Approaches to landscapes

Before moving to Cornwall, I’d never shot landscapes at all really, and certainly not systematically. There are a very few images I took many years ago, like this one in France from 2007, that shows the beginnings of an appreciation of shape and light, if not composition particularly.

Sunset towards Roscoff

In fact, this is the only ‘traditional’ landscape shot I can find from my (admittedly limited) archives, up until really quite recently. I think I avoided them because it seemed too difficult to get right. I concentrated on candid images, mainly macro and animals, mostly with a kit lens. There are some nice images from that time I’m still pleased with, even as my own standards have gone up, like this one from about 2008:


But, with my interest in photography reignited since leaving university (where, although I had my camera, it never really came out of the bag very often at all), I’ve come to it with a different approach. And the breakthrough for me has been deciding on a location and going at a specific time of day to try and get some nice light, and crucially, taking the time to frame images and get them right. And the extra effort has already paid off. It’s a bonus that I’m now shooting RAW and processing the images in Lightroom.

Before, I used to do very minimal processing; the two images above are both more or less what came out of the camera. Fast forward a few years, and there is still the odd ‘snap’ or unplanned shot that makes the grade, like this one from a few weeks ago – I overexposed the sky for the ground, but managed to recover all the detail from the RAW file:

Merry Maidens

Mostly, though, I’ve been getting a better ‘hit-rate’ from thinking about three things: Light, Location, and Lens. I’ve been choosing locations specifically, and taking the time to really capture them, thinking about composition and framing. Light’s one of the most important things in landscape photography; along with weather, it can lift the beauty of a location on to a new plane. Using light in new and interesting ways has encouraged me into framing things differently, like this low-level shot:

Holywell Bay

Lens falls into to two categories. It’d be easy for me to rue not having professional-grade equipment to work with, but having a 10-18mm super wide-angle lens (equivalent to ~16-30mm on a full-frame camera) has really opened up options, as well as the ability to stitch together panoramas, which can be high-impact, coupled with an unusual vantage point:

Truro - afternoon panorama

It also comes down to looking for different ways of framing things: in a sense, letting the subject matter do the work for you, as in this snap from Paddington station:


The super wide-angle has its place, too, and it’s proving very versatile, and forcing me to think about new angles and perspectives:
Idless Wood

Boscawen & Sunny Corner, Truro

Using all these factors, as well as using a bit more ‘technique’, like long exposure, and equipment like ND grad filters, has all led to some really promising results, which I’m hoping to continue and improve upon. Interacting with others and their work is all part of that process, and I’m also lucky that there is a large number of people taking some really astonishing landscape shots around this county, and many more beautiful locations to explore. It’s safe to say I’ve been truly inspired by what I’ve seen!

Sunny Corner, Truro

Recent experience has really brought home to me that all photography, but landscape in particular, benefits from a methodical, patient and disciplined approach to achieve really good results. The critical eye required comes from thinking about others’ work, as well as my own, and getting out there and experimenting. I’ve been out of my comfort zone, and I strongly encourage you to do the same; it’ll work wonders for the images you produce as well as your enjoyment.

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