Legendary landscape photography is more than a hobby; it’s a way of life.
It’s a lifestyle that indulges in grit, adventure, and a passion for natural beauty.
Legendary landscape photographers spend their lives chasing the light in remote areas, capturing scenes devoid of human intervention. The hard work of a landscape photographer is often rewarded with some of the most stunning images and incredible stories!
It’s no wonder so many people choose landscape photography as their passion.
So what does it take to shoot like the pros?
There are so many examples of legendary landscape photographers! Chris Burkard is one of my personal favorites.
Find a landscape photographer that inspires you and examine their work. What is it about their unique style that captivates you? Perhaps they are using some techniques that you can learn from and elaborate on.
Identifying with your own unique style, especially early on, will dramatically boost the quality of your work.
Get Out There
Explore and discover! Be on the lookout for interesting vantage points of fascinating places. The best landscape photographers spend months planning exhibitions to explore some of the most remote locations.
Of course, this isn’t practical for everyone, especially if you are a beginner, so start somewhere! Explore locations near you until you build up your experience and desire to do more!
Plan Ahead… But Don’t Get Hung Up On the Details
Here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself:
- Where do you want to go to shoot your next legendary landscape?
- Do you have the optimal weather conditions?
- Is it the optimal time the of year?
- Does the gold or blue hour work best for your shot?
- What essentials will you bring?
- How will you get there?
With landscape photography, there can be sooo much to think about. We’ve explained some of it before!
Create a plan, but don’t get hung up on the details. You may plan to shoot your landscape on a sunny day, and instead, you could be met with rain… At least that’s what usually happens to me.
Don’t throw in the towel just because your ideal conditions haven’t been met! After all, you are an artist and a true artist always finds a way to create…
You may surprise yourself and find that you are happier with your results, even if you were blown off course to get them.
Get in Touch with Your Feelings
When you are shooting landscapes, slow down occasionally, and connect with your surroundings. How do you feel? What effect does the landscape have on the way you are feeling?
Let’s assume you are standing on a beach and you feel calm and relaxed. What is it about the beach that relaxes you?
Is it the way the palm trees gently sway in the wind?
Could it be the warm sunshine? Or, maybe the soft sand between your toes?
Perhaps it’s the repetition of one tumbling wave after another that relaxes you.
Identify the elements within the landscape that reinforce the way you are feeling and find a creative way to compose these elements in your final image. Ascribing an emotion to your landscape photos adds visual impact by connecting to your audience in a deeper, more intimate way.
In short, it makes the photo a legendary landscape as opposed to just a regular one.
This concept is difficult to master and often requires lots of practice, so don’t worry if this doesn’t come to you right away!
Get Inside your Camera
Mastering your camera settings will give you greater creative control over your images.
Think about your final image and how you want it to look. Perhaps you want your image to be slightly underexposed to accentuate the clouds and add drama to your landscape? Or maybe you want a long exposure of a nearby stream to create a silky motion blur that will intensify the relaxed mood you are going for?
These effects can be achieved by properly knowing how to manipulate your camera settings. Practice shooting in manual mode until you understand how to properly manipulate ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed.
Once you know how to manipulate your settings, you will have the capacity to manually select the ideal settings for your legendary landscape.
Landscape photographers pack lightly because we’re often trekking around for long periods of time with all our gear. It’s important to pack just the essentials, so here’s a list of ’em.
With a legendary landscape, you are usually trying to cram an incredible amount of detail into a single frame, so you want a camera that’s up to the task.
If you are serious and passionate about landscape photography, you may want to consider springing for a full-frame camera. They are admittedly pricey; however, they pack a larger sensor that will be better equipped for getting the most detail.
If you are more of a hobbyist, then stick to your intermediate level crop sensor DSLR as it will do just fine. Sony is great for hobbyists and serious landscape photographers because they make compact, high-quality cameras that are versatile and great for packing.
Wide-angle lenses are great for legendary landscape photography because they allow you to squeeze a lot of your scene onto your frame. A wide-angle lens is typically classified as being 35mm or shorter.
If you plan on incorporating astrophotography with your landscapes, you’ll probably want your wide-angle lens to also have a wide F-stop of F/2 or less. The smaller your F-stop, the wider your aperture, which is ideal for low light conditions like astrophotography because it enables more light to pass through to your camera.
No, we are not talking about Instagram filters.
Instead, we are talking about the types of filters you attach to the end of your lens. I’ve never seen a difference in my images when using UV filters, however, they are the cheapest insurance you’ll ever buy for your lens. If you drop your camera and something breaks, you’d much rather it be your $15 UV filter than your $900 lens.
Polarized filters are great because they reduce unwanted glare and increase contrast in your images. ND are for the hard-core landscape enthusiasts. These filters reduce the amount of light that comes through the lens allowing you to shoot those sexy motion blur landscapes while the sun is out.
So, the ND filters are supposed to be grey, however, with experience I have learned that cheap ND filters usually cast a significant blue hue over my images. There are ways of getting around this phenomenon by adjusting your camera’s white balance, or post-processing, however, if you are like me and you find this blue hue annoying, you may want to consider spending around $50 to get a higher quality ND filter.
If you are serious about your landscapes, buy filters made with optical quality glass because you don’t want to put a cheap filter that reduces clarity over your 42.2 megapixel camera. A cheap filter would defeat the purpose of owning an expensive camera.
What good is a nice camera with a nice lens, if you don’t have a tripod to stabilize everything for your long exposures?
Invest in a tripod that is light weight, versatile, and durable. Aluminum and carbon fiber tripods are ideal lightweight and durable options. Carbon fiber tripods are usually more expensive; however, they will be the lightest, and you won’t have to worry as much about corrosion if you plan on getting your tripod anywhere near the ocean.
You don’t want a tripod that limits your potential so pick one that will enable you to capture those interesting high and low angles. Ten minutes is too long for those fleeting moments, which is why you also want your tripod to be quick and easy to assemble.
Read reviews and see what people are saying. I love my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH tripod because it meets all the criteria I have just described, and its pistol grip ball head makes it super quick and easy for me to compose my shot.
The typical crossbody camera bag isn’t ideal for the landscape photographer. You and your shoulders are going to want a backpack that can more evenly distribute the weight for those long hikes.
Walking around your tripod for any length of time can get really annoying so do yourself a favor and find a backpack that will hold onto all your gear, including your tripod.
Ideally, your camera bag will be waterproof or at least have some sort of rain sleeve. If not, grab a garbage bag and protect your gear in those unprecedented rain storm.
You now know what it takes to shoot legendary landscapes like a pro! Tell us what you think and share your awesome landscape experiences with us on Instagram!