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Suggestions To Improve Your Photography

General tips, techniques and suggestions that will help you understand many aspects of photography and will improve your landscape pictures

Shooting the right way

Good photography is always about recognising and responding to the subject, not about the computer. That means shooting the right way from the start, no matter what camera you use.

Your best investment

Time is the most important investment you can make in getting good landscape pictures. When you arrive in a place you've never visited before, spend time scouting—driving or hiking to different locations, finding different vantage points.

Compass

Carry a compass to figure out where the sun will rise and set, and imagine how the place would look in different kinds of light.

Water

If a river or stream flows through the landscape you are shooting, think about the character of it and how to convey that character in the image. A big, slow river looks and feels different from a fast-moving mountain stream. The water can be the centre of interest in the image, or it can serve as an element in your composition; as a diagonal or other leading line, as a horizontal line, or as a shape that complements other elements in the frame.

Reflections

Look carefully for reflections on the water. You can use some reflections to enhance the image, the colours of reflected autumn leaves, for instance. Beware of other reflections that might just be distracting. You may have to move around a bit to include or eliminate them, or return when the sun is at a different angle.

CP Filter Suggestions

Use a polarising filter to eliminate reflections on water and glass and increase contrast, the same applies for deep and dark blues in the sky, rotate it until you have the effect you want.

In the forest

Photographing forests presents a different set of challenges. First, think about the character of the forest you want to shoot and the feeling you want to convey in your image. Should it feel dark and brooding, or light and airy? Are there any special features that will help express how you feel about it? As with any photograph, find a point of interest. It might be one slightly different tree trunk, a path winding through, or a splash of colour on a flowering vine. Whatever it is, compose in such a way to lead the viewer to it. Look for shafts of light penetrating the canopy or one spot on the forest floor directly lit by the sun.

Wide open spaces

Wide-open spaces such as plains and prairies are among the hardest landscapes of all to photograph well because often they lack an obvious point of interest. In most cases, the huge scope of the scene is one of the things you're trying to communicate. Even so, remember that viewers need something on which to focus on. Look for an element peculiar to that place and use it as a point of interest that says something about the scene and imparts a sense of scale. You don't want the viewer's eyes to wander aimlessly around the frame, so use whatever might be available to lead him into the image; a winding road, a stream or a fence line for example.

The sky

More suggestions. Think about the sky. Do you want a lot or a little of it in the frame? A clear blue sky might best reflect the character of one place, a brewing storm another. Remember the rule of thirds. If the sky is important, place the horizon along the top third division of the frame. If it is not important and uninteresting, leave it out all together.

Desert

Look for ways to show the rugged nature and the beauty of deserts. In the middle of the day, find waves caused by the heat. Using a long lens to compress them, you'll get dramatic shots that really say "hot." Deserts are also great places for pictures of stars. There is no humidity, and usually no terrestrial lights to interfere, so stars seem more numerous and are unusually brilliant. Watch the way the color of the sand changes throughout the day with the angle of the sun. Think about ways to capture the characteristics of the desert. A wide shot might best portray one desert, while a close-up of one plant struggling to survive on the side of a dune might best represent another.

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Ask yourself

Consider these different scenes: a tranquil tropic isle with turquoise water lapping at a white, sandy beach; storm waves pounding a rocky New England shore; a densely packed vacation beach. What kind of shore are you photographing, and how can you best convey it? What time of day, what kind of weather, and what season is most appropriate for showing its character? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself while scouting for the right vantage point and composition before shooting. Every shoreline is different in some way. Show the difference in your images.

Take cover

Always carry a plastic bag or a shower cap in your backpack. If a sudden shower develops and your equipment is on the tripod, cover it with the bag instead of taking it off.

Light

A photograph is all about light so always think of how the light is striking your subject. The best bet is to move around so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out colour and shades, and the slight angle (side lighting) produces some shadow to indicate texture and form.

Depth

Depth is an important quality of good photographs. We want the viewer to think that they're not looking at a flat picture, but through a window, into a three-dimensional world. Add pointers to assist the eye. If your subject is a distant mountain, add a person or a tree in the foreground. A wide angle lens can exaggerate this perspective.

Rule of thirds Suggestions

The beauty of an image is often in its proportions. A popular technique with artists is called the Rule of Thirds. Imagine the frame divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, like a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Now place your subject on one of the lines or intersections. Always centering your subject can get dull. Use the Rule of Thirds to add variety and interest. Once you have mastered the rule of thirds, then you are allowed to brake it.

Aim for impact

A great photograph catches the eye. It leaps off the page and demands attention. While a picture may say a thousand words, I think a great photo should say just one - "Wow!"

There are four keys to visual impact: simplicity, color, light, and depth.

Conduct Research

The more you research a destination, the better your photos will likely be. Do not forget to research weather and tide before you leave the house.

Strive for variety

Variety is the spice of life - and photography. Think how your photos will look as a group and shoot accordingly. Try to vary your styles, mix wide-angle overviews and individual details, daytime and night, portraits and abstracts.

Be inspired

Do not just look at the pictures of photographers you admire, study. Ask yourself why you like them, what is it about them that inspires you and make suggestions to yourself on what you think you should do.

Patience

Landscape photography means patience. You have to wait for that special moment the light will be at its best.

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