Landscape photography can be both spontaneous and planned. If you’re planning to head out and take some photographs of landscapes then you need to consider a few things first.
Here are some things to remember when planing your next landscape photography adventure.
What type of landscape opportunities exist and is there a better time of year to visit?
Are you heading to the coast, into the mountains, lakes, rivers, meadows, a cityscape? Is the fall (autumn) color change important or do you want to capture waterfalls when the rivers are running? Your destination is going to play an important role in the preparation for a successful shoot.
Not only do you need to consider the time of the year that offers the best light and color but you’ll also need to consider the intricacies of the destination itself. For example, you probably don’t want to be heading to the desert or tropics in the middle of summer just as you don’t want to be in Alaska in the middle of winter. Once you’ve looked into your destination there will likely be a window where the destination and weather is best suited to your enjoyment while also giving you the best chance at capturing the perfect shot.
Once you’ve determined your destination and the time of year that most suits, you’ll need to look at the gear you have available / intend to take. If you’re going hiking then you may not want to carry a full frame camera and tripod with multiple lens. Is weight and size important to you or will you have easy access to a car / your accommodation? Do you need to take a spare battery or memory card? Do you have a way to backup your photos? Do you have appropriate water proofing if the weather changes??
Your gear won’t just be limited to your camera. You may need warm and or waterproof clothes, torches or headlamps to enable you to get to / get home from your destination, appropriate footwear… Even the tiniest details can matter if you’re going out into remote areas.
Time of day
Having determined the gear you plan to take on your trip it’s time to consider if there is a better time of day to get the shots you’re after. For landscapes the hours around sunrise and sunset usually provide the best light. Do you need to leave early in the morning to get to your destination in time to capture the photos? Or will it be dark when you leave? Planning will give you the best opportunities to take the time you need to get the photos you want.
How will the light fall on the landscape? If you want to capture the mountains with a certain kind of light (back light, side-light, front light) then you need to know not only the time of the sunrise or sunset but where it will set in relation to your subject. You don’t want to get your location and find that the sun went below the mountain range an hour a go.
Look at maps, see how your locations are situated, and keep in mind both time of year AND time of day, since both will impact how the light falls.
You thought about the kind of weather you’ll likely encounter when you decided what time of year to visit. Despite usual weather patterns mother nature sometimes has her own plans.
Before you leave on your trip check the extended weather forecast and then check it again in the days leading up. If you’re going to an alpine region be sure to consider an accurate alpine forecast, not just the forecast of the local town which may be a few hundred metres below your intended destination. Look at temperature as well as the chance of rain, snow and wind. If the forecast says there is a chance of rain in the afternoon despite there being no clouds in the sky, take some wet weather gear. You’ll be thankful when the clouds roll in and the rain starts.
Lastly, don’t necessarily be put off by bad weather as you can get some fantastic photos. Just consider your destination and the photos the weather may afford. Wet surfaces can provide some interesting lighting / mirroring and clouds can add an excellent mood to photos.
Canmore, Canada summer snow storm. Image was taken with Nikon 5100 18-55mm stock lens, full color, no post editing
Day after summer snowstorm in Canmore, Canada (taken the day after the previous photo). Nikon 5100 18-55mm stock lens, full color, no post editing
One thing to always remember when doing landscape photography is conditions can change quickly. Understanding and be prepared for the conditions and the possible changes is a must.