Photographing Vast Landscapes

July 08, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Whats Up Everyone! Hope you had a nice week. In this weeks discussion I'd like to talk about photographing vast , large landscapes. Most of my photography is landscape and mostly on the east coast.  When I think of landscapes I think of a waterfall , a tree on a hill side. I used to think these were pretty large landscapes.  I could do just about all of my shooting with a 24-70mm equivalent lens. Depending on how close I was to the subject. If I got closer I would use a 14-24mm equivalent lens.  I really didn't know what shooting vast landscapes was until Robert and I (my photography wingman) went on our trip to Utah. I learned what large , vast landscapes were.  As we drove to our first destination from Las Vegas we started seeing these Landscapes.  We oohed and aahed at them.  But it didn't really hit me until I got out of the car the first time at Valley of Fire State Park .  I was small!  Really Small!  In this vast Landscape and how will I photograph it?  I just can't suck it all in one shot. Like I can a waterfall.  I'm going to have to use everything in my photography tool bag just to come close to conveying the vastness in shots so when people see them they will understand.  And as you know a photograph can never show completely what you  saw with your own eyes.  Here are some tips on shooting large landscapes.

1. Composition. When shooting a large landscape shoot it many ways. Work the scene.  Don't try only one angle. Use all of the composition tricks you have. If you can put something in the foreground. At first you will shoot the Ohh and Ahh shot . Get that out of your system and shoot it then start looking for leading lines , something in the foreground like you would any other landscape shot. Shoot Vertical , shoot wide and shoot details.

2. Use it all! When I went out west I took three lenses for landscape. I used full frame equivalent 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 105-500mm. I used them all.  My main lens started out being my 24-70 but as the trip went on the 14-24 started being my main lens. But I used them all at every sight. We shot a lot of late morning and mid day which gave us some harsh light.  In these situations I shot bracketed so I could merge in Lightroom in post to even out the harsh shadows. Of course my long lens was used the least of the three lenses but some of my best shots came with that lens showing detail and compressing the background into the shot.

3. Show Perspective. Try to shoot the large landscapes with something in the shot that people can identify with. Like a person , a bus, a building . Anything that you can put some size comparison into the shot. When we were in Zion National Park I was looking to always have the Shuttle Bus in the shot to show how large the Rock formations were. This worked well and in some shots the bus is so small that it's like finding Waldo where is the bus? In Valley of Fire State park in Nevada I used Robert as my comparison to the large mountains and a long lens to draw the subject in.

4.Use your Tripod More! I used my tripod some but should have used it more for some of my shots. Even in the brightest time of day. Using the tripod will make your shots sharp and in focus more than handholding. Although you can get great shots handholding you can't focus stack.  I should have done more focus stacking on our trip. I only used this technique a few times.  This is the art of framing your shot (on a tripod) then focus on the foreground, the middle and the back of your shot) You then have three shots with the focus in different spots that you put in photoshop and merge them together and photoshop will make the whole photo tac sharp.  I was too excited and rushed and didn't do focus stacking but just a few times.

5. Take your Time! When coming to a big landscape . Take it all in.  Look at the scene without your camera in your face. Take a deep breath. Enjoy!  Thats why you came here in the first place.  After a few minutes then start composing and shooting. I find myself rushing to get to a spot pull my gear out and start shooting. I tried on this trip but not as successful as I wanted to be to calm down. This is hard for me. We have been planning this trip for 6 months researching , watching video. looking at photographs from the places we were going to and you get excited and you want you're photograph of the mountain.  Take it in! Breath! Then shoot.

The thing to remember is that seeing these vast landscapes is the prize! Taking the photograph is a way to document history in saying you were there once and this is how it looked to me. If you take your time and remember what you know about photography and use it you will come home with great shots to print and put on your wall.  Well that's enough for this week .  Get out and shoot!


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