Better Landscape Photography Requires a Plan

Landscape photography is my passion. It is my most favourite thing to do, period. So needless to say I try to take the process fairly serious. Being that I teach photography I always seem to get the same question over and over and over again. "How did you take that picture". I know right, pretty general question with a ton of answers. I thought I would try to put together a blog post to answer this in its entirety. In short I, for the most part unless it's a fluke, plan out my images very carefully. There are a number of ways to get the shot you are looking for, but here is my version of a perfectly planned and executed landscape photo.

NUMBER 1  = LOCATION IS KEY

One thing is for sure, there are so many amazing places to photograph. One thing that I try to do when I plan for a trip is to take a look online at images that are located close to the home base location that I will be travelling to. There are a few social media resources that I use to find these ideal locations. The first source I consider is 500px, lately I am guilty of abandoning my 500px profile but I still always hit it up when looking for locations. The beautiful thing about it is that you can search by category and locations. So, landscapes and then let's say... Nanaimo British Columbia. 

The second resource that I turn to is the old Google machine. Google is so good for finding locations using very specific key words, and I often find that a Google search will lead me right to a landscape epic of a location. Often it takes me to 500px, hence the reason  I usually hit that resource first. 

The last resource, but definitely not least, is Instagram. I continue to carry a love hate relationship with Instagram, after the chronological feed aspect of it disappeared.  I get a lot of exposure using the platform and it honestly has kept me as busy as I would like in regards to work as a photographer. For these reasons I will continue to swallow my distain for the platform and continue to participate. I do although love the new little folder aspect of the app. I love that I can have folders created that are named where I an save photos that inspire me. I have been making lists of specific locations now as they come across my feed and it is proving very useful. I even recently created a list of great drone aerials that I am drawing inspiration from currently. 

 Englishman River Falls near Nanaimo BC Canada. I knew this place existed thanks to 500px

Englishman River Falls near Nanaimo BC Canada. I knew this place existed thanks to 500px

 

NUMBER 2  =  KNOWING WHEN THE LIGHT IS RIGHT (PHOTOPILLS)

The next thing I need to do after narrowing down a location is to find out when the optimal light will be gracing that location, this is where my favourite app comes in. Photopills is a landscape photo planner, it just does so much. What I find it most useful for is that it tells you exactly when the sun rises and sets at any time of the year, or years for that matter. I can plan shots in locations across the ocean that will take place ten years from now. It is a brilliant little application. It has a number of other features that makes life as a landscape photographer much easier. I especially enjoy the augmented reality portion of the app. It allows you to see where the milky way is rising below the horizon so that you can position yourself in the optimal location to get amazing astro images. The bottom line is that if you are serious about landscape photography you need this app. I bought the app a few years ago for, I believe, ten dollars CAD. 

 The Planner screen is where I spend the most time within the app. 

The Planner screen is where I spend the most time within the app. 

NUMBER 3 = PREDICT THE WEATHER

This is a big one. One thing that I am not a huge fan of is a clear blue sky in my landscape images. So, I find it vitally important to know what the weather is going to be doing during the planning phase of a shot. There are times that I have all the other elements in place and I am just waiting for a wether window to open up. Dramatic moody clouds that soften light and cast the sky with orange and magentas are what truly bring a landscape image to life. In order to get a handle on the weather, download your areas most reliable weather app and use it to predict when the sky will be cooperating.

I often try to get out after a rain storm as I find the clouds to be at their most dynamic at this specific time. Last thing in this point, that will lead me to my fourth point, is that you need to be ready for clear skies as well. The reason I say this is that if the clouds don't come, and you are shooting a sunset, there is a good chance that after the sun is gone that the stars will come out to play. This is where you will need to be ready with a range of camera gear to get the shot that god gives you. 

 I waited 3 years for this field to be planted to Canola s when the weather cooperated I got in the truck and seized the opportunity. 

I waited 3 years for this field to be planted to Canola s when the weather cooperated I got in the truck and seized the opportunity. 

 

NUMBER 4 = BRING THE RIGHT GEAR

I will keep this one short, because I honestly believe that great landscapes can be shot on a number of cameras, from beginner to pro level. The one thing that I want to emphasis is that if you can be ready for anything then do it. I carry a range of lenses along with my Canon 5dmrk3, but for the most part I always use my 17-40 F4. It is a great lens that has done nothing but perform for me throughout the years. At one point I am sure that I will upgrade to the latest version but for now it's my go to. I also shoot a lot of climbing with it so I don't feel bad beating it up a little. I am sure that one day it will be my primary adventure photography lens.

The second lens I carry with me is the new Sigma 20mm 1.4 ART Series lens. This beauty of a piece of glass is my go to for astro photography. When the skies are clear  I wait around with this bad boy and it does a great job of capturing the milky way.

 Waiting around pays off with the right gear. 

Waiting around pays off with the right gear. 

 NUMBER 5 = SCOUT THE LOCATION

The number one chunk of advice that I could give anyone on preparing for an epic landscape is to come when it's daylight so you have time to walk around and find the unique perspective. All of the hunting on the Internet is no good if you are just straight up copying someone else's work. Take the time to get there early and find an angle that you can call your own. My example of this is true when looking at the image above of the green creek at Englishman River Falls. I had viewed a number of great images online of this location but after taking a look around I discovered this little beauty of a creek flowing into the larger falls that everyone had been photographing previously. 

 

TO SUM IT ALL UP

Having a plan is what increases the chances of getting that one in a million image. It doesn't always come down to planning but more often than not this is the case. I can say with complete conviction that almost every shot that I have taken has been planned out using the method that I have described within this post. I believe in it and will continue to use it to shoot landscapes.

If you have any specific questions about any of these methods or any apps listed feel free to comment or message me. Also, you can search for me on Instagram and Facebook for more of my work. Happy planning and good luck on your next outing!