There are a number of ingredients that help make a great landscape image. Lens choice, composition, exposure length, filtration and viewpoint are among the key things that will help shape the look of your images. However, one thing more than any other will influence your scenic shots – light. The very meaning of the word ‘photography’ is writing or painting with light. Don’t ever underestimate its significance or impact. It helps to shape and define the landscape, adding contrast, texture, relief and a perception of depth to far-reaching views. Light is transient – constantly changing throughout the day and from one season to the next. It can be warm or cooling, gentle or harsh – arguably the most significant skill landscape photographers have to learn is using light effectively. Photography is an art form – it is all about aesthetics. However technically adept you are with a camera, ultimately light and composition are the things that will define your shots. Often the difference between a good photo and a great one is appropriate or creative use of light – plain and simple. It really is that important, which is why you need to understand how natural light works and what types of light suit particular scenes. Front-, side- and back-lighting all have their own individual qualities and advantages, while even subdued, overcast light is suited to certain landscapes – for example, woodland interiors. Once you understand the effects and benefits of different light types, you can make a more informed decision on which location it is best to visit, and when. As far as possible, scenic photographers also need to learn how to anticipate light and judge how the sun’s position – in relation to the landscape – will influence results. The time of day and season both affect the light’s look and quality. Time of day is particularly important.
Generally speaking, the light’s quality is best during the so-called ‘golden hours’ of light – the period just after sunrise and just before sunset when sunlight is naturally low, warm and beautiful. Although unsociable times
of the day, it is the golden hours of light when landscape photographers should be their most active and productive.
Time of year is also very relevant. Contrary to common belief, the sun doesn’t simply rise in the east and set in the west. A more accurate description would be to say it rises and sets in easterly and westerly directions. Its exact position changes daily, and – consequently – some locations are better shot at certain times of the year than at others. Therefore, calculating the best time of year to visit a given viewpoint is important, and actually relatively easy to do today, thanks to the wide range of websites and apps, which are now readily available. Over the following pages we will look at how the light’s direction, quality, colour and the time of year affect the landscape and also how to capture good images in poor or low-light. Quite simply, this guide is designed to make you think more about light. By understanding its role and influence, you will soon be capturing better landscape images.
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