Keep the Horizon Line Straight
What makes a great landscape photograph? That’s something we can talk about for days and days, but what can make a bad one? If you can avoid making these common mistakes when you’re creating your landscape images, then you’re on your way to turning good photos into stellar images.
1. Hold your camera straight.
There is nothing more harmful to an image than a horizon line that is crooked. Several cameras have grids in the viewfinder just for that purpose, so if you have this camera feature, be sure to use it. If you don’t have grids lines, do your best to use the image frame as your guide to being level. If you still have a crooked horizon then you can simply fix it during post-processing.
The most obvious scenes of which one should be observant are places where the water meets the land and where trees should be standing vertically.
2. Using the Wrong Lens?
People often think that landscapes photos should only be created with a wide angle lens. Don’t’ ever set that limit on yourself! Prime focal length, wide angle lenses are great and certainly provide wonderful panoramic landscape photos, but they are certainly not your only choice.
Zoom lenses are our friends. Find your image within the scene, compose it and then look again. 90% of the time there is one special element within the landscape that will capture your attention. Zoom in on it and feature that element – give it prominence. It can take a wide panorama and turn it into an image with personality.
Wide angle – too wide!
3. Triangles in the Corners of the Image Frame
Yes, they are supposedly the kiss of death. I hear it over and over and over from other photographers and those triangles in the corner can be a mark against you if you compete in art shows.
Stems and plants cutting diagonally across the bottom right corner of the frame create a distracting triangle. Just crop them out and one’s eye remains on the subject.
They can indeed be a distraction and something for which to watch when composing your images, but… Keep in mind, you can actually create balance with those triangles if they appear on opposite corners, lead the eye to the subject or are coming from different directions. Let your vision, creativity and your own interpretations be your guide.
While one triangle leads to the broken ice, while the
other triangle of water draws attention to the glacier.
4. Blank Skies
Where are the clouds? We need the clouds! Blank blue or gray skies can be boring, uneventful and can actually create a distraction. Clouds, whether fluffy or stormy add drama and mood to every photograph. Throw in a rainbow or shafts of light coming through the clouds and ‘Walla’ – that landscape just came to life.
If you have no other choice and are unable to return another day, include only a small portion of sky within the photo or remember Tip #2 – use that telephoto lens and focus in on a special feature within the scene.
5. I’ll Come Back!
Driving past a scene or subject that caught your eye and saying, “I’ll get it on the way back” is a common occurrence. Everyone is guilty of this and it’s one of my cardinal rules – never plan to just come back. More times than not, something is bound to happen between the first moment you pasted a scene and those plans to go back – one of which is you get caught up in all the photography you’ve made since and you just plain forgot about it. And even if you do go back, the light is going to be different, maybe better, but maybe worse.
Pull over, turn the car around, listen to the groans of your passengers, and make that photograph. You’ll never regret it.
6. Bad Light Ruins Every Image
You’ve heard it over and over again – the golden hours of light, just after sunrise or before sunset, will provide the best angle, quality and color of light to make those images sing.
But at the moment, you have a great image in front of you on a dark and dreary day. Your choices are to photograph that scene at ISO 1600 or get a blurry image. It’s a BIG RULE – a photograph with noise from using a high ISO is better than no photograph at all! Plus, today’s cameras can give great results even upwards of ISO 1000. Don’t miss out on this opportunity – those days can make for some amazing photos.
Antarctica – ISO 1000
7. I’ll Bring My Camera Next Time
The BIGGEST RULE OF ALL – HAVE A CAMERA WITH YOU! You can’t make the picture if you don’t have a camera. And yes, that iphone you carry is a camera, so be sure to use it too.
Part 2 with more tips will come in the future, but for now, work on these and have fun creating fantastic landscape images.