Wick Communications

Six tips for shooting landscapes

In Photography on February 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Once again, we turn to Half Moon Bay Review photographer Charles Russo for help with photographic tips. This one flows from a feature he produces for our monthly magazine and concerns landscapes. Take it away, Charles. – Clay

Landscapes look great on café walls and as laptop screensavers, but can be a challenge to fit into a newspaper; a grassy field or empty stretch of coastline doesn’t typically render well in newsprint, and subsequently in your reader’s mind. Of course, topics surrounding certain outdoor spaces surface as editorial priorities quite often: a park facing budget cuts, a roadway under new traffic regulations, a polluted beach. Creating art to go with these articles is essential but tricky. Here are six ideas for making your editorial landscapes pop (categorized, for no reason whatsoever, by titles of Bruce Springsteen songs).

  • Human Touch: Fitting people into the frame is the best and easiest means to make a landscape work. People give context to the landscape, and a focal point to attract the eye. In the best sense, they’ll also convey the story visually for you. Be patient … someone will show up sooner or later. …

  • Good Eye: If people are absent and you’re working with nothing but Mother Nature, find something to anchor your photo. This is essential to making a landscape work: a hiking trail signpost, a seagull, a flower. Find a subject, and make it your main character for the reader to observe. (Using a shorter depth of field will make your point of focus pop out.)

  • The Rising/I’m Going Down: If the perspective is compelling, it’ll entice your reader. Find a point of view that they’ve rarely seen. Get up high, or get your camera down low.

  • Outside Looking In: Find natural windows to offer unique compositions. Shoot between a pair of trees or a gap in the bushes. Again, this will give the landscape a point of focus.

  • Blinded by the Light: Interesting lighting schemes will turn an ordinary landscape completely dynamic. Silhouettes (or heavily back-lighting your subjects), are a great technique. Meter on a bright point behind your subject and shoot to render distinguishable forms.

  • Thunder Road (until Bruce writes a tune called “Use a Tripod,” we’ll just stick with this): Being that landscapes are mostly static, adding a bit of motion goes a long way. This works particularly good when you need to shoot traffic scenes and waterways. Set your camera on a tripod and make aim for exposures that last at least a few seconds.

Charles Russo

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  1. Great ideas and pictures. Of course, I also loved the Bruce Springsteen references!

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