The Most Difficult Aspect of Landscape Photography

Jul 03, 2019 · 2 min read
The basic technical knowledge around exposure, depth of field, focal length, color, and resolution are not what matter most in creating photography. Don't get me wrong these elements definitely make up about half of what you need to know with regards to creating the photography you'll proudly want to display on your walls. The other half is realizing how light interacts with your subject. 

This interaction between your camera's sensor and how a subject is lit dictates how your photography looks and feels. This is true for all types of photography. Recently, I was able to visit Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC. It's famous for its lotus flowers that bloom each summer around the end of June. The park's hours only allow guests to visit during the harshest light of the day when the sun is shining brightest overhead. However, that doesn't mean you can't find pockets of incredible light between the shade of the trees and blasting sun overhead. Realizing how to look for, and find these opportunities has made the biggest difference in my photography and allowed my images to go from bibliographic captures of the locations I've visited, to artistic expressions of subjects I've captured. 

What's the first step in learning about finding the right light? Well if you're a landscape or travel photographer, which I mainly am, take your photography to the next step by learning to study the weather. Seriously. The sun is the number one source of light, the atmosphere and the weather are the filters. Understanding the angle of the sun, the clouds, and the interplay with the weather tell different stories. A Single subject looks completely different on different days and times and it all comes down to the sun, atmosphere, and weather. Each of these items sets the mood for your image and knowing their impact in advance of your shoot will make a big difference.

This may mean you need to wake up pre-dawn putting yourself in the best location to watch the sunrise, or looking for a pending rainstorm to pass to catch the clouds beginning to break apart, or any number of other situations you can envision for your photography. It may simply mean, going out on a bright sunny day and finding the interplay of the shadows to help you find the right light. (trees also make great light filters.)

Learning to love the light and how it takes an average image and turns it into a beautiful image will greatly improve your photos. Focus on reading the light first and envisioning the story this tells your audience. Once you've become comfortable with this way of thinking, and are regularly putting the best light in front of your lens, then you'll be much more adept at figuring out how your camera's settings impact how your sensor receives the light you are photographing. 

About Chris Laskey

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