Why Start with Landscape Photography

I'm a photographer, and that to me means that I try to capture everything that I find interesting, and in the case of stock photography, subjects that sell. I love capturing images of people, predominantly through portraiture, but also by enjoying the challenges of street photography. So if I list types of photography and the first two on the list include people, why do I always tell newcomers to start with landscape photography? Is it because it's easier?

The short answer to whether landscape photography is easier than other types of photography is no. The long answer is NOOOOOOO.

So why suggest it as a starting point for new photographers?

Well, there is a method to my madness. If you look at the work of great landscape photographers, it is apparent that their work stands out a mile from we mere mortals. And given that landscapes are a fixed asset, there must be a good reason why this is. The lessons learned from them bode well for all other types of photography, and the opposite isn't naturally so. 

So am I saying that its the hardest form of photography? No, I'm simply putting forward the idea that it's the best foundation block for all things photographic. You learn natural lighting, composition, finding the image and the patience required to bring the scene to life. Do that with an inert object, and do it well, and I think that will be a fantastic starting point. 

First of all, the day will start early. You're up and out, waiting for sunrise. You've probably walked to a location that you want to capture. You have fresh air in your lungs, and all before most people have put the kettle on. Before you've even taken your camera out of your bag, you are feeling alive and at one with your subject. You start to look around, questions pouring through your head. What am I looking for? What will be my foreground interest? Will I be looking for maximum depth of field or will I isolate something with a hint of a wonderful vista behind? My theme; is it the dark, ominous cloudy image that makes the viewer want to curl up under a duvet, or the first glimpse of spring that makes them want to shake off that duvet and get out into nature.

These questions are the start of a process. A process that will end up with you capturing the best image that you can. You won't be able to direct the subject. There is no turn slightly to the right, pull your chin up, look into the lens with nature. You have to do the work. If you want a slightly different angle, you move. 

Starting with composition, working through correct exposure values and the wait for that exact moment when the light is at its very best, that is the art of landscape photography that also becomes your classroom.

Others may contradict me, but from my point of view, there are two, and only two, main elements to a good landscape photograph. Composition and light. Nature provides the light and the subject. It's your job to make sure that the composition compliments what nature is providing and to use the light that is provided to take the image from good to wow.

When that is set up, we start to use the other lessons that we have covered. The exposure triangle and post-processing. So why mention post-processing at this early stage?

Thomas Heaton does not take one image without first having an idea in his mind's eye as to what that image will look like when printed and framed. True, not even he will get that right all of the time, but by having the destination in mind, he knows or at least understands what route he will need to take. If we emulate that, we can follow the same recipe for success. 

The other advantage of starting with landscape photography is that you have a willing subject right in front of you. You don't have to be on top of an alp or in Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon. Landscapes are five minutes walk from where you are right now. Possibly even closer. Your images can be taken in a local park. Across the Park pond. Or a cityscape or a seascape. Landscapes don't need to be huge vistas. Just look at the woodland photography of Simon Baxter. He takes very intimate images that are captured in the middle of nowhere. He may be in a woodland that stretches for thousands of acres but takes images that capture an extremely small part of that. What he does very cleverly, is use his eyes. 

So is this a lesson. Not really, it's just my thought process. I want you to take the best possible images. That's what I want for myself too. This thought process is just the tip of the iceberg. Now it's up to you to sit back and work out how you are going to make photography work for you. 

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