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Mountain Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography Guide - Basics

A guide to landscape photography

photograph just before Sunset in The Julian Alps Slovenia taken from Dom Planika
Mountain Photography - Looking down from Mala Mojstrovka
Landscape photography Great and Green Gable at sunset in the lake district

Getting Started

For some time I have been thinking about putting together a collection of articles on landscape photography, a way of passing on the things I have learned and found useful. So here it goes; the first one is about how I got started and some advice when buying equipment.

For me, the love of the mountains encouraged me to take up photography; it seemed the right thing to do. I have always been interested in art from a young age and taking up landscape photography was another way to express my creative side. More importantly, it doesn't stop me from being in the mountains where both my wife and I love to be.....everyone's a winner!

Seriously though, I think it is important to have a real enthusiasm for the subject matter you specialise in. If you really love the subject then I believe this will show in your work. It also helps to maintain interest when things are not going to plan. It can be frustrating when a shot doesn't turn out right and you need to return to the same spot and try again, so being enthusiastic about the subject is very important otherwise you might not go back!

Patience….. this is something else you need in abundance! I keep telling myself I must be patient, when the time is right all will be good.

Unfortunately good light is not always available and we have to temper our desire to take great shots when it has gone into hiding. I find it really frustrating at times when all I want to do is go out with the camera and I wake up to a grey blanket of cloud. Grey stormy skies I love, they are just as interesting as beautiful sunsets. It’s the days when the cloud is two feet off the ground and nothing looks interesting! These are the days I read about photography, spend time building the website and preparing new images. When the weather improves, all is well again and happiness is restored!

Patience for me also means not dashing off after grabbing one good shot or leaving if things aren’t quite so perfect! Chill, relax, be patient!! Light has a habit of changing and if you leave early you could be missing out on the best shot of the day!


What Camera should I get?

This is something that is frequently asked and to be honest, there is little difference between the top manufacturers. They all produce good gear and it should come down to personal choice. Does it feel comfortable to hold, is the view finder clear enough, are the buttons easy to reach or do you accidentally press buttons when you shouldn’t. These questions will only be answered by going down to your local camera store and holding the cameras in question. I don't think anyone can tell you exactly what camera to buy as it may have all the right functions but not suit the way you work!

As to which camera is the best in range, I leave that down to the many photography gear review sites that are around. Before you buy a camera though, think about how you are going to use it, do you need 90 frames per second if you are going to shoot mountain landscapes? Don’t be had by the marketers who will try to convince you that you need something when you don’t.

Crop or Full Frame Camera?

Before the digital age kicked off all SLR cameras were of course film based, the size of the film used was 24mm x 36mm and this is the size of today's full frame sensors. All sensors that are smaller than this are referred to as crop sensors and have a numerical value to confirm the size of the sensor, 1.3x, 1.5x, 1.6x etc etc.

Every camera manufacturer has a slightly different set up when it comes to the sensors used within their cameras. Canon for instance has three different sensor sizes in their range alone, full frame, 1.3x 1.6x; If you were to use the same lens on a full frame camera and then on a camera with a 1.5x cropped sensor, you would find the field of view to be 1.5 times smaller on the crop sensor camera. The two graphics below show the potential impact this would have on your photographs. Another way to think of it, if you use a 50mm lens on a 1.5x crop sensor it is the equivalent of using a 75mm lens on a full frame camera.

After checking out your local camera shop and online reviews, the next thing to influence whether you go full frame or not is the subject matter you shoot, your budget and the quality of lenses you have. You can spend serious money buying a full frame camera so if it is your first you might want to go for a for a crop sensor, it will be more than sufficient and gives you a chance to buy good quality lenses before moving on to a full frame camera. Full frame cameras have a habit of showing all the imperfections that cheaper lenses have, so go for good quality glass to begin with. Of course if money is no option, full frame and top of the range lenses would be great for landscape photography!! If you have any spare cash I would like a Zeiss 21mm f2.8 T for a Canon :-)

What lenses?

Investing in good quality lenses is always worthwhile. A good lens will last a lifetime and can be used on new generations of camera from the same manufacture. I can guarantee, what ever you spend on your camera you can spend several times that amount on lenses, it’s easily done, trust me! One of the hardest things I have found is controlling the desire for new lenses. Lens envy can take hold at any time, don’t let your guard down otherwise it will bleed your wallet dry!!

If your budget allows (it’s good to set a budget) get yourself a wide zoom and a mid-long zoom. Fixed focal lengths (prime lenses) are even better but lack the flexibility, so start off with a zoom or two at first and add prime lenses later.

On a crop Camera - 10-20mm and 70-200mm

Full frame camera - 17-40mm and 100-400mm

This of course is based on my experience and other people may add other lenses but as a starting point this would allow you to take a good variety of landscape shots. If you can only afford to get one lens, go for the wide angle and save up for the longer lens.

Anything else?

There is always something else but lets keep things realistic. Other than the camera and lens/es there is one other item I would recommend you invest in, a set of 100mm ND graduated filters. These filters will help balance those beautiful skies with the land. If you don’t you will end up with blown highlights or over exposed land. Yes you can use Photoshop to balance out the difference between land and sky but if the camera has recorded blown highlights, then they cannot be retrieved and bracketing requires 2-3 shots at least meaning a tripod is required. Get it right in the camera and it makes the processing much easier!

Next Landscape Photography guide will be on exposure.... watch this space! Thanks for reading.


Next time I will be talking about exposure.... watch this space! Thanks for reading.


Landscape Photography

Every time I venture out I look forward to the challenge of capturing the raw emotion inside when I'm faced
with the shear beauty of the world we live in. Whether it is the exposure of a steep ridge at 4000 metres, the
tranquility of large sweeping vistas or the secretive world of the local wildlife I can't help but feel lucky to be there
and my landscape photography helps me to remember those magical moments.If I can look back at a photograph of a mountain or
landscape and remember what it felt like to be there then I can say the photograph really works for me.

Mountain Photography

My wife Rebecca and I both have a deep love for the mountains and photography and spend a lot of time in Scotland,
The Lake District and The Alps. We are both keen climbers and mountain bike riders. This mixed with my background in
commercial illustration inspired me to try and capture these moments in print and to share them with you.
The complete tranquility of being sat outside in a beautiful landscape, waiting for the perfect time to take what you
hope to be the perfect landscape photograph is something very special. However, while I love Landscape Photography it will
always come second to the real thing, the mountains will always come first!

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