What’s in a Landscape?
Landscapes are probably the most popular subjects to photograph. The reason for this is probably because they are pleasant and are always there for us. The problem is that because of their popularity, it is very difficult to make a particular landscape image stand out!
You could be forgiven for thinking that landscape images are strictly pictures of natural scenery such as mountains, seaside’s, forests and valleys. These subjects are landscape but don’t forget the ‘manmade’ landscapes. In some cases urban landscapes may not be considered ‘landscape’ photography but an excellently taken cityscape can be as striking as any other such as the image above of the New York City skyline taken from the Staten Island Ferry.
When to Shoot Landscapes
Lighting and the quality of lighting is an extremely important factor in all subjects in photography, landscape is no different. The advantage the studio photographer has is that he/she can create the lighting effects they desire. The landscape photographer is at the mercy of the lighting conditions that are present at the time of the shoot. There is no way to alter lighting in landscape photography.
It is generally agreed amongst landscape photographers that early morning or late evening lighting is best. This is when the sun is at an angle. This gives shadow detail that creates depth in an image. Also sunlight can change in colour at very early morning or late evening to give a more dramatic effect. Mid day sunlight tends not to bring up great detail in a landscape causing the image to look flat and lacking in vibrancy.
What Format is best for Landscapes?
With landscapes in order to render detail to its limit, the bigger the image area (digital sensor or negative) the better. Most professional landscape photographers will use medium or large format film cameras. The large film format allows for sharper, more defined image quality.
The resolution of digital cameras is now as good as most film cameras. Some digital cameras would be perfectly suitable for taking landscape images for certain purposes.
What’s the ‘best’ lens for Landscape zoom or fixed (prime) lens ?
For landscape photography a fixed focal length lens is usually the preferred choice. There are a few reasons for this.
- One is that the image sharpness of a fixed focal length lens is better, in particular around the edges of the image. This is assuming that the two lenses compared are of equivalent quality. Having said this, the difference is extremely slight and would only be noticed on very large enlargements.
- The fixed 28mm lens will tend to be faster, normally f2.8 which makes for a brighter viewfinder. Zoom lenses tend to be around f4 or f5.6 for the same focal length.
- Weight is another consideration, fixed lenses are lighter because they have fewer parts within them, which also makes them smaller.
- Another advantage of the fixed focal length lens is the control of depth of field.
Zoom lenses, because of their design, have very poor depth of field markings. This makes it difficult to calculate depth of field. Fixed lenses however have very accurate depth of field scales that used correctly, will ensure good sharpness throughout the image. With any bit of experience in landscape photography you will soon learn that the control of depth of field is important.
If you would like to know more about shooting landscape why not take our Landscape Photography Course. Everything you need to know about how to capture great landscapes is here Landscape Photography Course