“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”—Ansel Adams
Other than shooting infrared landscapes, I’m not known as a landscape photographer. Nevertheless, many years ago, I developed a series of personal rules on the “what” and “how” for photographing landscapes that I still follow today. These four principles are not cast in concrete and are presented here only as guidelines for your own explorations in landscape photography.
- Photograph locally
- Use a lens with a wide angle-of-view
- Create maximum depth-of-field
- Saturate colors
When you focus any lens, either manually or automat-ically, it focuses on a specific subject and all of the subject matter that is on the same plane of focus (at that distance) are critically sharp. Objects that are not on the same plane of focus or distance are theoretically out of focus and not as sharp but there is a range of acceptable sharpness that is referred to as the depth-of-field.
At typical shooting distances, about one-third of the area of depth-of-field is in front of the plane of critical focus and two-thirds are behind it. Increasing depth-of-field in an image also increases the image’s apparent level of sharpness by including more objects in the scene that are acceptably sharp.
Depth-of-field varies depending on lens focal length, focusing distance, and aperture. Using a lens with a wider angle-of-view increases apparent depth-of-field (guideline #2) while using a longer focal length lens decreases it. My personal rule for landscape photography was to always use the smallest smallest possible aperture to produce the greatest amount of depth-of-field. The old rule of thumb being that as the aperture size decreases, the depth-of-field increases and vice versa. Increasing the size of the lens aperture decreases depth-of-field and the area of acceptable sharpness.
Tip: To maintain maximum image quality you may choose to set your ISO at the lowest possible setting, while selecting a smaller apertures. This set of choices may mean that you may have to use a tripod to steady your camera because of the slow shutter speeds produced by these small apertures.If you have time read, ‘Reasons why you should use a tripod.’
Using a tripod has attributes that are more useful than just keeping the camera steady. Working with a tripod enforces a slower more deliberate approach to composing the images, so a side benefit is that the composition of your image may be a little stronger as a result.