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Page 1 Ashley Hockenberry

Written By onci on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | 6:29 AM

Natural Landscapes by Ashley Hockenberry

The area of photography I focus on the most is the landscape. The first thing I will say about landscape photography is that it is not as easy as it looks and there is always something new to learn. I have endeavoured to learn from the best, so I will pass along what I have learned not only first hand but also from others whose work I admire.

What makes for great landscape photography?

1.) Make use of the Golden Hours

The early morning and late evening light are ideal times for landscape shooting. These are the times before and after harsh daytime light, after glare and reflections have a chance to creep in and ruin conditions. Here is the problem for me - I am NOT a morning person, however, accomplished landscape photographers will be up early, often before sunrise, with camera and tripod in place waiting for the sun to rise. I have done this before thinking that I would be the only person out at a particular spot, only to find other devotees, more committed than myself.

Why are landscapes better if they are taken at these times? There is something very eye-pleasing about the subdued tones, soft light and the glow of the sun at these times, which also reflects on the landscape itself, the clouds, the trees, the lake, ocean, etc.

2.) Using a Tripod.

Yes, these are inconvenient, sometimes heavy, sometimes awkward devices which can at times give you a backache; however, they really make a difference when it comes to shots for which a longer exposure is necessary. Any camera shake is deadly and a tripod is the only way to go. Do I ever shoot handheld? Yes, at times, during midday or in the afternoon or when I am traveling as a tourist and a tripod is not practical, but otherwise, you will want to have one for all your serious shots.

3.) Keep your ISO low.

Good landscapes will have an ISO at 50, 100 or sometimes 200 for night shots. Am I religious about this? No, but I want to use it as a standard for as little noise and to avoid a grainy appearance. Nice clean photographs are what every landscape photographer is after, ones which have sharp details and vibrant colours. Remember, when you shoot at low ISO, at a lower morning or evening light, you will often need a longer shutter speed and that's where the tripod comes in.

4.) Proper use of Filters

A serious landscape photographer will want to have a ND filter, Split ND filter, Polarizer and a warming filter. These can work wonders in screening out unnecessary harshness in glare and unwanted reflections of light, which help to balance the photographic image. Remember that it is very difficult to meter on one spot and have consistent light throughout the image you capture. At times you have to compensate for this and a filter helps do exactly that.

5.) Remote Switch

If you are clumsy and impatient like me, the remote switch is perfect for you. If you are photographing a waterfall and need a much slower shutter speed and longer exposure, the last thing you want to do is bump the camera when activating the shutter button. The remote switch does it all for you. And if you want to take it one step further, do mirror lockup, which can be configured in your customized settings. Now you are ready to take a serious shot!

6.) Keep your Image sensor clean. Some high-end cameras have self cleaning image sensors, but many require manual cleaning when they become dirty. I have learned the hard way on this one when I had to "clone" out many dust spots which showed up in the image as a result of a dirty sensor. Keep your cleaning kit handy or bring it into the shop for a cleaning session before going out for serious shooting.

7.) The Art of Good Landscape Photography

The aforementioned are all mechanics, but the real secret behind taking good shots is practice and learning in the field. I practice all the time. I also look at a lot of images (tens of thousands) from very good landscape photographers which helps me with my framing and composition, not to mention, it helps you with new ideas for the kinds of images you want to create. I am always on the lookout for a good shot, and will often drive for hours looking for one. I read about places and look for what would be interesting to photograph at those locations.

Try to have a singular focal point in your shot. Try to avoid a cluttered foreground or background which will be distracting. Keep shots simple. The human eye prefers to be drawn into a photograph. Use the Rule of Thirds if possible. Experiment. Take photos of the same subject from different angles and from a higher or lower vantage point if possible. Move around - you will be surprised at the results.

Finally, some of your best images will come from just being in the right place at the right time and experimenting. The key is to always try new things and be willing to challenge yourself.

Ashley Hockenberry
Pickering, Ontario
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