Some years ago now, I went to take some photographs on Merseyside’s Formby beach in the UK. As I walked along the shore, I stopped to watch a couple of other photographers for a few minutes. I heard one share some landscape photography tips with the other that have stuck with me ever since:
“Landscape photography is a puzzle. Think about how you approach a puzzle. You slow down, you see what pieces you have and you work piece by piece to put them together to make the final picture.”
Although you could probably apply this to all genres of photography, it really resonated with me. Yet how was it that such a simple landscape photography approach had never occurred to myself before.
These landscape photography tips really made me think about my own approach to landscape photography. I’ve never been the photographer that starts firing off the shutter in the hope of fluking a decent photo. I like to be thoughtful and considerate when I set my frame. This allows me to shoot less while achieving a higher ‘keeper rate’ and spending less time in Lightroom. There are a number of accomplished landscape photographers who have adopted this approach. One such photographer is the excellent Albert Watson, infamous for returning from 2 week photo trips with no more than 15 to 20 images in his camera. Just imagine that for a moment.
Slow Landscape Photography Techniques
It’s really important that we take the time after reaching our location to sit for a few minutes and take in our surroundings. In order to produce something strong and meaningful, we need to be receptive to the landscape before us. It’s very easy to arrive at a location with preconceived landscape photography ideas already in the forefront of our minds. We all do it. The problem is that, in reality, we may struggle to actualise this initial vision, leaving us frustrated and disappointed that we couldn’t achieve that particular vision.
With this in mind, we need to manage our expectations. It could be the weather, the light, or a number of other factors that prevent us from creating our previsualised image. But none of this really matters. If we stop to connect with our surroundings for five minutes before removing our cameras from our packs, we will often produce photographs with greater depth and meaning that speak to our audience from our inner creativity.
Slow Landscape Photography Tips
Here are my actionable landscape photography tips for slowing down:
- On reaching your location, stop, look and identify the pieces of the puzzle before you.
- Look at how the light spreads across your scene or how it isolates a particular feature or subject.
- Look for leading lines and where they draw your eyes.
- Think about how the colours of the scene reflect the moment. Are they bright, contrasting colours or are they more subdued and calm?
- What shapes and patterns do you see? How would these shapes or patterns fit within your frame and what would you include or exclude from the photograph to give the strongest impact?
- Listen to the sounds, take in the smells and immerse yourself in the sensory experience.
- How does this make you feel? Does it evoke specific thoughts or feelings that you can creatively incorporate into your landscape photography?
Improve Your Visualisation
Take the time to slowly discover your surroundings and gradually place the pieces of your frame together. Give your muse the opportunity to speak to you without equipment and setting choices complicating matters. By affording yourself a few moments without the camera, you may see something completely different to what you might already have conceived in your mind. More than likely, you will hear the voice of your photographic muse guiding you, showing you the way to produce something meaningful and personal to you. A different photograph from the postcards or stock images you may have seen online.
Slowing down and becoming more intentional about your landscape photography ideas will lead you to a greater chance of capturing a scene in a way that is truthful to your vision and not just a happy accident. As nice as those happy accidents are, we don’t really learn from them.
I’ve bought into the slow photography philosophy wholeheartedly, even to the point that when purchasing my last camera, one of my main considerations was that it wasn’t too easy to use. I wanted it to deliberately force me to slow down and be more receptive to the scene unfurling before me. I feel that by becoming more deliberate about my work, by slowing down and relaxing into a scene, I’m regularly producing stronger images. This is helping the pieces of my photographic puzzle slowly come together.
Our lives move at a rapid pace, so let’s take the time to slow down and enjoy our landscape photography adventures.
Originally from the UK, James now lives in Brisbane, Australia. He is a commercial landscape photographer, writer, product reviewer and creator of fine art prints. He is also Australia’s first Brand Ambassador for Permajet fine art printing products. As an outdoors person at heart, he likes to travel a lot and witness remote places that very few people have or will see in their lifetimes. It gives him great pleasure to be able to come home and share these places with his audience through my photographic vision.
James Partridge - 500px.com/jamesp_photo