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Author Topic: How do I accomplish Fine Art Landscape Photography?  (Read 14062 times)
jww_40
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« on: December 20, 2011, 09:29:49 PM »
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Happy Holidays!
I'm really interested in Landscape photography and would like to find out what I need to learn to create really dramatic, sharp, and detailed scenic pictures (like Ansel Adams, John Sexton, and all of the others I don't know to mention Smiley ).
Current equipment is a Nikon D90 with an 18-105, 35 f/1.8, and a Panasonic LX5. How far can I go with this equipment? How large a print can I make (assuming I do my job perfectly ) Grin
Thanks for your time!
John
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degrub
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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 10:06:30 PM »
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it is hard to know where you are in your skills for any to give specific advice......i would focus on learning to compose and see the image your camera will capture. If you want to learn some basics, starting with some of Ansel's books is not a bad place to begin - Try: The Camera, The Print, The Negative, and Examples - the making of 40 photographs.
It doesn't take expensive equipment to learn and to make good images - it takes the minds eye to see the image, lots of study of other masters, and practice, practice, practice with what you have to master the basic techniques and technical aspects. The camera is just a tool. It doesn't make the images. Then if you are still interested and can afford it, buying equipment that will let you go farther may make sense.

There are plenty of examples in the forums to study as well.

You should be able to easily print at least 9x13 inch or possibly larger with the D90. Work in raw mode and use Lightroom or PS.
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jww_40
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« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 03:25:23 AM »
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degrub,
Thanks for the reply. I'm an amateur with a LOT to learn.  Smiley Im attaching a pic... Taken with the LX5 (it was with me) in raw, processed in Lightroom and PS. Although not my best, it kind of represents the average. I've read the first 3 of Ansels books but have yet to read Examples. I'll search for it on Amazon.
Thanks,
John
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luxborealis
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2011, 03:36:07 PM »
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Wow - Landscape is such a huge and varied genre of photography... I teach landscape photography at Mohawk College and even after 30 hours, there is still so much more to discuss and try.

One of the difficulties students have is in visualizing then building landscape photographs. They see a great scene, raise the camera to their eye and shoot then wonder why it does't have the same impact. What they forget is that the photograph can only represent what they see; the photograph falls short of their memory of the scene because they haven't built into the photo all the other "cues and clues" as to what the day was like and what details they saw in the scene that weren't captured well.

I always advocate working towards creating strong 3-dimensionality. If you have a grand scene or vista before you, it needs to be set into the context of what's on the ground in front of you which will provide the necessary context for those viewing the photo. This is done by actively searching for then building into the composition a strong (detailed, textured, interesting) foreground element which is often called a "foreground anchor".

Your work continues as you work to "unite" the foreground and background by actively looking for and incorporating leading lines to guide the viewer through the scene from foreground to background: pathways, fence lines, trails, roads, river banks, etc. C-curves, S-curves and especially diagonals are the strongest shapes to work  with.

As you do this, keep in mind your "rule" of thirds to help with the initial design and layout of the composition. If the sky is strong (great clouds or colour contrasts), then keep the horizon low in the composition, but still with leading lines and all. When the sky is weak (overcast or only a monotonous blue swath) then de-emphasize it by placing the horizon higher in the frame.

As far as lenses go, more often than not I start with the widest focal length (in my case 24mm). I leave the zoom at tis widest setting and work at creating my composition at this wide perspective because of the great 3-dimensionality created by wide angles. That's not to say landscape can't be made with telephotos - of course they can and very effectively - but telephotos tend compress distances, shortening mid-ground areas and eliminating foregrounds creating very different landscapes.

To maintain details from the foreground to the background, a small aperture is used (for APS and 4:3s sensors f/11 and less often f/16, but not smaller due to loss of sharpness from diffraction). With full frame and larger sensors, f/16, f/22, even f/32 are usable. But these small apertures combined with low or native ISO (typically 200) result in slower shutter speeds, so a tripod is essential along with mirror lock-up to prevent vibrations reducing image quality.

All of this means that you need to be observing far more than you are photographing. Being a visual art, you need to spend time building photographs in your mind before looking through a viewfinder. A viewing card (a black 4x5" card with a viewfinder cut out of it) helps with this process. Hold it close to your eye for wideangle and further for telephoto.

Something that too few people appreciate is the importance of the ambient conditions - time of day, time of year, weather conditions, etc. - for adding to the mood of the scene. You want to be aware and take advantage of these conditions as much as possible. That often means photographing when everyone else is sleeping, having breakfast or having dinner! And don't shy away from inclement weather - there are great opportunities when it's raining or foggy out. The American photographer Weegee once said "f/8 and be there". Nothing can be truer!

One of the best ways to learn how to make landscapes is by really examining and "deconstructing" landscapes made by other photographers. As you look at it, try to tease apart the technical details of focal length and aperture while looking for the visual design elements: leading lines, shapes and composition. Keeping asking: what makes this landscape work? How am I being drawn into the scene? What pathways am I following as I look at this photograph? What decisions has the photographer made to make this a compelling landscape?

Hope all this helps. Landscape photography is a wonderful way to spend a few hours (days, months,  years...) in the great outdoors!
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 08:54:35 PM by luxborealis » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2011, 04:08:54 PM »
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Terry's post is an excellent "landscape course in a nutshell," and with illustrations that make his points well.
It's worth noticing, I think, that he doesn't say anywhere "You must do this" or "always apply this rule." Rather, he names many of the elements to think about when planning a landscape. It does boil down to seeing well, and seeing intelligently and perceptively.

Eric
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« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2011, 02:32:18 AM »
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Being in the right place at the right time is invaluable. 

So, getting to grips with map reading, sunrise / sunset times and the weather forecast helps.  So does being able to go at the drop of a hat.  Not that I create 'fine art', but I find it useful to look on Flickr & Google for images of somewhere I'm thinking of going.  Many of my best photos were taken hill walking, often on days when for whatever reason I was out particularly early or late, or in winter.  The low light flatters and in winter interesting mist is more likely.
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« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2011, 02:50:52 AM »
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And that rule of thirds - break it. Not all the time; there's no need to be a complete photographic recidivist. But sometimes it just needs to be broken.
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jww_40
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« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2011, 01:02:48 PM »
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degrub, Bill, cats, Eric, Terry,
WOW! A common thread is observation... and the one thing that I've been missing (I'm just as guilty as your students  Smiley ). I think I'm going to make stickers for my cameras that say "SLOW DOWN!".
1. It doesn't take expensive equipment to learn and to make good images - it takes the minds eye to see the image, lots of study of other masters, and practice, practice, practice with what you have to master the basic techniques and technical aspects.
   a. One of the difficulties students have is in visualizing then building landscape photographs. They see a great scene, raise the camera to their eye and shoot then wonder why it does't have the same impact. What they forget is that the photograph can only represent what they see; the photograph falls short of their memory of the scene because they haven't built into the photo all the other "cues and clues" as to what the day was like and what details they saw in the scene that weren't captured well.
   b. All of this means that you need to be observing far more than you are photographing. Being a visual art, you need to spend time building photographs in your mind before looking through a viewfinder. A viewing card (a black 4x5" card with a viewfinder cut out of it) helps with this process. Hold it close to your eye for wideangle and further for telephoto.

2. It does boil down to seeing well, and seeing intelligently and perceptively.

3. And that rule of thirds - break it.

Thanks for the intelligent and reasoned replies!
Happy Holidays!
John
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2011, 10:48:01 AM »
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"How do I accomplish Fine Art Landscape Photography?"

as the old joke goes: the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice - and a real passion for what you are photographing. Q.T. Luong has some excellent and practical advice about he successfully  turned his passion for landscape photography into a family supporting business in his blog at http://terragalleria.com/blog/ and his new book "Spectacular Yosemite", despite the seeming hyperbole of the title, really is a body of terrific work. 
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RichDesmond
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« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2011, 10:42:21 PM »
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To me, the important thing to remember (and this isn't confined to landscape photography) is that an image isn't about what you see, it's about what you feel. If the photo conveys that feeling, particularly if it communicates it to others who have no other connection to the scene, then it's a great image.

In more general terms...Art has value when it's a representation (or re-presentation) of reality in such a way that person experiencing it understands nature, or humanity, or himself, or any other aspect of reality more deeply or completely than he did before. Great art makes you more alive, and more human.

You're not going to get an answer on how to do that on a forum. You have to go out into the world, understand how you feel, and use the tools and talents at your disposal to communicate that emotion as best you can. Good luck. Smiley
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Philip Weber
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2011, 06:14:38 PM »
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And that rule of thirds - break it. Not all the time; there's no need to be a complete photographic recidivist. But sometimes it just needs to be broken.

I agree...don't be afraid to experiment!

I am fond of the following quote by twentieth century photographer Lisette Model, who said, “New images surround us everywhere. They are invisible because of sterile routine convention and fear.”     

Whatever "art" comes through us, is only authentic when it's an expression of us as the artist (how we see, process the image, etc.) and not just what the rule books say...although there is a time and place for rules too!  Smiley

Best wishes on your photographic journey!
Phil
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2011, 04:01:59 AM »
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For me it comes down to a few simple scruples....
First and foremost, love what you do. The second it seems like a chore or a job, you won't ever be Ansel Adams or Peter Lik.
Secondly, challenge yourself. I take beach sunrises almost every single day. It's my thing, but I break it up by shooting different locations as far away from the beach as I can. It makes a sweet change, but also helps me to see my sunrises with different perspective.
Finally, practice practice practice. Theory is lovely, hands on practice is golden.
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jww_40
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2011, 01:06:10 PM »
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Good Morning!
Y'all have made me think! And it hurts... Oy!  Smiley
I have many questions to answer.
1. Who am I doing this for? I know that I enjoy being out and taking photo's... but do I want to be a "superstar"? The odds of this are slim.  Smiley Or, is it enough to hear family say "Gee, that camera takes great pictures".
1a. What's the ultimate goal? A "wallhanger"? My work being shown in a studio?
3. Do I have anything to say (with my photographs)?... Really?  Smiley Flickr has literally billions of photos. And that's just one photo site. What can I say that hasn't already been said?
4. How far off the beaten path am I willing to go?
Well, I'm off to contemplate my navel.  Smiley
Yours truly,
John "The Duffer"
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Big Mike
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2012, 12:11:45 PM »
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One thing you didn't list with your equipment, is a tripod.  A tripod can be extremely important when shooting landscapes. 

Firstly, it allows you to keep the camera as still as possible, which will help you to maximize the sharpness of your photo.
Secondly, shooting with a tripod will almost certainly force you to slow down, which is an admitted problem already.  So rather than just raising the camera to your eye, taking a shot and moving on....using a tripod can help you to consider exactly how & where you want to set/aim the camera.  This may make you consider what is and what isn't in the frame, more than you would have....the more you start thinking about compositional elements, while you're shooting...the better you will get.   
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jww_40
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2012, 07:00:57 PM »
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Big Mike,
I do have a tripod... and use it. It helps for all of the obvious reasons. Mostly, it slows me down.  Smiley
One of my favorite places is the Colorado National Monument (I live close by) and I'm thinking of concentrating all of my efforts this year on that. Kind of like Flickr's 365 except I can't do 365. More like 90, but that's better than nuthin'.  Cheesy  Actually, 90 is pretty darned awesome. Most don't have the time or opportunities that I have. I'm lucky in that respect.
Maybe I'll find a voice and a unique way of saying "It's beautiful". Who knows...
Luke,
On another forum, somebody posted asking for our best photograph of 2011. I replied with one of mine from the Colorado National Monument and an explanation.
I got up early (for once  Grin) and made my way to the Monument in the dark dodging rabbits most of the way. I'm sure the coyotes will thin them out soon enough.  Wink
As the sun came up, I watched hawks using the updrafts searching for food.
It's also one of the quietest places I know of.
All in all, it was the best morning spent taking pictures all year. Maybe the sunlight didn't strike the rock formations just so, or the clouds weren't around to add drama, but it was beautiful none the less.
Another was photographing snowy owls at work in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. They don't come around that often, so it was pretty special. We're not allowed on the tundra so getting closer wasn't an option. I used my 80-400 nikkor on my D90 and STILL had to crop down about 70% to get something not resembling a white dot on the tundra. Even so, they are still special to me.
What's not to love about photography when you are given gifts such as these?
Thanks,
John

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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2012, 11:53:11 AM »
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Great landscape photography can be taken with any equipment. It's not the pans that make the cake taste good, but how you use them!

Good equipment will make things easier, but to become good at anything takes study and practice. Take a look at Sexton and Adams and Rowell. Get into their head and learn to shoot like them--lots of patience, shooting early and late, and, most importantly, getting out there regularly.

This isn't a 9-5 proposition. You'll miss lots of meals with your pals, but then get the shots they're missing while feeding their faces and swilling those cocktails. While their snug in a warm bed, you'll be freezing and many time disappointed, but then you'll get iconic photos that make it all worth while!

You can't do this on two or thee weeks vacation yearly. You've got to live it! It's almost a lifestyle choice in many ways.
Once you start dissecting the photos you like, walking in their footsteps and using the same tripod holes, get over it and step aside. It's then time to shoot your own way. There's already too many people going to Yosemite and xeroxing the same old photos millions of times.

I was in Yosemite a year ago on Ansel's birthday. Snow on the ground and hundreds of photographers trying to get the natural Fire falls, just like Rowell. Cars were abandoned along the parkway and you had to wind your way carefully between them as though they were large boulders.

Ansel was certainly there! He made sure that the sky was overcast to keep the lemmings waiting. However, the few that knew what was happening, went off and created new photos of our own vision.

Figure to really get good at this, spend the next five or six years full-time on your craft and you'll get into the ballpark. It usually takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to master a trade or craft. That's about 50 weeks of work at 40 hours per week.

Start now and you'll get there patiently! The more time you invest, the better your work will become!

Now your assignment: go to an iconic location where everybody has taken the same photo using the same lenses and the same tripod holes. Your goal is to see it in a whole new like, putting your own spin and vision into the photo. Get something that nobody else has seen to get the shot everybody else has missed. You want to create a "gee whiz" moment that requires a second look.

For great Yosemite pix for instance, take Ted Orland's photos from there. He assisted for Ansel Adams and his take on Yosemite is unique and humorous. Same with Jerry Ulsman's photos when he was an instructor with Ansel there, though he crafted his photos back in his lab. Push the vision and your limits!

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« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2012, 01:51:33 PM »
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Now your assignment: go to an iconic location where everybody has taken the same photo using the same lenses and the same tripod holes. Your goal is to see it in a whole new like, putting your own spin and vision into the photo. Get something that nobody else has seen to get the shot everybody else has missed. You want to create a "gee whiz" moment that requires a second look.


I know this thread is a bit old, but I have to take issue with that first sentence. The trouble with landscape photography, and the reason it gets such a bad rap from other arts, is that we all too willingly accept the advice to become destination photographers. The U.S. has almost 4 million square miles, yet a very large percentage of landscape images are taken within only a couple of thousand (I'm guesstimating, of course). How can that be good?

My advice to those who want to become better landscape photographers is to avoid, at all costs, such iconic photographic destinations such as Yosemite or Yellowstone or D.V., or the like. It's too easy to fall victim to cliches, too easy to copy what's been done before....and done before to death. The best way to become better is to make your own path.
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« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2012, 10:22:32 AM »
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I've been teaching photography to my older son (19 years old), and he already read The Camera and The Print, as well as some Gallen Rowell books. He also borrows my camera once in a while, and gets out to shoot. This is a couple he got this past weekend.

Which one you consider is best?
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« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2012, 10:41:32 AM »
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The vertical one
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« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2012, 11:44:38 AM »
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I also prefer the vertical one. But it's a bit too tightly cropped/framed on the left side I would say.
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