Scenic photography can be very rewarding. To return home from a photo trip with a number of winners is a feel good. Whether the images are destined for the wall, potential stock shots, contest entries, or simply remembrances of your experiences, every time you look at them, you’ll feel proud. Sometimes a great scenic will unfold because the light is special. Other times the light will be flat and you’ll walk away from the day’s shoot with little or nothing. Regardless of the weather, an important part of getting the most out of the situation is to learn to fully work the shoot. This means exhausting every feasible possibility to make sure you cover all bases.
DON’T LET YOUR TRIPOD TAKE ROOT: Just because you find a good angle, don’t plant your tripod in the same location and leave it there. Move to your left or right, and up or down. Sometimes a small shift can mean all the difference in what the background looks like. It can also prevent mergers of subject matter. It may also result in a better balance of compositional elements. Learn to do this and it will result in more diversity in your images.
ROTATE THE HEAD: Many scenics can be successfully photographed in both vertical and horizontal formats. Be sure to rotate your pan and tilt or ball head to add photographic diversity to your files. Work the composition to make each successful. The horizontal will often dictate including more subject matter so be sure you strategically compose all the elements to make a clean photo.
DON’T GIVE UP: Overcast and cloudy weather can be disheartening so rather than lament, shoot subjects that are appropriate for the conditions. Look for small ones that work well in soft light. Flowers are always a great option as are patterns in grasses, wood, lichen, or anything else that would suffer from contrasty light.
FILTER IT: Polarizer – polarizers are most often used to richen up a blue sky and emphasize existing clouds. But they also serve other purposes. If glare robs the subject of its underlying color, spin the polarizer to remove it. The colors will pop as you rotate the polarizer. It can also be used in place of a neutral density filter so if you want to create special effects by slowing down the shutter, add the polarizer. If you own one and you’re not concerned with it robbing light, leave it on and spin it for every photo you make until you learn its every nuance. Once mastered, you’ll know when and when not to use it.
Graduated ND – A graduated neutral density filter tames the contrast to even out the exposures of dark foregrounds and lit backgrounds. Drop the dark part of the filter over the bright area in the photo to reduce the contrast in the image.
LENSES: Most landscapes are suited for wide angle lenses. This is especially true if there are interesting foreground subjects that can be juxtaposed with magnificent backdrops. Yet quite often there’s a ‘picture within the picture.’ This being said, don’t hesitate to attach the long zoom and find that intimate slice of beauty that lives within the grand scenic.
These are just a few of the ways one can work a scenic. There are many more I’ll share with you in a future Tip of the Week.