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Photographing landscapes

Posted by Eric Bauer, Staff  July 31, 2008 12:23 PM

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If you want to avoid boring landscapes, try shooting from an unusual angle or at times of dramatic light, as in this photo of a horse and trainer shot by Bill Greene in Georgetown, Mass.

By Bill Greene
Globe Staff Photographer

Shooting landscapes can be frustrating. Photographers wonder why their photos don't seem as "grand" as the scene did in person.

Too often it's because they just raised their camera, pointed it at the vista they saw, and clicked. Had they planned a little or paid more attention to their surroundings they would have gotten a better shot. Here are some tips to improve your landscapes.

  • Try to find some natural cover to use as a picture frame. Shoot through branches, or frame the photo through people or rocks in the foreground. This will create layers that show the enormity of the view and add scale to the backdrop.
  • As with most photography, light is crucial. The best time to shoot almost anything is the last several hours of light in the day or the first thing in the morning. When the light is low the subject is not "flat" and the dramatic shadows add depth.
  • Try to get out of the habit of always raising the camera to your eye. Most good photos have an interesting angle. Try climbing up a stepladder or laying on your stomach and looking through the grass in a field. This creates a more interesting photo by showing the viewer an angle that is not obvious.
  • Composition is key. You should almost never put the focal point of the photo in the center of the frame. Remember the "rule of thirds". If there is a mountain top in the background, frame it one third to the left or right of the frame. This makes you photo less static, gives the eye room to move, and makes the photo more appealing.
  • If there is nothing in the foreground to frame your photo, make sure the overall scene has an "entry point." Is there a barn in the field, or someone walking down a long dirt road? Give the viewer a point to enter the photo and then take in the whole scene.
  • Be crazy and try different things! Get so close to a pine cone hanging in front of you that it fills a third of your frame. I'm talking six inches. Use a slow shutter speed so you have enough depth of field that everything is in focus. Try a shot with no depth of field so the backdrop is somewhat mysterious and vague.
  • Try to view each opportunity as a 3-5 picture sequence. Shoot details of the whole. Look straight down on the patterns of foam in the water; take tight shots of the moss on the bark on a tree. Very often you can show a scene much more powerfully in several totally different pictures than trying to do it all in one frame.
  • Have fun, be creative, don't be afraid to try something new. After all, it's only space on a disk that can be deleted.

More Bill Greene photos

Try using people to frame a photo, as Bill Greene did in this shot taken at the ferry dock on Cuttyhunk Island.

Want to keep improving, or have some tips to share? Check out all of our tipsheets or submit your own.

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