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Must-Have Filters for Landscape Photography

Must-Have Filters for Landscape Photography

By Nasim Mansurov

While I was photographing the beautiful scenery of the Glacier National Park at sunrise, I realized that some filters are pretty much required to get good results when photographing landscapes. While many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software, while others help in getting even better results in post-processing. If you do not know what filters are and what they are used for, I highly recommend reading my “lens filters explained” article before you continue to read this one.

1) Polarizing Filter

B+W Circular Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is a must-have tool for landscape photography. It is typically the first filter landscape photographers buy to instantly improve their pictures and and add vividness and contrast to them. A polarizer can reduce reflections from objects such as water and glass and can be used to darken the sky, bring out the clouds and even reduce atmospheric haze, making the scene look much more vivid. For all normal lenses that have a filter thread in the front, you can get a circular polarizing filter, also known as a “circular polarizer”. A circular polarizer is very easy to use and once you attach it on the front of your lens, all you need to do is rotate it clockwise or counter-clockwise to get a different amount of polarization. Polarizing filters work by blocking certain light waves from entering the lens. Rotating a polarizer allows certain types of light waves to pass through, while blocking other ranges of light waves. Thus, you could turn a sky from light blue to very dark blue or increase/decrease reflections by simply rotating the filter.

The effect of polarization cannot be reproduced or simulated in post-processing, especially when dealing with natural reflections. Take a look at the below image:

Read more about Neutral Density Filters and more via Must-Have Filters for Landscape Photography.

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in HDR, Landscape, Post Processing, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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TUTORIAL: What’s your time of day? (Part 2) Shooting at Second Light

By tom dinning via Light Stalking

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning who, besides being a professional photographer, teacher and mini-celebrity in the Light Stalking community, has also shared some very popular tutorials in the forums and in other posts.

If you have recovered from my recent post on shooting at first light, you might be ready for something a little more sedate. Enjoy breakfast with your partner, have an extra cup of coffee, even suggest your partner might like to come along (…on second thoughts, tell him/her you’re going to the dentist). Today we are photographing in that lovely light after sunrise.

Second light – Botanic Gardens.

I call this second light because, although I hate getting up too early, my preference is still for the light before sunrise. Still, it’s a great time to be out and about, especially if you’ve pulled a ‘sicky’ from work to join me.

I’m heading for the local Botanic Gardens for no particular reason than it’s there. My kit is made up of the usual suspects: a wide zoom (14 -24mm) and mid (24-70mm) but I’ve added a macro and a long focal length (200mm) for good reason as you will see.

Today is bright and sunny so I make sure I have all my lens hoods and a hat (that’s for my balding head). The tripod is always with me. In my experience, this time of the day can be deceiving. There seems to be heaps of light about but the shadows are quite dark so there could be some moderately long shutter speeds, especially if I want an extended depth of field.

(If you’re a beginner and I’ve just lost you with that stuff about depth of field and shutter speed, ask someone on Light Stalking to explain it to you. They’re really good at that.)

In my part of the world, this time of the day always seems extra saturated with the colours and the tonal contrast is amazing. So, I take full advantage of this. It’s what I call ‘shooting for the conditions’. I can’t change the climate but I can learn to live with it.

My eyes immediately begin to search the landscape for places where this saturation and contrast brings out the best in the frame. Deep green shadows are avoided. Speckled light is hard to expose correctly so I move out into the open.

Botanic Gardens are designed. So it’s worth looking for vista’s, frames within your frame, and nooks that have been purposefully constructed to catch one’s eye.

The low angle of the Sun provides beautiful backlight, rimming the tree trunks and highlighting the foliage. I walk and watch towards the Sun. seeking out long shadows that can be used to lead the eye.

Foreground and background are important but it’s easy to clutter the frame with too much. To avoid this, I take full advantage of my walking shoes and seek the best perspective before shooting; always endeavoring to keep that sun in the background.

‘But shooting into the sun?’ I hear you say. With a bit of maneuvering, the sun can be tucked behind some foliage or a tree trunk. You will need to  watch that histogram for blow-outs (sorry, there’s nothing wrong with the tires on your car). If you’re not sure how to use it, read the Light Stalking article on how to read a histogram.

Go for detail in the shadows if you can and let the sun burn out a bit behind the trees. It gives a nice halo effect and gives the impression of a brilliant sunny day. But don’t overdo it.

Since it’s usually quiet this time of the morning there’s always an opportunity for a self-portrait. Seats are placed strategically among the trees for effect as well as rest, so include them in your shots.

Also look for those special plants, unusual textures, surprising angles and, of course, the obligatory close-up.

One thing I learnt from this trip was to watch where I leave my kit. This is the time when the gardeners are testing their sprinkler system. At least it saves me washing this week.

For some reason, Botanic Gardens are not heavily frequented by wildlife. I have more birds in my back yard. I did find a few grazing geese and a spider, but other than a stray dog and a dead cane toad, I was the only animal in the park – and even my zoological status has been questioned by some.

Now its time to finish up. You’ll have enough time to download this lot before settling on a nice lunch and a glass of Chard. Then prepare yourself for the midday run.

Thanks for joining me.

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning.

via Light Stalking » TUTORIAL: What’s your time of day? (Part 2) Shooting at Second Light.

 

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TUTORIAL: What’s Your Time of Day (Part 1)- Shooting at First Light

By tom dinning via Light Stalking

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning who, besides being a professional photographer, teacher and mini-celebrity in the Light Stalking community, has also shared some very popular tutorials in the forums and in other posts.

Recently I had a browse through my files to see if there was any consistency with the times of day I choose to take photographs for my own pleasures. To my surprise, there was an even split between early morning, mid-morning, midday, late afternoon and evening. Its good that I’m not a creature of habit.

I though it might be a good exercise to examine each of these times of day in terms of the photo’s  taken and the issues that arise during the preparation stage and the recording of the images.

So here’s the first.

EARLY MORNING – COAST

First Light. Nightcliff Beach NT

I’m not good in the morning so the first preparation for such an event is to psych myself up weeks in advance for a possible 4am start. The next bit of preparation is to prime Christine for the awakening for fear she may be expecting something more than a gentle kiss goodbye. She’s even grumpier than me in the morning.

High tide. Myilly Point NT

Since I want everything to be just right for such a monumental occasion I check the sunrise times well in advance. I’m also interested in the time for first light, since I want some preparation time when I arrive at my destination. My preference for the coastline means I need to check the tides. Low tide is best where I live. It allows access to the beaches. It’s also more visually interesting since there will be many isolated pools along the beach for those nice reflections. All the information you need with regard to sunrise, first light and tides can be obtained through the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website (in Australia) or the equivalent in your country. While you’re there, check the weather. You don’t want to be caught out in the rain, but a few clouds add interest to the sky.

Casuarina Beach NT

Checking the equipment the night before is part of the routine. Clean your sensor. Those funny little spots will show up against a clear sky at small apertures. Charge your batteries and take a spare. I’m not big on long focal lengths but that’s just me. I find myself using wide to mid-range (anything between 14mm and 70mm). A tripod is essential since you will probably be shooting at shutter speeds slow enought to write in your diary while taking the shot.

Tidal pool. Casuarina Beach NT

Getting there before the first glow of light needs a torch if you have some interesting ground to cover. It helps to find your way, locate things in the kit bag, provides a reading light for your camera knobs and dials if you haven’t learnt to find them in the dark yet, and, if its a big enough torch, it will fend off the dogs and muggers ( and the odd croc in my part of the world).

Casuarina Beach NT

It’s always good to check out the scene from a vantage point and grab a few shots to start with but usually I reconnoitre the spot a few days before so I know what I’m in for. Moving around in the dark in unfamiliar territory is risky for an old bloke like myself.

Rock outcrop. Nightcliff Beach NT

Shooting from water level creates great foreground for the shots. Look for items along the beach that might serve as points of interest. Watch how the light reflects from the water. Look for points of contrast as focal points in your frame.

This can be a time of solitude as well. Encompass that feeling and get it in the frame. Simplicity and the light is all you need to work with.

Casuarina Beach NT

Think in B&W as well. The tones will be subtle but worth capturing.

Little Watego’s Beach, NSW

Keep your shutter speed long enough to blur the movement of water. If the clouds are moving as well, all the better. You can get some great textures in the sky.

Rocks. Byron Bay, NSW

Reflections work well. Seek out the pools left behind. Walk around the pools to find the best angle. Get the best depth of field possible for these shots and make sure the foreground is sharp. If the auto-focus isn’t working its because it can’t find enough contrast in the scene to focus on. Switch to manual. When the going gets tough on focusing, I set the manual focus to about 2m and the aperture to about f:18. This seems to take care of most situations.

Dripstone Cliffs NT

As the light intensity increases, life and focusing will get easier. But there will be another issue to deal with. Exposure.

That sky will be about 6 or 7  f:stops over the ground exposure level. Your sensor will probably have a fit. Bracket and deal with it when you get home and have had your first cup of coffee.

Outcrop facing East. Nightcliff beach NT

In spite of the sand in your shoes and camera, wet feet from the incoming tide, the odd dogs dropping you stood in, a grumpy spouse to return home to and the need for a Granny Nap during the day, it should be worth every minute of your timely effort.

Low tide. Lee Point NT

If it’s not, take up knitting.

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning.

via Light Stalking » TUTORIAL: What’s Your Time of Day (Part 1)- Shooting at First Light.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Composition, Featured, General, Landscape, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition

By Light Stalking

In a lot of photographic situations, a photographer will often come across a natural object near the scene that can be used to “frame” the main element of the image. It’s a common photographic composition technique and one that can be used to great effect if you can pull it off. Here are a few things to think about when you next have the opportunity to frame your photograph as well as some examples of successful images that use framing.

Alcatraz - Exercise Yard Exit Door "Sailing Away"
Photograph by David Paul Omer

Keep in the back of your mind the common objects that can be used to frame an image naturally. The most common are trees and branches for landscapes, windows and doorways and tunnels and cave-openings. Of course, that is by no means an exhaustive list, but remembering these common objects gets you into the habit of considering less common things to frame an image.

I get the window seat!
Photograph by Ed Siasoco

Remember to use the frame to convey depth in your image. There are basically two main ways to do that. Colour and depth of field. The most common (though not only) way to use colour to convey depth is to have the frame in silhouette (or at least much darker than the main object of the image) such as the forest image below. That means that you need to expose for the background or main object of the image.

As the frame is a foreground, you also have the opportunity to either have it in focus with a narrow aperture or out of focus with a tighter aperture. The choice will very much depend on the situation, but remember to consider the options before taking your shot.

Our love is like the misty rain that falls softly, but floods the river...
Photograph by ManojVasanth

Potato Island

Photograph by Wolfgang Staudt

Don’t think that the frame needs to cover every side of the image either. Many of the most successfully framed images only have one or two sides framed (such as with a tree trunk and branch). On the other hand a fully framed image through a window or door can also be very effective. Use your own judgment.

Employ framing only when it suits the image. Don’t use a frame for every shot. It is easy to overdo framing, especially in a collection of shots from the same shoot. Use it sparingly and only when the opportunity for a good shot is there. Framing can look a little forced at times, so don’t fall into that trap, but don’t be afraid of it either. Again, this is one of the things in photography where every situation is different and you are best advised to use your own judgment.

no need for a frame
Photograph by Izarbeltza

Using a frame in your shots gives you an opportunity to draw the eye of your audience to the main element of the image that you want them to look at. By remembering a few basic pointers as well as always looking out for unique ways to frame images, you give yourself a much better chance of capturing a great photograph.

two Sides
Photograph by Robb North

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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Featured, General, Landscape, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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Using content to increase the visual impact of your travel photos

{Post removed at request of Lonely Planet Images due to copyright issues}
Richard I’Anson talks about photographing iconic images.Lonely Planet images discusses what camera gear to bring on the road.

Read these insightful tips on editing images in Lightroom.

Get all the great hints and tips on travel photography from Richard I’Anson’s latest book.

via Using content to increase the visual impact of your travel photos « Lonely Planet Images Blog.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Worth a Look

 

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How Seeing in 3D Can Improve Your Photography

By alohal at LightStalking

When I first started carrying my camera around every day, I saw pictures in two dimensions. My photos were like line drawings on paper—so many inches wide and so many inches long, but flat. Later, I started to see differently. I learned to see in multiple planes, like an architect would when drawing perspective sketches of a building. When I learned to see multiple planes in a scene, I saw a change in my photos. They didn’t look like flat recordings of things I’d seen. Instead, the multiple planes in the photos created depth, so the images looked three-dimensional.

One of a photographer’s challenges is to see multiple planes, and make photos that look like the scene itself—with volume, with mass, alive in all its dimensions.

Here are a couple of things I’ve tried that you might like, to give depth to your compositions.

Use foreground framing

Foreground elements can frame a shot and add depth to it. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

This photo of a child hanging laundry has the danger of becoming flat. If I had framed her with less of the bamboo fence, I would have gotten a flatter composition. But using the bamboo as a frame and allowing a lot of the ground behind the girl adds depth to the scene.

Tilting the camera is a way to achieve depth. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

Similarly, this photo of a man repairing wooden structures at the temple uses the same technique, but with the additional help of camera tilt. If I had stood closer to the man, and parallel to the scaffolding, I would have gotten a flatter composition, like in the diagram below. What I did to achieve some more dynamism in the composition was to stand a little diagonally to the man; this added a tilt to my wide-angle lens, and that gave the composition a bit more interest.

Changing vantage points changes a shot.

Play peek-a-boo

Planes can present ‘layers’ of information in a photo. In environmental portraits, one of the things I find that work is to play peekaboo with the subject. What I mean is to use foreground elements to hide some part of the subject, to give it context. Usually the foreground elements are related to the subject and generally add more to the story.

Partially revealing a subject draws attention to it. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

In the photo of the child, the fact that he is hiding behind his mother’s skirt gives us a big part of the story: he’s shy when he notices a stranger with a dSLR smiling at him. The man who walks past while I took this shot gives another part of the story away: we’re in a crowded place full of strangers but here is a glimpse of someone’s personal space.

Layers of foreground and background can help tell a story. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

The woman at the market is also another peekaboo shot: I catch her framed by what she does. The scale, the colorful plastic cover of her market stall table, the vegetables, and the echo of color behind her all suggest the explosion of colors and life at this market in Vietnam.

Learning how to use multiple planes in your compositions gives your images an added depth. When you change the way you see, you will see the change in your photos.

via Light Stalking » How Seeing in 3D Can Improve Your Photography.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Composition, Featured, General, Inspiration, Worth a Look

 

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How to Shoot Landscapes With Bright Cloud Cover

By Light Stalking

A common problem for landscape photographers is shooting during overcast conditions in which the cloud cover is effectively a light source. White or bright overcast cloud throws up the issue that the ground and the sky require two different settings in order to expose both properly. Expose for the ground and you get a washed out, highlighted sky. Expose for the sky and you get an under-exposed ground.

Assuming that you absolutely want to include the sky in your shot (not including the sky is sometimes the simplest solution), there are two main ways to attack this conundrum.

Photograph by Brook Peterson

Get Your Filter On

Almost every landscape photographer worth their salt will have a set of graduated filters for these (and other) conditions. The Cokin filter holders are popular among many DSLR users and hold the various graduated filters that a perfect for this situation.

Photo of an ND Grad Filter by Scalespeeder

Which filters will you need though?

For bright overcast skies with the ground darker, the obvious filter to use is a Neutral Density Graduated Filter (ND Grad). As these filters are graduated from dark to light (see image above), the effect is to darken the sky while keeping the ground at the same exposure. There are several that you should consider carrying in your pack.

The ND Grad 1 (ND 0.3) will darken the sky by one stop. The ND Grad 2 (ND 0.6) will darken it by two stops. Combined, the ND0.3 and ND0.6 will darken the sky by three stops. You can also get an ND Grad 3 (ND 0.9) which is also quite common in ND Grad filter kits. On a Cokin filter holder which has three slots, you can stack these in front of each other or use only one or two.

You can also get ND 2 Grads filters which have two different levels of graduation as well as a clear area at the bottom of the filter.

And finally, if you would like to draw specific attention to the horizon, then you can invert two of your ND Grad filters (ie. put one upside down) so that the sky and the foreground are both stopped down to give an effect similar to the photograph below. (You can also buy a single filter that’s graduated from both the top and the bottom to give the same effect). Notice how the top of the sky and the bottom of the foreground are darker and the horizon is brightest.

Encinitas Sunset
Photograph by Phil Price

For a great primer on using strong ND Grad filters, check out this article by Chris Gin, a New Zealand landscape photographer and friend of Light Stalking.

What If I Don’t Have a Filter?

If you don’t yet have any ND Grad filters, then there is another option!

Hopefully you have a tripod (alternatively, you can make sure you stabilise your camera some other way) and some post-processing software.

With this second option, you will need to take two images using different shutter speeds.

The first one, you expose so that the sky is properly exposed (the ground will be terribly under-exposed in most cases).

The second shot, you expose so that the ground is properly exposed with a longer shutter speed (the sky will usually be blown out with highlights).

Note: Leave the aperture and ISO the same for both shots. You don’t want different depth of field or noise for each shot. Change only shutter speed.

Next you will want to open both images in Photoshop and, after selecting one as your base, import the other so that you have two layers. (Simply open the second one, hit CTRL-A and CTRL-C, then open the base one and hit CTRL-V).

Use the eraser brush tool at a large size with a soft edge to simply erase the poorly exposed area of the top layer. This combines the well exposed ground with the well exposed sky.

Light Stalking’s Chistopher O’Donnell also has a good tutorial on combining layers over at the Photo Argus that is worth a read for an alternate method.

These are the two most basic ways to deal with overexposed and cloudy skies for landscape photography. It’s nothing particularly technical, but knowing these simple techniques can save you from the heartache of those blown out skies on overcast days.

via Light Stalking » How to Shoot Landscapes With Bright Cloud Cover.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in General, Landscape, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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