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Travel Photography: Tips For Great Landscape Photos

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Photography with landscape as the focus has been growing in popularity and is a favorite among the enthusiastic photographers, both veteran and newbie. There are many beautiful photos out there to be sure. However, there are some common mistakes that are often made; these can easily corrected, thankfully.

Beachcombers in Long Beach
Beachcombers in Long Beach, Puerto Galera

Horizons That Are Crooked

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At times when taking a photograph that has a long stretching horizon line, it may appear uneven, crooked, or down-right curved. The reason for this can be as simple as the way nature is- bent tree branches, jagged rocks, curving shorelines, and hills and mountains. These elements can create the illusion of a crooked or slanted horizon. It is important to keep these elements of a nature shot in mind and to adjust for them to ensure the horizon is indeed straight when you finally snap that photo. This is easily achieved by paying attention to the hold you have on the camera and the angle and tilt of the camera as you get the right perspective either one side to the other or tilted a little more towards the front or back of the camera.

South Palms Resort Panglao Island
South Palms Resort Panglao Island

Making sure the horizon in your photos is straight is of great importance because while certain elements such as trees, fences and rocks can be crooked, when the horizon is not level it can destroy the impact of the photo. It can be a challenge to ensure a level horizon, but as with many other things in life practice makes perfect!

Editing can solve slight problems in horizon alignment by simply using the rotating tool and doing some selective cropping with a digital photo program. Whether you use an expensive program like Photoshop or a free program like GIMP, the wonders of technology can make correcting these minor issues much easier and less stressful.

Horizons That Are Centered

A relatively new revelation to some photographers is a new application of the old rule of 3rds. Beyond the typical standard of using the grid for setting up and framing photos, there is another impact for this rule, and that is creating even stronger nature based photos.

Campo Santo of Nagcarlan's Underground Cemetery
Campo Santo of Nagcarlan’s Underground Cemetery

When you line up a horizon in your shot, it creates a stronger and more dramatic finished result when the horizon is either in the upper 3rd or lower 3rd of the photograph. Having more sky above or ground below creates a stronger image than having the horizon lined up in the very center of the photograph.

Using this method gives a strong sense of expanse and depth to an image. Centering the horizon in the shot diminishes this effect and weakens the photo. So by simply shifting the horizon up or down in the shot, you can turn a good photo in a breath taking one with a very interesting composition and feel.

Not Letting The Light Work For You

Light is a very powerful tool for any photographer, experienced or novice, and being able to manipulate and use light to work for you is the greatest skill a photographer can possess. Light can expose or cloak aspects of a photograph, it can pull our attention to something or make something fade into the background. Using the flow and direction of light is of great importance, especially when taking landscape photography.

Nagacadan Rice Terraces in Kiangan Ifugao
Nagacadan Rice Terraces in Kiangan Ifugao

Seeing the way shadows fall, the light filters through clouds or tree branches, and the glow that certain light can give are all aspects of lighting that impact the nature photographer. With digital photography it is easier now to experiment and take those photos without worrying so much whether or not it’s a ‘great photo’- digital photos can be deleted without wasting film. So get out there, experiment, and have fun playing with the light.

Light Details- Color, Direction, and Quality

You may not think of light having a color but it does. Light at sunrise and sunset is very warm. Light at high noon is bright and harsh. Light on a cloudy day is grey and hazy. These conditions impact the look and feel of the photo. The same thing can be photographed at different times of the day and you will end up with vastly different photos each time.

Batad Rice Terraces in Ifugao
Batad Rice Terraces in Ifugao

The direction that light comes from can have a huge impact on the final result and the strength and impact of a photo. When it comes from the left or right of the image, light highlights and brings out more details. Light that comes behind the camera obscures details in the image. When the subject is in front of the light with it coming from behind the focus point of the photo, light creates drama.

Quality is also important to consider when taking nature photos. Harsh bright light is better for large expansive shots so that the light does not overpower the details of close up images; it helps focus the details of farther away objects- mountains, hill sides, or a large group of people. Darker, grey, filtered light is ideal for close up small subjects because the details will not be obscured by the glare of bright light- flowers, animals, and children are best in filtered light that offers enough light to see details but not so much that there is a bad glare.

With these tips in your mind, photographing great nature and landscape photos should be a easy and enjoyable experience, and the results will be some of the most breath-taking photos you have taken.

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