Chasing, "The Perfect Light".

As landscape photographers one of the things we often find ourselves obsessed about is chasing the light. And while this mindset can allow us to create some of the most amazing images it can also become a crutch limiting both our creativity and the images we images we produce.

Learning to appreciate the subtle transitions in texture as the light moves across the landscape not only not only allows us to better enjoy our time spent in the vast outdoors but also nurture greater opportunities to express ourselves more creatively.

Your Expectations can also create limitations

When I first began my journey as a landscape photographer, I was obsessed with creating images only when there was a burning sunrise or sunset. I would constantly check my weather apps daily hoping for conditions that would show promise of amazing colour and perfect clouds. And although every now and then I was blessed with the perfect conditions to make an amazing image I was often met with utter failure in less than ideal conditions forced to walk away unable to create the image I had hoped.

The expectation of ‘the perfect light’, can greatly limit our opportunities in the field

As a landscape photographer the expectation of, 'the perfect light' can create two possibilities; one you either head out to your location hoping for the perfect conditions only to be disheartened when the light doesn't take shape as you'd hoped or two, consult your 'trusty' weather app and if it doesn't forecast the conditions you hope for you stay indoors and watch TV. If you're thinking that option two seems the more practical approach the truth is neither mindset will help you become a better photographer. For myself, the expectation of, 'the perfect light' has been something which as all too often served as a disappointment limited my creativity and a landscape photographer and ultimately in the images I created.

When we commit our landscape photography to shooting in, ‘the perfect light’, we not only limit our vast opportunities to become more versatile photographers but also to shorten the time spent in the field experiencing the landscapes to find and refine our compositions.

Get out early & stay out late

If you're the type of landscape photographer who likes to shoot 15 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset, I urge you to consider shooting a bit longer. Try getting to your location a couple of hours earlier to find a composition you really like and continue shooting until the light has faded.

By doing this you'll not only be able to discover amazing compositions but also gain a better understanding of how the light interacts with the key elements within the landscape. Arriving to the location 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise or sunset is never going to allow you to find compelling compositions to make a great image.

There's never enough time

Any landscape photographer who has a full time job then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If you fall into that category then you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to create a body of images from several locations?" Or, "Do I want to create a body of work for my portfolio?"

Spending more time in any landscape allows you to better experience the scene as the light moves across the landscape. If you've never experienced it you'd be surprised just how much the light can change within the space of an hour before and sunrise to sunset often creating a soft yet moody atmosphere emphasizing the foreground and mid-ground elements of your composition.

Take the Challenge

Challenge yourself by spending more time in the landscape. I guarantee that you'll not only be able to find that compelling composition to create a stunning image but other compositions to open up opportunities to create other images you otherwise would have walked past.

Try not to fall into the trap of chasing, 'the perfect light'. If the forecast shows less than ideal conditions get out anyway. It doesn't matter if it's several hours before or after sunset, take time to explore the landscape.

How else are you going to find a compelling composition?

When shooting seascapes don't be afraid to take your camera hand held and get close to the waves. Shooting a wide vista? Try using your telephoto lens to pick out areas within the landscape you find interesting. Spend time looking for light and shadow (contrast) within the landscape and don't forget to include a human element in the frame to show scale. Use that 10-Second Timer and get yourself in the shot (you'll need a tripod for this). And when you cant find anything that strikes your interest, look at your feet. Take 100 steps from the point your standing and look down. I guarantee you'll find something to make a great abstract image.

Now get out there and Happy Shooting :)

The Difficulty Of Landscape Photography

Many of the comments I often receive from persons who view my work are along the lines of, "I wish I could take images like yours." or, "Unless I have an amazing camera I just don't think I'll ever be able to take such amazing images." Well the truth is, everyone is creative and everyone has a unique talent and that includes YOU. The key is how to apply your creativity and natural talent to create visually appealing images.

Everyone interprets photography in their own original way however how you compose the elements in your frame can make or break your image. And whilst getting your composition spot on to reflect what you see in your mind's eye is one of the most critical and precarious things, one of the things I have learnt and what I teach my students is - There are no absolute rules for any one photograph. The truth is, ever photograph is unique as is every photographer however to create a visually appealing photograph which will force the view look and linger then you need to employ an array of techniques as well as a form of compositional discipline.

Every photo from a compositional view has a subject and you need to know just what that subject is before you even begin to think of composing the image and certainly before you press the shutter. When you're looking at a scene the best way to work out what that subject is can be done by simply answering the following question, "What do I find most interesting?" Once you've done that then it is just a matter how to frame that subject in a visually pleasing way. Look for anything in the frame that distracts from your subject and find a way eliminate or minimize it. You can do this by simply taking a few steps to the right or to the left, lowering yourself, and even moving backward or forward to make the shot work. Then press the shutter.

To sum this up landscape photography is more simple than you think. The difficulty is getting out and exploring these hidden treasures.

Regardless of what camera manufactures want you to believe you really don't need the latest and most expensive gear to make amazing images. All you need is a set of tools known as perseverance & tenacity.

So get out there and happy shooting.

My Gear

My Landscape Photography Gear

Canon 7D - A stunning DSLR offering great image quality and dynamic range.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - An amazing well constructed lens with the optical quality of an L series wide zoom in a prosumer barrel.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM - A lens I have wanted for a while and one of Canon’s best wide angle lens. Great image quality, very affordable and useful when emphasizing those interesting foregrounds.

Canon 70-200L F/4 (None IS) - An affordable and awesome L series lens.

Manfrotto XPRO Magnesium Ball Head with Two Ivation Replacement Quick Release Plates for the RC2 Rapid Connect Adapter - Offering an excellent shooting platform this ball head has become my go to when out and about creating landscape images.

Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (Black) - An extremely rigid tripod without the need for extra weight to keep it steady on a windy day.

Filters - I use a wide range of Formatt Hitech graduated ND and ND filters with my 85mm Holder along with a circular polarizer for my 95mm Threaded Ring. Second to none I have found Formatt Hitech filters to be best quality filters with little to no color cast.

Lowepro S&F Filter Pouch 100 - The perfect pouch for keeping my filter holder and all my filters safe.

Lowepro Fastpack 250 DSLR Camera Backpack - An excellent camera bag for carrying a lot of equipment.

Tips for Buying Your First Digital Camera

My tips for buying a digital camera is simply about knowing what you want to do with it and which features you need. Have you ever wondered how the pro photographers take fantastic pictures? Is it because master photographers own the best cameras that are usually high-priced and too complex to use for the average person or hobby photographer? Well considering that today's technology have a variety of digital cameras to choose from that can take take high quality photos and can be purchased for an affordable price I think not. First of all, think what you’ll be using the camera for, and which features you think are necessary for the photos you plan on taking. Someone who would use their digital camera for taking  holiday pictures might be comfortable with a simple point and shoot camera that is full automatic and takes care of the background work, such as where to focus, what aperture setting to use and white balance. However for a photographer who likes having more control over his/her shot would generally prefer a more advance camera with more options in its features. Therefore when buying a new camera you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

What will I use the camera for mostly?

How much can i spend?

Which features would I need?

How many (megapixels)is good enough?

Which special brand should I consider, and why is that model better than the other? (Don’t forget to compare everything)

When you've made your decision and purchased your new digital camera it's important that you learn how to maintain it in good condition. Clean your lens on a regular basis and especially before shooting. A dirty lens can result in a blurred and unusable image. Always use a recommended lends cleaning solution and  a cloth (microfiber cloths work best). Using unsuitable materials could severely damage the front element of your lens and render it useless. Understanding how the focus mechanism on your camera works can help you taking better pictures. Almost every digital camera has an auto focus option which works when you press the shutter button halfway down and hold it. Use this feature to lock the focus on your subject and then recompose the shot before you press the shutter fully and take the picture. Using this tip this will allow you to let your main target remain in focus.

Another excellent technique for taking great pictures is to follow the rule of thirds (it's actually more like a guideline) that helps create a satisfying balance between the our main subject and the supporting elements picture. To apply this rule, first separate your screen into 6 sections. This can be done by simply dividing your frame into 3 horizontal and 3 vertical lined equally spaced. Most cameras will have have this feature in live view and can be activated by selecting the grid view. Basically the aim is to place your main subject of the picture close to one of these focal lines. This would  give your picture a finer balance and generally make it more pleasing to look at.