The art of landscape photography is dictated by the natural light available and as such is largely about the weather and being in the right place at the right time. There are two times of the day when most landscapers agree the light will give the best results – the first and last hours of the day, otherwise known as the “golden hours” (or magic hours). However, as the landscape photographer has no control over the light source (the sun) it can be a waiting game, which often results in the light not meeting expectations. Getting to know weather patterns, looking at weather forecasts and keeping an eye on what’s happening in the sky can tell you a lot about what light conditions may eventuate.
Investigation of the surrounds is also an important element in landscape photography. Getting to know a location, its best features, the best viewpoints, what time of day and season to visit all contribute towards capturing that special image.
However more than any other factor, composition is the key element in landscape photography. A technically well executed image can be mundane if the composition is weak. Compositional techniques such as the “rule-of-thirds”, foreground interest, lead-in-lines, layers and planes, and different viewpoints are all tools used by landscapers. Composition is the art of arranging the elements of a scene in such a way they are visually pleasing and knowing what to include in the frame and also what to leave out. Generally a simple uncluttered composition can be the most successful. Having the “eye” to visualise and compose an image is a key skill for a landscape photographer to create a strong image.
I take all my images in colour but convert some to black and white when I can see it suits the image better. Composition of black and white images needs to be much stronger because of the absence of colour. The viewer’s eye focuses on other aspects of the shot, such as shape, form and texture. Also with black and white images you don’t need great weather conditions, as a dark, brooding sky can create a lot of drama to an image. Another advantage of a black and white image is that it can be hung on any interior wall, without the risk of its clashing with wall’s colour.
Interestingly, the Tidal River and East Cape Beach black & white image you see on this site are the most popular images viewed. The Tidal River image won me an award and was published in the UK Digital SLR User Magazine with some very nice critiques.