Yesterday I cycled to St Lythans to photograph a stone megalithic dolmen in the Vale of Glamorgan. It was a vary bright sunny day and I wanted a blue sky in my images. The sun was in its highest position, it had been that bright I couldn’t see blue sky with my eyes. Since I didn’t had the chance to be at this location during a other times of the day I had to work with what I got. I decided I’m going to overpower the sun with my two flashlights, it turned out to be huge fun. The stones who where built 6,000 BP (before present) had been vary patient with me using them for my exercises. I played around with different lightening techniques and balanced the ambient light with flashlight in different ratios, which allowed me to control the brightness of the sky in camera. I´m sure the gained knowledge will be useful in future strobist portrait photography sessions.
Back Story: a fellow student from my International Marketing Bachelor Degree had been asking me: Why are your Holiday images better than mine? What’s your key to success?
Well, taking good landscape photographs is no coincident. It has nothing to do with luck – it is hard work to improve your landscape photography skills. You have to put your self in the right spot in the right moment and are willing to go „the extra mile“ to create a real special one! During the past I only showed you the selection of my vary best images of each trip. To give you a better understanding about the work which it takes to create those, I wrote this behind the scene post about my most recent trip to the Dorset coast. To give you a better ideate, what it took to create the Dorset images (which I’m going to show you during my next blog posts).
Preparation – researching locations
I spend as much time researching online to prepare the trip, as I was on the trip it salve! Location research as well as creating a detail plan for the trip is important, because it help to be at the right moment at the right place.
First I looked at many images of good English landscape photographers to figure out which locations interest me, also I researched at flickr.com . After I decided I’m going to go to visit the Dorset coast, I research which attractions can be found there and which of those I want to visit myself. After that I was searching affordable accommodation (Hostels) which I found at yha.org.uk . After I had decided on the accommodation and the places I wanted to visit I downloaded time schedules of public transport systems (train: nationalrail.co.uk) and research the sunset , sunrise, the direction in which the sun sets (google earth), weather forecast as well as tide tables (news.bbc.co.uk).
I created a detailed plan what day I would go where and when.
Preparation – packing gear
As I packed my photo back I decided to take Photo equipment I know well and have used since years. Also I packed light, I decided to take only one camera body two lenses (17–55mm f2.8 & 70–200mm f2.8) as well as my lightest external flash, Neutral Density Filter, Polarizing filter and a remote control as well as one steady tripod.
All camera equipment and a bit food for one day as well as 2 landscape photography books (containing inspirational images) found their place in my Photo backpacker. My second bag contained clothes. Additionally I took food in plastic bags if necessary.
Preparation – photography knowledge
Also I spend a couple of hours looking at inspiring images. Before I started the trip I reminded me on some photography theory which is in particular relevant for Landscape photography (but not as relevant during I photograph weddings and portraits) f.i.: using small apertures to maximise the depth of field, using a tripod, the use of Neutral density and Polarizing filters, exposure bracketing, creating panoramas, Hyper focal distance, Composition, working in difficult lighting conditions … just to name a view. To enlarge my theory knowledge gives me more chance to work with a given location. (Note: If you have never heard about some of the mentioned photographic terms above, don’t worry you will pick it up over time once you get deeper into photography.)
But for me it is vary important to know my Photo gear and because I don’t want to be at location and read the manual on in order to know how to use my equipment. Therefore I wouldn’t take new equipment on important photoshoots or when travelling to places to which I probably never get back again.
security and weight (train & accommodation)
Having good camera equipment is not always an advantage, sometimes I think people with point and shoot cameras are in advantage during traveling, her is why. Getting many train connections and taking care of my luggage was quite a challenge. I travel on my own, with 1 bicycle and 2 bags. (For instance: it is not fun to having to take a big camera bag into the small toilets in the train because its the only way I can guaranty it doesn’t get stolen.) During the night I had to share a room with 7 strangers an one hostel didn’t even had lockers to secure the luggage, you can imagine how little I slept, because I was worried somebody might steal my camera equipment. There had been many instances I wished I had cheaper camera gear and could stop worrying about it. Another factor was the weight. For landscape photography I don’t need fast lenses (= large aperture = heavy lenses => good for portraits, not needed for landscape photography). I use the small apertures to get a large depth of field, but since I only have fast lenses I carry a couple of kilo more than necessary.
Getting from A to B
All in all I used 3 days to get to the location and had 2 days to take photographs. My biggest unpleasant surprise of the trip was the fact that Busses don’t take bicycles. Which meant the bicycle was the only transport system I had in order to get from one Hostel to another in this vary hilly region. All in all I cycled approximately 100 kilometres within 3 days only to get from A to B. Travelling alone with lots of camera equipment at a bicycle in an area I’m not familiar with, was difficult at times. Also something I wouldn’t have expected because the tourist maps don’t show it was a large army shooting range, which started at the ocean and blogged 3 roads. Therefore I couldn’t cycle along the coast and had to take a 30km longer road, which included cycling 8km with constant gunfire beside me. Not quite what I would call a nice place to cycle. Speaking about cycle roads. Dorset has no cycle roads in order to get from A to B, I could either use big roads for cars ore walking roads at which I had to carry the bicycles stares upwards real cycle ways didn’t exist. But enough of wailing for this blog post.
”go the extra mile” and wait for the light
Landscape Photography is vary dependent on the right light which goes along with good whether conditions, it can be really demotivating if you are at a really nice spot but you can’t see the subject because its rainy and fogy.
Having the right Light is vary important, whether conditions effect Landscape Photography Trips a lot. But how does the right light looks? During this Trip I experience many different weather conditions and learned quickly that whether forecasts at the Jurassic Coast are useless because the weather at the English coast is really unpredictable. A sunny day with blue sky is not the best weather to hope for. Wednesday was a varying sunny day with blue sky. But due to the strong light I couldn’t take any images between 11am and 3pm, because the light was to direct and vary hard. Therefore the dynamic range was vary high which made it impossible to shoot without exposure bracketing and the shadows looked not vary appealing. After sunrise I had softer light to work with and before sunset the light became golden, also it was the only day the sun actually created a colourful sky during it went down. The other three time’s clouds short above the horizon prevented the sun from creating a photogenic sunset. The sunset had been a clear advantage of the sunny day but a disadvantage was the large amount of tourists at the Locations, always somebody was standing in the frame. Which made a lot of difference to Tuesday, which had been, vary rainy and foggy therefore I used the day to cycle and get to a new location. Monday I could take images during the entire day because the weather changed during the day, sometimes clouds caused vary defused light and other times blue Skye with a view clouds appeared.
For me “Going the extra mile” means to come back to one location at different times of the day to photograph it in different light situations. Here an example, demonstrating how the Jurassic coast line looks vary different in different light
Jurassic Coast in different light
1. foggy short before sunset (image-39536 – 5.4.2011 19:01)
2. sunny afternoon (image-39955 – 6.4.2011 16:13)
3. 40min before sunset (high dynamic range) (image-40021 6.4.2011 18:07)
4. sunset (image-40073 6.4.2011 19:38)
Being at the ocean and having the opportunity to take photographs makes me forget all the trouble I had during this trip. Water is great and Photography even better ☺ and if I look at the images of the Dorset coast (which I’m going to post during my next blog posts) I feel it had been worth all the effort I put into this Landscape photography trip. I hope this Blog post showed you that taking good Landscape Photographs is no coincidence or luck of being at the right place in the right moment, its hard work putting my selves at the right place and going back there again an again till the Light is right. Once the right moment happens I use my vision and photography skills to create great images. Doesn’t matter how many Landscape photography trips I take I’m always learning and improving my skills – you can do the same!
The autumn in Finland came surprisingly quick, over night so to speak. The leaf trees and the ground that surrounds them are vary colorful by now. Although much more significant is the rain. Back in Ireland we didn’t had lesser rain.
I like the feeling this lens creates it’s so typical for it, therefore I take this lens out of the bag again & again. (Flowing images shot with f2.8 at 200mm.)