Share Sunday – Advanced Landscape Photography Tips

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For this week’s Share Sunday, we have a YouTube video from Chris Corradino.  The video provides a few landscape photography tips for advanced shooters.  Chris created this video while he was out shooting the landscape in Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania (USA).

One of Many Landscape Photography Tips

As Chris explains, he has planned out in advance the picture(s) he is hoping to take.  When doing this, he was using a technique called pre-visualization.  This is an important skill to learn to accomplish, especially for landscape photographers.  Have you ever driven by a place and thought, “man that would be a great picture”?  Have you ever taken a picture and when reviewing it thought, “I wish I could have taken that picture at sunset”?  If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are already pre-visualizing.

Pre-visualizing is simply planning out pictures ahead of time.  It’s doing your research.  There are numerous tools available to assist landscape photographers such as Google Maps and Google Earth.  In addition to planning out pictures, pre-visualizing helps you train your eyes to frame scenes without the help of your camera.  This is an excellent skill for photographers to practice.  The more you practice this, the easier it will be to frame a scene when you are using your camera and you only have one chance to get that perfect picture.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Chris talks about using his neutral density filter (with the Cokin P holder system) for taking this specific shot.  What he fails to mention is that he is actually using a graduated neutral density filter.  (A regular neutral density filter is simply the top half of the graduated filter.  It blocks out light throughout the whole scene.)  Take a look at a comparison of the two below. The left filter is a neutral density filter, while the right filter is a graduated neutral density filter.

The use of graduated neutral density filters is much debated among photographers.  In the film days, graduated neutral density filters were essential when shooting scenes such as Chris’s wide angle sunset shot.  This allows the camera to handle the wide dynamic range in a shot with a dark foreground and a bright sky.  If you aren’t a fan of post processing or you’re still shooting film, then Chris’s method of taking this photograph is the most effective.  Because of the amazing post processing tools available to photographers today, it is almost unnecessary to carry around an extra, large filter (or three) in your already too heavy camera bag.

The same effect achieved with Chris’s graduated neutral density filter can be obtained in at least two different ways:

  • First, if the dynamic range of the image isn’t TOO large (or even if it is sometimes), you can use a program such as Adobe Lightroom (or Apple’s Aperture) to darken the sky down to the same exposure as the foreground.  Lightroom has a build in graduated neutral density filter than can be adjusted for any exposure, angle and place in the photo.  This can be a great tool.
  • The second way a scene with a wide dynamic range can be captured is by taking multiple photographs.  If you are able to capture a photograph with each section of the photo correctly exposed, then in post processing you will be able to merge these two (or more) photos into one.  This processes can also be done using an HDR technique (however it doesn’t need to end up with the over processed look characteristic of HDR photos).

Using Flash for Landscape Photography

Most people don’t even consider using flash for landscape photography, however it can be useful in some situations.  For some of Chris’s photos, he opted to use a flash to fill in “the details in the rocks.”  This is an interesting choice in the situation as he was already using a graduated neutral density filter.  Another option would have been to use a brighter filter and a shorter exposure.  By using the four stop grad. ND filter, he increased the dynamic range of the image.  Personally, I think the flash in this photo creates a strange effect.  The first 5 feet of rocks in front of the camera are bright, but then the middle of the photo all the way till the light from the sunset is fairly dark.  This looks unnatural and I think it creates a very low contrast picture.  Perhaps without the fill flash the small holes between the rocks would have been darker, boosting the contrast of the image.

All that being said, this is a great video and Chris creates a great photograph.  The video allows you to observe him and he plans, composes, adjusts and takes the picture.  It is always helpful for every level of photographer to observe other photographer’s methods of capturing their images.

The Video

So without further ado, enjoy Chris’s video entitled “Advanced Landscape Photography Tips”:

What do you think? How did you like the video?

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