When is the best time to photograph?
There are as many answers to that as there are reasons to take a picture. But we all know how wonderful the golden hour is for photography. Here is another idea for a time many people forget.
A few moments longer
Most days, when the sky is clear, there is some wonderful golden light as the sun wants to dip below the horizon. The so called golden hour is a great time to take photographs. The shadows are long, giving clear definition to the landscape. The colour of the light is enhanced by the golden glow of the sun. The graduation of light across the sky provides a softness that is rare at other times.
If you are on location for that great light that every photographer loves, consider this. Be prepared to wait a little after the other photographers have gone home. A lot of photographers don’t realise, but about five to ten minutes after sun down there is some wonderful light.
After the sun has set below the horizon there is a period of blueness. There is still sufficient light in the sky for a photograph. There is usually the vestiges of the pink or gold glow too. But the blueness is deep and beautifully toned across the sky. It is a perfect time to capture photographs that make silhouettes look great and the last vestiges of the light look magnificent.
Of course you will find it difficult to work with auto-settings. Your camera is programmed to prevent this sort of light – it sees it as underexposed. Work in one of the manual settings. You will find that you need to use longer exposures. Then you are able to capture detail. Don’t put the ISO up high or you will just create digital noise. Make sure you have a tripod on hand too, or you will get movement blur. Other than that concentrate on the wonderful light and the great tones that are created right across the landscape.
As with all location shoots, scout in advance. Think through what you want to capture. The deep tones and dark silhouettes are not necessarily going to be ideal for all shots, especially if looking at darker backgrounds. However, you cannot go too wrong working with the West facing shot that sees the last of the sun as it goes down.
After all the other photographers go home you will be getting the shots that they will envy. And, all you did was wait another ten minutes.
Landscapes appear inherently attractive to the eye.
We all love taking landscape shots at some time or another. However, they are also quite a challenge. There are a few simple things that you can do to get a great landscape shot.
Use a tripod!
The most important landscape photography technique is to use a tripod. For your shot to be successful you need to get the sharpest and most carefully framed shot.
- Framing: When you put up your tripod you give yourself the best opportunity to get the framing right because you can take your time. Look around the shot. check the edge of your frame. Make sure you have all the right composition elements and have a meaningful subject in your viewfinder.
See more on framing here.
- Stability: The tripod will give you the most stable platform for your shot. Most photographers miss this essential when starting out. Sharpness makes or breaks a landscape shot. Starter landscapers often think a hand held stance is good enough. It may be possible – sometimes. The chances are reduced. If you want to get right into the shot you must get pin sharpness.
See more on why you should use a tripod here.
Beating the movement blur of the hand-held shot needs more than just a tripod. Your tripod technique is critical too. The most important part of using a tripod is to reduce the vibrations through it. Here are my ten tips for making your tripod-based landscape shot pin sharp.
- Tip 1: Keep the legs as short as possible and don’t use the middle elevating column. The short legs and no-column policy keeps the tripod tight and that reduces any integral vibration in the tripod itself. The vibration is reduced because the tripod is stiffer overall if the legs are retracted. If you must elevate it, make sure you extend the thinner, vibration prone, bottom of the tripod legs last.
- Tip 2: Use a cable release: Pushing the release button (shutter button) moves the camera and creates vibration in the tripod. A cable release of some type will set the camera off without your heavy finger involved.
- Tip 3: Use mirror lock-up: Most DSLRs will have a menu setting that will lift the reflex mirror before the shot is fired. The number one source of vibration in a camera is that mirror twanging up and down! The mirror lock-up function will remove this vibration. Check the manual to see how it is done on your camera.
- Tip 4: Turn off auto-focus: The engine and the act of the camera tuning its focus causes vibrations in the tripod. These set up a resonance up and down the legs – the vibration affects your shot. You will produce a much more accurate focus by hand anyway.
- Tip 5: Turn off image-stabilisation: If you are on a tripod you don’t need it. However, the slightest breeze or vibration through the ground will set it off. The motor attempting to compensate for tiny vibrations in the tripod will in fact create more vibrations. All image stabilisation systems are designed to iron out natural hand movement. Vibration in a tripod creates its own peculiar vibration which just aggravates the stabilisation system.
- Tip 6: Hang a weight on the tripod hook under the centre column: This weight adds tension to the legs and forces greater stability to the tripod. One more way to reduce movement.
- Tip 7: Stay away from vibration sources: Its not always possible, but roads, railways, fairgrounds, airports, ferry terminals and ports as well as the obvious wind all create ground vibrations. Less obvious are underground trains and tunnels under your feet, tall buildings swaying in high wind, bridges vibrating from feet and vehicles… well it’s a long list. Think carefully. You may find you have put your tripod right in the centre of a major vibration source.
- Tip 8:Remove your camera strap: or as a secondary measure peg the strap tightly to the tripod. If you let it hang loose it will catch the wind. That will move or vibrate the camera.
- Tip 9: Longer exposures: The camera shutter is also a significant source of vibration. Nevertheless, it has to open. Using a longer exposure is better because the shutter is open completely with no movement for at least part of the shot. This reduces the impact of shutter shake. The shutter release and movement still creates a vibration profile. By design, it has been carefully calculated to reduce the impact of the shutter movement – but it does not reduce shutter vibration completely. So, longer exposures help reduce the vibration just a little more.
- Tip 10: Use a wind-shield: Even a light wind will induce vibration in a tripod. So, shelter it from the wind. Hold your coat in front of the tripod (not touching it) to shield the wind. Better still, if you are going to be there for a while, put up a staked-out wind-shield to divert the wind properly. Alternatively, take the shot from cover of some sort.
Remember, these measures all add up. Sharpness in your shot is the result of working at all of these. Put all of the above in place and you will get a really sharp shot.
More you can do…
Here is a list of some more top tips to work on for your landscapes…
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Posted in Camera control, Composition, Equipment, How to..., Shooting specific subjects, Tips Tutorials & Techniques, Video included
Tagged Composition, DSLR, exposure, Format, Golden hour, Histogram, How to Shoot, Landscape, Manual Control, RAW, Shutter, Shutter Speed, Tripod, Vibration reduction, Video, Working the scene
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