Landscape Photography

Plan your photographic trips, arrange to be there at the best time of the day. There are tools you can use like the phone App. “The Photographers Ephemeris” that can give you lots of useful information like sunrise and sunset times and the direction of the sunset/sunrise. What equipment do you need, lenses, filters, tripod etc. Make sure you charge your batteries. How far do you have to walk may effect your equipment choice.

Equipment and Settings


Under the right conditions any lens could be used for landscape photography, but landscape photography generally uses a wide angle lens ie 18 – 24mm on a full frame sensor. Some Landscape photographers use 50mm lenses only, as it gives the same relative size of objects as your eye. Wide angle lenses have the advantage of having a large depth of field. For example for a lens focussed at 5m from the camera using a f stop of f8 the following will apply:

Wide angle lenses also have the advantage that you don’t have to move very far to totally change the foreground. This makes it good for avoiding distraction objects in the foreground. Wide angle lenses also have the advam\ntage that it can give you a great feeling of depth if used correctly.

What F Stop Should I use?

For landscape photography we usually use an F Stop between f11 and f16. Gives good depth of field without excessive diffraction. Diffraction becomes evident at very small apertures, that is large aperture numbers. Light going through small apertures undergoes diffraction, that is bending of the light rays that is due to the aperture and not the lens. This degrades the image quality.

Other Tips

All SLR cameras both film and digital have a mirror to reflect the image up into the eyepiece so that you can compose the image. When you press the shutter this mirror flips up out of the way so that the light goes straight to the film or digital sensor. This flipping of the mirror can cause camera shake and thus degrade the quality of your image. The pictures below show an example of this.



The picture on the right is an enlarged photo of the photo of Brisbane city at night on the left. This photo has been taken on a tripod and shows the vibration of the camera in the light trails from the Citycat ferry, as a result of the mirror shock as the mirror flips up. This vibration causes a degradation in the image quality that can be avoided using mirror lockup or a time delay between the mirror flip up and recording the image.

Filters for Landscape Photography

There are a few filters that are useful for landscape photography.

Polarizing Filter: the polarizing filter is useful to darken sky and to give better colour saturation in forest settings, but you need to be careful when using them. Polarizing filters work by absorbing light that is polarized in the same direction as the filter. Where light is polarized more in one direction the filter can be rotated to absorb this light. The result is that the areas of polarized light will be darkened more than the rest of the image. Reflected light is polarized, so the intensity of light reflected from leaves and from the water surface will decrease in intensity giving better exposure control over these bright areas and increasing colour saturation. The light from the blue sky is polarized, but is polarized more in some directions than others. The maximum polarization in the sky is at 90 degrees to the direction of the sun. If you are using a polarizing filter with a wide angle lens then patches of the sky can be darker than others giving an unwanted patchy appearance. This is less likely to happen when using a telephoto lens as a small area of the sky is included.

Neutral Density Gradient Filters (NDGF): A neutral density gradient filter have a clear region and a dark region with a gradual transition region joining them. Like a polarizing they can be used to decrease intensity of the sky. The filter is placed over the lens so that the dark region covers the sky and the light region covers the land with the transition region over the horizon. The transition region can be hard or soft, that is a fast or slow transition. You would use a hard Grad (as it is called) where the line between the sky and the ground is straight, otherwise use the soft grad. These filters suffer from the problem that anything protruding into the sky, like a tree will also be darkened.

Neutral Density Filters: Neutral Density Filters are used to increase the exposure time. During the day, even with a low iso value and a small aperture the exposure time can be very short. This is a problem if you would like the exposure time to be longer. You may wish to use a longer exposure time to smooth out water or blur moving clouds.

What is the correct exposure?


Histogram 1
Histogram 2
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Ansel Adams

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