Blaen y Glyn Uchaf – Bannau Brycheiniog May 2018
Try these tips for planning a landscape shoot
Landscape photography is a classic subject of the photographic genre with much written online and in books. In this post, I’m going to concentrate on how to plan a landscape shoot as this topic is not greatly discussed elsewhere. Your landscape photography will take a step forward if you know where to go and at what time to be there to capture the light.
Planning – The reason why? I would suggest that you think about the reason why you want to take a particular shot in the chosen location. What is it that you are trying to capture? What is the attraction? When do you need to be there so that the light and subject are performing for you?
Right Place, Light and Time It is said that a good photographer knows “where to stand and when to press the button”. You might be in the right place at the right time but the light is not being helpful. Much landscape photography is done in the golden hours of around dawn and sunset. If you are a night person you will not easily be drawn to taking pictures at dawn. It seems to me if you’re that way disposed subjects with good sunset possibilities may suit your body clock better.
“Photograph the light not the landscape”
Inspiration from other photographers
There are many sources of inspiration from other photographers this may be in the form of books, monographs and walking guides. Of course, there are online sites that provide pictures of the landscape such as Google maps, Flickr, Scoutt.com and Instagram. There are more than 85 million pictures on Instagram with the hashtag landscape.
Another source of inspiration to help your planning would be from dedicated landscape photography websites were hopefully the quality of the pictures will be higher than those in general circulation.
As we move into a world that is becoming increasingly Internet-connected it will be great to think that wherever you are you will have an Internet connection. If you’re in some wild and remote place the chance of having a connection is probably small. Therefore, it is good planning to have paper maps that do not rely on the vagaries of the ether to help you get to and from your destinations.
It is also a good idea to mark-up paper maps with a highlighter pen with your locations and potentially the route as well. You can sequence all of the locations if you are going to be doing more than one shoot in an area. We will be looking at electronic maps a little later to do the same function.
Books and monographs of landscape photographs are all great sources of inspiration. Particularly look at the location where a specific shot was taken from. Your chosen viewpoint is critical to the success of the shot. Therefore, researching effective viewpoints before and at the location is a way to improve your landscape photography.
If you want to take pictures in an area that is new to you, is it possible that you can find somebody with good local knowledge to link up with? Local knowledge is always the best kind. Your local guide will be able to put you in the right place at the right time when the light and subject matter come together. But that does not mean that you can forego the necessity for research and planning.
As you build up your knowledge of your location you will be able to see the range of possibilities that are open to you at different times of the year and with different lighting. Familiarity is a great tool to expand the possibilities of subject selection. The better you know the place equates to more opportunities there are for you to shoot.
Planning with online resources
There is a whole range of online resources that can help you plan a landscape photography shoot. The online resources noted here are just a very small smattering of what is available, I am sure you will have your own personal preference for websites and Apps that work well for you.
The Ordnance Survey provides online maps that become more useful the more you pay. Just a thought – are the maps usable when you do not have an Internet connection? There is a free 7 day trial period just to get you started.
I use Google maps all the time for research and finding out how long it would take me to get to my location. Street view is also excellent if you are looking for a particular building in a location that you never been before.
Also built into Google maps is the ability to create your own maps this function is called “My Maps”. With My Maps, you have the ability to mark up a virtual map that you can then have available off-line. When you marking up the map, mark your route and locations with your own annotations or notes.
To access My Maps go to the menu bar on the top left of a Google map click on the drop-down select Your Places from the top menu select Maps. At the bottom of the page, there is the ability to create a new map. Once the new map is given a name and Saved you can use all the online tools available. My maps are saved in Google Drive and can be printed from there if required.
I tend not to use Google Earth that much I find there is everything I need within Google maps.
The Photographers Ephemeris
An essential tool for any landscape photographer is the Photographers Ephemeris website. Essentially this website tells you the direction of the lighting from the sun on any given day or time. Therefore, you can plan to the nearest minute if you want side lighting to describe texture on a surface. This is a very useful tool that is available free online with the website or as a paid for App to take with you on your phone.
Mobile Phone Apps
Weather apps can be useful for giving a general indication as to what might be happening at your location during that day. If you’re in the mountains even with a highly localised weather forecast it will be at best a guess. It doesn’t matter what whether App you use we all have our own personal preferences but I can only repeat it will be a forecast not a certainty.
Tide Times App
If you’re going to be photographing the sea or in a coastal area for your own safety it is a good idea to know what the tide is doing, coming in or going out. It is so easy to become cut off in a secluded bay by the incoming tide. Tide timetables are available online so you can plan to be in a location at high or low tide that will help you get the most photographic opportunities.
CoPilot GPS App
I was recently introduced to the CoPilot app that has the benefit of not relying on an Internet connection. This app works on the satellite system circling the earth so in theory should be more useful in remote locations. It has a free trial period and then costs around £18.
Lightroom Map Module
The Lightroom map module is a great way to place markers on a Google map with the places where you have taken pictures. Just select the pictures in the Filmstrip and drag them on to the map, it’s as easy as that. It is best done as soon as you get home from a shoot so you have a good idea exactly where you have been.