A good preparation is very important for us Landscape Photographers. When you want to take pictures with a “wow factor” you have to know at where you have to be, at what time of the day and in which circumstances. For a good preparation I always follow these steps:
First check it out on Google Earth and know what the area looks like. Search the internet for information and pictures of the location so you know what the good subjects are to take pictures of. If you have never have been at this location, read books about the area so you know which subjects are important over there.
Do you know a photographer who has been at the location you want to take photos of? Let this photographer inform you about the good spot and subjects of your location.
This looks like a rather strange opinion, but it is true. A dull looking landscape can be beautiful in particular light conditions. Is it better to take pictures in the early morning at dawn of in the late evening at dusk? Is it better to photograph the site in floodlight or do you want to photography the site with backlight? You have to recognize these situation when you are out there to find you a good place to take photos of. So go check out the location before you go there and know how you want to take the picture you have in mind.
When you go out to take landscape picture bring the right camera, lenses and never forget to bring your graduated)grey filters and tripod. A (full frame) camera with a high resolution is the best tool for your landscape pictures. It gives you the possibility to crop or straighten the horizon without losing to much of the size of the picture. Bring your wide angle lens and your tele lens so you are flexible and are able to take wide angle pictures and also take pictures of subject who more far away in the landscape. Use your graduated grey filters to avoid to bright skies or to dark foregrounds. You can bring a grey filter to make you exposure time longer. Long exposures ensure more saturation of the colors. Always bring your tripod. You cannot take sharp landscape pictures with long exposures without it. Bring you remote control for your camera. It helps you to avoid blurry pictures.
Try to be at the location one hour before sunrise and two hours before sunset. The light is the most beautiful during these hours. Don’t leave immediately after sunset. When the sun is behind the horizon the fun starts. The light get better and better one or two hours after the sun disappears behind the horizon. The contrast is better to take low light landscape pictures. Wait for the “blue hour” and you will be amazed about the colors in your picture.
When you get at your location, first find some good subjects and compositions. You have to know which composition you want to use before, during and after sunrise or sunset. When you know the composition, you can chose the lens you want to use for this composition.
The “wow moment” can be over before you know it, so get your gear ready in time and pay attention to the circumstances. The light can change rapidly, so be ready before it’s over.
This are the most important steps you have to take before you start your landscape shoot at the location. Don’t be disappointed when you get home without the “wow picture”. Taking landscape pictures is getting home without the picture you had in mind very often. Enjoy your stay in the field and analyse why this picture hasn’t got the “wow factor”. Be determined to take the picture you want and go out to the location many times and you will take the picture.
Sometimes it takes months or even years before you are at the location in the right circumstances, but when have taken the “wow picture” the feeling is great.