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A Crazy But Cool Landscape Photography Tip!

Although this is by no means a practical landscape photography tip, I thought it was well worth sharing because it's proven so helpful for me. It's basically a great little method for boosting inspiration when you're flagging, and for refreshing your sense composition. Plus, perhaps the best thing about it, you can do it whilst sitting on your arse in front of the telly.

I think landscape photography at its best fills the viewer with a powerful desire to visit and experience great spectacles of the natural world. It can also sometimes have a darker mood, where the landscape seems barren, hostile or dangerous. Is there anything that tends to really appeal to your interest in nature and landscape...?

For me, high quality natural history documentaries are incredibly inspiring. The quality of photography in the best productions these days is just mind blowing. Almost nothing makes me want to get into the natural world and photograph it as much as cutting edge BBC natural history films.

So next time you watch one of these documentaries, have your photographer's hat on. Take note of what views seem the most striking to you. Often the shot will settle on a particular view if it is really impressive. You can even pause (if you have recorded it or use Sky Plus) at certain points and evaluate the strength of the frozen image.

Try it out now. Watch this video from the BBC's "Planet Earth" and think about which images you would like to see as still photographs and why...

If you're thinking this seems like a bit of a daft exercise, I recommend you give it a go and see how inspired you feel afterwards. For a start, it's difficult to do any kind of photography without being interested in the subject, and natural history films can encourage a renewed love of the landscape. But the style of these productions also drives home some really useful lessons aboout good landscape photography:

1. The landscape looks stunning when it is captured accurately. The colours, patterns, contours and shapes of the natural world are beautfiul and dramatic. Don't for goodness sake ruin them with heavy-handedness in Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture.

2. When you paused scenes that struck you as impressive, the chances are there was a strong foreground. A good foreground is essential for adding depth and coherence to landscape shots.

3. The staggeringly vivid level of detail brings the landscape to life and makes you feel you could almost touch things. Use a narrow aperture to capture as much detail as possible (but not so wide that diffraction begins to occur).

4. It's important that every area of an image is well exposed, so that the detail of the foreground, the contrasts of the sky and the main subject are all clear. This usually requires the use of exposure bracketing. This is a really simple but powerful technique, explained here.

5. You've got to get yourself to the right place at the right time! There are so many incredible sights to see in the natural world, don't get stuck shooting the same scenes all the time. Also, it's important to hunt for the best angle and not just settle for the first option (although, granted, we can't all shoot from a helicopter or a chartered boat like documentary film makers). Finally, if something is worth shooting, it's worth getting up early for, to capture in the unparalled dawn light.

6. Introducing wildlife can make images more compelling. By including animals for whom the landscape is home, you can add another layer of interest. Wildlife helps to show a more complete picture of the natural environment, and it can also introduce some action (e.g. birds flying in the sky) or bright colours.



So, watching natural history films is actually a really great idea for landscape photographers. It basically involves seeing a constant flow of wonderful images, which you can continuously assess. Think about which moments in the film would make strong still images and why. Give it a go and I guarantee you'll be desperate to embark on some landscape shoots!

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