes a fence, or even a line of trees will help “sell” the effect.
Of course, if there is a way to include some object in the foreground, you can often show depth even more effectively. If humans somehow fit into your vision, your shot will include subjects that allow the viewer to perceive an immediate sense of scale and proportion, which can make the perspective even stronger. Of course, you won’t be getting all these ingredients at once all in the same place, but being on the lookout for them will sometimes be of great help.
Last, but definitely not least, spend the time, money and effort to own and carry a sturdy tripod. After all this care, attention to detail and work, why should your shot be less than sharp? Sharper at any speed, that is what a tripod is. Know it and use it. Please!