6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography

Greeting my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. I spent some of my most formative years as a photographer here, shooting along the coast, striving to capture it in photos and dodging many a row wave. Now, during those years, I learned many important lessons about what makes for powerful seascape photos. And in this video, I’m going to share with you six techniques that you can use to shoot killer coastal photographs. Let’s go.

A good seascape, starts with some essential gear and a solid tripod comes in right at the top of the list. All of the reasons you should be using a tripod for your landscape photography go doubly. When you’re shooting at the coast, not only does the tripod give you a stable base to photograph from, to achieve those tax sharp details. It also allows you to use a longer shutter speed. Some of the best seascape images are taken with shutter speeds between a quarter second and 30 seconds or more. And if you’re trying to pull off handheld shots at those long exposures, your photos are going to be blurry disappointments. So slap your camera on a tripod and you’ll see an instant improvement in your images. And here’s a pro tip for you. Push your tripod legs deep into the wet sand at the ocean’s edge. And if a wave wraps around the legs, push them deeper.

Still the wet sand will help cement around the tripod legs and give you an awesomely stable base to shoot from. Even if waves are rushing around you and always, always, always make sure that your tripod is level. The last thing you want is for your camera to take a dip in the ocean because your tripod was off balance and fell over a tripod will get you 90% of the way to having sharper photos, but to bring out the best in your shots, you should also use a remote cable release as well. The remote release lets you pop off shots without actually touching your camera. So it removes the shake that comes from pushing the shutter button. And if you’re wondering why you can’t just use the two second timer when you’re shooting at the coast, it’s because you often want to time your shots very specifically and hit the shutter at the exact moment that you need to. And trying to time that two seconds in advance, it’s an exercise in futility.

Graduated neutral density filters are a must have accessory. That’ll help bring your seascape photography up a few notches. In many photography situations you can avoid using G and D filters by bracketing exposures and then combining them later in Photoshop. But that practice will get you into hot water here at the coast. And the reason for that is really simple. The ocean is moving and if you’re bracketing exposures here, when you’re shooting the water, the waves, they’re going to look different in every single shot. And when you go to blend those exposures in post, it stands a really good chance of coming out funky. So using a graduated neutral density filter ensures that you can capture the whole dynamic range of the scene in a single shot, but be aware that G and D filters are like magnets for salt spray, which is one of those unique annoyances that comes with photographing the coast.

Every time these waves out here crash, they send these little droplets of sea spray into the air, which lands on these builders. And if it’s windy, this salt spray is a photographer’s nightmare. It’s this ever present mist that blows into your face and onto your lenses and your filters. It is the worst feeling to think that you’ve absolutely nailed a shot only to get home and find out that you had little droplets all over the front of your camera the whole time. So to combat that problem, you always got to keep some lens wipes handy and be vigilant about wiping down the front of your filters and your lens. And for me personally, I prefer using these paper wipes as opposed to the microfiber wipes, because they do a great job of pulling off that salt spray, that sea air without causing smearing like a microfiber cloth often.


I mind the number one thing that you can do to improve the impact of your seascape photography is simple. Just get closer to the ocean. Don’t be afraid to get into the surf zone and get a little wet by getting closer. You’re going to be in a better position to show off the ocean dynamics like wave action in crashes and splashes and mushes and cascades though. These photos right here, they show the exact same scene. And yet one is way more interesting than the other, right? This photo was taken 20 feet above the surf zone and this photo was taken in the surf. So consequently it’s much more dynamic, engaging and impactful. The simple act of walking 20 feet, closer to the ocean, improved this photo immeasurably. Now here’s a little safety tip. Always keep one eye on the ocean and be aware that rogue waves can occur at any time.

It can be much larger than other waves. So you always want to have an escape plan. You always want to be aware of your surroundings when you’re in the surf zone and it’s best. If you can keep all of your gear on you, don’t put your camera over there and your bag over there because you might need to gather everything up and ski daddle in a moment’s. Now, if you do get hit by a wave, don’t try to run because it’s most likely that you’re just going to get knocked over instead, turn sideways to the ocean. It gives you a stronger base against the force of the water and it reduces your profile.

One of the great joys of seascape photography is the ability to dramatically alter the look of your images simply by changing the shutter speed, playing with shutter speed, lets us shoot into the fourth dimension by capturing visuals that our eyes can’t see whenever there’s motion in a scene, you should be thinking about how to use your shutter speed to capture that motion. When you’re out at the coast, if you pick a fast shutter speed, like say a hundredth of a second, it’s going to freeze the crashing waves in midair, which is going to create tension and drama in your photos, but a longer shutter speed of around one second can be used to create silky streamers and soft curls in the waves. And very long shutter speeds like 30 seconds or a minute or more are fantastic for creating that completely smooth Misty look in the ocean, but what’s really fun about shooting the ocean is not just that it’s moving, but also that it’s constantly changing.

Unlike shooting say a waterfall where back-to-back exposures at the same shutter speed are probably going to look virtually identical back-to-back exposures at the coast can exhibit entirely different characters and moods depending on whether a wave is just beginning to crest or it’s rushing up the beach or flowing over some rocks or washing back out the seat. When you press the shutter button has a remarkable effect on the outcome of your image. So once you’ve found that shutter speed that you like try experimenting with timing your shots when the ocean is doing different things. And you’re surely going to notice some fantastic elements being added to your book.

Personally, one of the most powerful elements in landscape photography are leading lines. Those are those natural pathways that move your viewers eye through the image. And the ocean does a wonderful job of creating leading lines for us. If you know where to look, one of the most obvious lines that you can use in your seascape compositions is the line of foam that a wave creates as it comes up the beach, but perhaps even more interesting lines are created by the motion of the water itself. By stretching your shutter speed out to say one to two seconds, you can capture the movement of a wave as it moves up and down the beach. And when you do that, it creates beautiful running streamers of water that pull your viewers eye into the photo and to really nail those wavy streamers. Here’s what you do. You set shutter speed to one half to two seconds. Then you wait for a wave to crash, to rush up the beach and pause at the top just as the wave begins to flow back into the ocean. That’s when you trip the shutter that quarter second to two second exposure is going to capture the movement of the wave. 

Lots of photographers like to shoot in aperture priority mode because it’s easy. You pick an aperture to get the depth of field that you want. And the camera decides what the necessary shutter speed is to get the right exposure. But when you’re shooting seascapes, the camera can easily be fooled into shooting bad exposures. As waves are crashing and splashing through your scene. The camera is going to constantly be adjusting exposure to try to keep up with these changing conditions. And unfortunately, most of the time the camera is going to fail miserably and produce wildly varying results. These three photos, I took an aperture priority mode and despite them being taken back to back to back, the exposure change between them is as much as three stops. So by switching to full manual, you’re going to lock in an exposure which doesn’t change as waves crash over the rocks and recede, which means you’re going to get consistent and repeatable results for a similar reason.

I highly recommend that you use manual focus when shooting seascapes, because when you’re photographing a moving subject, like the ocean, your camera’s auto-focus could start hunting for every single shot. And the last thing that you need is to not be able to shoot because the camera’s trying to lock focus on a moving wave, using manual focus, completely avoids this issue. And a good trick is just to use focus initially to really lock in that perfect focus for your scene and then switch over to manual focus on your lens so that it can’t hunt that way. You’ll rest assured that all of your shots will be taxed sharp [inaudible] means to me, those are six techniques for next level seascapes. So get out there, use them and shoot and be sure to tag your photos on Instagram, hashtag Joshua Crips photography, because I want to see them. And if you haven’t already please consider subscribing to this channel for more tips like this, that’s going to do it for me until next time, have fun and happy shooting.

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Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

Photographing Volcanos With Landscape Pro Ian Plant

Right. You always gotta be thinking about how you can take things up to the next level. You can’t just rest on your laurels. If you want to make really compelling photographs.

Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here on this episode of how I got the shot. I’m very excited to welcome a special guest. One of the best landscape photographers in the world, and someone I’m proud to call a personal friend, Ian plant. I’ve been following Ian’s work since the very early days of my own career. And one of the things that has always impressed me about his work is his dedication to the shot. Once he’s got an idea for an image, no matter how crazy or adventurous it is, he goes for it. And he does what it takes to execute his vision. And the photo he’s going to be telling us all about today is no different a magnificent portrait at this volcano, but I’m gonna let him tell you all about it. So without any further ado, let’s dive in ed plant. Welcome. And thank you so much for joining me here on how I got the shot. How are you doing today?

I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me, Josh. It’s a real honor and privilege to speak with you as always.

Hey man, it’s absolutely my pleasure. And I’m so stoked to talk to you about this photograph because you didn’t give me an idea in advance, what you were going to be talking about, what photos you’re going to be showing. And when these volcano images popped up on my screen, I just had to hear the story there’s so much going on in these photos that, that we could talk about, not just the technical aspects and the exposure, but also the colors, the composition, the whole story behind it. I can’t wait to get into it. So I’m going to turn the ball over to you. Why don’t you just get us go and tell me what the heck are we looking at? Where is this and how did you get there?

Well, this is a great story. In fact, it’s an explosive story. See what I did there, a little volcano pawn. So this is actually a sequence of photos. I wanted to share with everyone, my process, as I explored this beautiful volcano, this volcano is in the Island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. And it is literally halfway across the world. From where I live. It was quite an adventure getting there. And I spent a week photographing this volcano. And with this subject, like with my other landscape subjects, I usually spend a fair amount of time trying to understand the subject, get in tune with its rhythms and to really assess what the creative potentials are. And usually what happens is my work goes through this iterative process where one shot, you know, just kind of leads to the next. And so instead of just showing one image and explaining how I got it, I thought it might be fun to go through the series of photos that I took while I was there for one week photographing.

And so it’s really interesting because you get to this remote Island in the middle of the South Pacific and the, uh, scenery is pretty much dominated by this one, giant massive volcano and it’s, and it’s really quite huge. So the first photo I’m sharing here is just a reference photo, and this is a shot I took with my drone after climbing up to the top of the volcano. I launched my drone and flew it up as high as I could looking back down just to give a sense of scale. This is a huge, huge landscape, uh, feature. And this is volcano. Crater is probably, I don’t know, at least a half a mile or a mile across. And you can see there’s these lava pools down at the bottom and they look quite small in this picture. That gives you an idea how big this volcanic crater is.

So that love of pool on the left. In this first photo, you can see the smoke rain coming out of it. That is an explosion that is just happening right there. So there’s magma coming out of this lava pool and it is going hundreds and hundreds of feet into the sky. And it looks very, very tiny. And this smoke ring that you’re seeing coming out of that lava pool is hundreds and hundreds of feet across. I mean, I don’t even know how big it is. It’s just this massive plume of smoke that I saw when I was standing there on the crater edge of the volcano, but from the distance with my drone, it looks very small relative to the overall size of the landscape. So this is just an odd, inspiring humongous landscape, which presented a huge challenge photographically.

Now, how do you get to this? You hike up there or is it, uh, you have to take a guide or a donkey or a horse, or what’s the story like, how do you actually get to the rim there to observe this incredible landscape?

So what I did is I stayed at this little lodge, this Villa that was right below the, uh, the volcano. And, you know, I could see the volcano from where I was. And from there you go into the volcanic park and you hire a guide and the guide takes you up in like a four by four vehicle and you can park below the crater rim and then you have to climb several hundred feet up to the top of the crater rim with your guide. And there’s actually a fair number of tourists that go there. And so in the evening there might be another 30 or 40 people going up there with you. So it’s quite the tourist event, but you could also go up in the early morning before sunrise. And I did that a lot. And typically there were, there weren’t really any other people then. So a lot of times I’d be up there by myself with, uh, with my photo buddy, who I was traveling with. We’d be up there all by ourselves in the morning. And it was really incredible to have that this, this amazing natural landscape, this amazing event, all to ourselves.

That sounds utterly unbelievable. It’s such a primal landscape. So tell me as you come up to the creator for the first time and you’re looking down and you’re seeing this magma and these, and you’re hearing this and feeling, uh, what, what do you, what are your sensory experiences? Like? What does it smell? Like? What does it sound like? Do you feel anything in your chest and how does that start to guide the process for you of coming up with an idea for a photo that flowed downhill into this final image?

Yeah, it’s interesting. Cause I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen a few photos from this location, but it’s not exactly on the map for most photographers. It’s kind of Terra incognita. And so the first experience you have is sound because as you’re climbing up, you hear these explosions that are going on. What’s really unique about Yasir volcano is that it basically erupts everything that it’s, it’s very predictable and the eruptions are the result of magma building up in these lava pools. As the pressure builds up, it releases in this giant explosion that just causes all these magma bombs, do a flying hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air. And so as you’re climbing up, you can’t see anything, but you can hear those explosions. So you hear these, this banging noise, it’s kind of like distant artillery, like maybe a cannon going off or something like that.

And then when you get up to the top of the rim, you’re not really able to look down and see the lava pools from where you’re standing, but every few minutes suddenly you feel this wave of pressure passing you. There’s a shock wave. There’s the sound of the explosion. Uh, so the explosion sound comes first, then the shockwave passes and you can just feel the pressure in your chest. And then you see these giant magma bombs, uh, coming up above the crater rim and just flying in the air in front of you, hundreds of feet above you, it’s really quite a stunning sight. And it’s quite a stunning thing to be just standing there when it happens. It’d be like the noise of the explosions. If you’re not paying attention, it could, uh, it can startle you. And as I said, you could feel it, that sound wave passing through you. And it’s quite an incredible feeling.

So are you in any danger at all of these magnet bombs landing on the rim?

I would say that the danger is pretty low. The guides are very good and they tell you when you see an explosion to keep your eye on the magma bombs. And they, um, because the, the volcanic activity is pretty stable and predictable, the guides know where you can go safely and where not to go. They tell people all the time, don’t climb down below the edge of the crater rim. And you do hear stories occasionally about tourists getting killed, but that’s because they break the rules and they go down into the crater and that’s the danger zone. So as long as you listen to your guides and pay attention, it’s perfectly safe. And as I said, they bring up hundreds of tourists there every month. So it’s actually quite safe and really amazing.

And I’m just imagining some drunk frat like, uh, but you won’t go touch the lava betta who will no offense to drunk frat boys. All right. So you get up on the rim. You’re seeing these magma bombs, you’re feeling the shockwaves pass through your body. And somehow you, as a photographer are starting to think about how you can capture this place and capture what it is you’re feeling and seeing in an image that does justice to it in some way. So what was the process for you like in taking these sensory experiences in understanding a little bit more about the story of this volcano and then turning it into a photo?

Well, the first step with this landscape location as with any landscape location, it’s kind of figuring it out. So doing some scouting, exploring on foot where you can to find out what the angles are, to see what you can see basically. And I can extend that by using my drone. And I actually did some drone photography while I was there. This was kind of like in my early days when I first had a drone, so I wasn’t really doing it as much as I do it now. And so I didn’t take that many drone photos. And so the next photo in the sequence is a, uh, another drone shot this time. You know, the first shot was just a reference shot. Uh, and it was, you know, me being involved in the process of exploring the area and trying to figure out what it had to offer.

The second drone shot is, uh, a bit more specific in its artistic goals. And so for the second shot, I, I was flying lower and exploring the lava pools and the scene kind of looked like an evil face to me. So that’s what attracted me to the second composition, because you can see the two little eyes, which are the lava pools and then the steam, or like bushy eyebrows. And then there’s this Ridge with Ash on it. That looks kind of like a, a nose and maybe an evil smile. And so this was really interesting taking this photo because I had to fly the drone low enough to get this perspective. Cause, you know, as I said, this is a really huge crater. And so I was flying the drone down into the crater and I would fly it over the lava pools, but then there would be the inevitable explosion.

And when that happened, I had to zoom my drone up as high as quickly, full throttle going straight up so that I could avoid that magma coming up. And so usually, uh, I was able to avoid the Ash cloud, but sometimes I’d be flying and all of a sudden I’d just see this wall of black coming towards my drone. And those moments were a little scary, but the Ash cloud turned out to be harmless. And luckily I never lost my drone to the magma, but the drone allowed me to kind of scout a little bit more and to understand what the potential compositions would be in addition to what I was doing on land. And then it was a moment of figuring out the best timing to take these shots, the best kind of light. And it’s a bit tricky because the magma is bright now during the day, you can’t really see it that well.

And it doesn’t really show up in the photographs that well, because there’s so much ambient light. So the, I figured out very quickly that the best times to shoot the magma were after the sun had dropped in the evening or before the sun Rose in the morning. So in the Twilight and in the dark. And so when it was very dark out, it was easy to photograph the magma, but it was too dark to pick up any of the surrounding landscape or anything in the sky. So I very quickly realized that the best thing to do was to wait for that moment during the Twilight, when the ambient light levels had dropped enough that they balanced with the native glow of the Magna. So when the exposure for the magma and the Twilight sky were about the same, that was the best time to take a photo because I could capture the magma and it would stand out really nicely and I’d get its color really nice, but I’d also pick up some of the ambient light on the landscape and in the Twilight sky. And there was usually about a five to 10 minute window of opportunity when the Twilight and the magma were balanced and exposure. So I would have a very short window of opportunity in the evening or in the morning to get that balanced exposure, to get the light in the color that I was looking for.

Well, I love that man, because so often as landscape photographers, we show up at a certain time, we evaluate what’s happening in the scene and we take the best shot that we can in that moment. And then we leave, but it takes it that next step, that little bit of vision to realize, you know, what’s going to actually make this shot sing is the balance between the exposure of the magma and the ambient exposure. So when is that going to happen to be able to think that through and problem solve that to end up with a photo that gives you that nice overall exposure while letting the magma really seeing that’s such a great takeaway for any nature photographers to think about, not just what are the conditions right now, but if you were to wait a little while or come back another time, would the light help you tell the story that you want to tell any more effective way?

And the result you can see here? I mean the color contrast you’ve got is absolutely stunning between these arcs of magma and the deep blues of the Twilight there in the background. And I’m looking at a photo right now that has this wonderful billowing steam clouds and smoke, and it looks like there’s cloud in the background as well. And you’ve got these vivid reds and these intense blues and that color contrast really, really makes this photo pop. So can you talk a little bit about how you worked with the coloration of the scene to make such an effective image

As we go through this progression of photos into the third and the fourth photo, you can see that trying to get that complimentary color scheme between the blues of Twilight and that row, that warm color of the magma. And this is just a technique I like to use a lot with my landscape photography is to juxtapose opposite colors. And this is called complimentary colors if a, if you’re in the art world. And so usually what that means is a warm color juxtapose against a cooler color. And what happens is when you juxtapose these opposite colors, they make each seem more vibrant. They pop out a lot more. And I think in digital photography, there’s this temptation to warm up the scene, too much people like those warm colors, those fiery sunrises and sunsets. But if you do that too much, you’re going to lose those cooler tones.

You’re going to lose that complimentary color scheme. And I think as a result, you’re doing your photos a disservice. So preserving that color scheme was part the result of field work. You know, picking that timing. When I had that ambient light balance with the magma, I knew that the two colors would work together really effectively in these final photos. The other part was in the editing process, which was making sure I selected a white balance that wasn’t going to evaporate that complimentary color scheme that was going to preserve those blue colors. And so once I like worked out the timing when I wanted to be there to shoot and the colors that I was looking for, then it was two other things that I had to figure out. So the first was making sure that I had good clouds in the sky. And so there are a lot of examples in these photos where the sky was pretty clear.

So I didn’t really get great clouds, but I think that the photos with clouds are a bit more effective because the clouds bring extra color and shape to the sky. They bring some texture to the sky. And then the final variable was my shutter speed. And I quickly learned that with these, uh, when it got darker and I had these longer exposures that the magmas and it was flying through the sky would create these beautiful streaks of color. And so I quickly settled on doing exposure times between eight seconds and 15 seconds to optimize those glowing arcs of light that were coming out. And so, you know, you can begin to do the math here. I would have five or 10 minutes of optimal lighting conditions every evening. And I’m doing these like these eight to 15 second exposures, and you do a few of those and you’ve run out of that window of time. So that’s part of the reason why I spent so much time at this location a whole week, photographing this place, going up every evening, going up every morning, 14 bites at the Apple was because I needed to figure all this stuff out. You kind of have to go through it first to figure out the optimal light and the compositions. And then once you get those variables, those variables decided what you want to include in your final photos. Then it’s a matter of just patiently waiting until you get them

You want, and it paid off wonderfully here. And I’m looking at this fourth photo in the series here. And to me, this has all those elements you’ve been talking about. It’s got the arcs, it’s got beautiful control over the exposure, not only of the magma, but also the ambient exposure with those deep blues in the background, in those beautiful billowing clouds. Me personally, I would have been stoked to see this pop up with the back of my camera. I probably would have dusted my hands off and said, great, I got the shot. It’s time to move on to something else, but it wouldn’t be an Ian plant photo if you didn’t think about how can I take this to that next level? And if I jump over to the next photo in this series, all of a sudden things change really dramatically. And they go from just a picture of the landscape to a picture of the landscape with a person in it. So what happened there? What was your thought process? Why did you decide to put yourself in the photo and then take us all the way through the rest of the series? How this developed?

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you’re right. You always gotta be thinking about how you can take things up to the next level. You can’t just rest on your laurels if you want to make really compelling photographs. And so one of the challenges of this, this massive volcano is that because it’s so big, you’ve got to use a wide angle of view to capture everything. And also because you’re working in times of the day, when a lot of the landscape is pretty dark, you quickly lose this sense of place and the sense of scale. And so my thought was, I need to introduce a human element to make the composition more interesting, and to also create a compelling point of interest for these photographs, because you’re just looking at these photographs and you’re just seeing this lava that’s streaking through the air, and it’s kind of hard to figure out what it is.

And it’s kind of hard to really tell a story effectively. So by inserting a human element to these photos, I figured I could create a, you know, a deeper sense of place and scale, and also create a proxy for the viewer. When you insert a human element into a landscape photo that basically invites the viewer into the scene, they can imagine them being that person and it gives them a vicarious thrill. So I’d worked out these variables. I knew I had to shoot during the Twilight. I knew I wanted clouds. I knew I wanted these eight seconds to 15 second exposures with the streaking magma. And now I wanted a human element and it can be often difficult unless you have a professional model that you’re paying to get someone to work with you. So often when I’m out there in the field, instead of asking these random tourists who are walking by doing their own thing to post for me, I insert myself into the photograph.

And so what I did is I would set up my basic composition. I kind of figure out where the magma activity was the strongest, and I would set up the composition and get all my variable set, shutter speed, ISO aperture, et cetera. And then I would use my remote cable. I would trigger the shutter and then I would lock it. And so what would happen is let’s say I had eight second exposures. The camera was then taking consecutive eight second exposures. And then I would just walk into the scene and figure out the best pose and the posture. And I would stand there for two or three or four minutes just waiting for really good eruptions to happen. And once I had quite a few eruptions, I’d go back, stop the camera from taking exposures, review my shots really quickly make any adjustments as necessary to my settings or my composition or my pose, and then keep going while I still had.

Good. And so the series of images shows you a bunch of different experiments with having a human element in the photograph. So the first photo is me and, you know, I was trying different poses. Some friends of mine jokingly referred to this as the Fonzie pose. I don’t know why, I guess I looked like the Fonz and this a, so the first photo I had some really good clouds in the sky and I had that really nice Twilight glow. So there’s some blues and purples in the sky and the clouds. And then you’ve got the orange and the yellows and the reds down below, which is really nice. The second photo, I didn’t really have many clouds, but I do have a bit of a starry sky in the background. And then in the third photo, I started to experiment with putting a camera in the shot to kind of create this metaconcept and to find a more interesting way of, of bringing the viewer into the photograph.

So this is a secondary camera that I had with me, my backup camera on a secondary backup tripod, and I put it into the shot and I turned on the live view of the camera. And then I started taking photos. And whenever the live view would turn off, I’d go back and turn it on. And that way I could get a photo of the magma erupting and then a view of that in the live view of the camera. So I thought that was kind of an interesting way of portraying the scene. And you can see that I continue to evolve this concept. And so the next photo shows the camera set up with the live view, engaged and interruption in the background, but then I inserted myself into the scene as well. And so I sat down next to my camera. I wanted to create this vicarious experience for the viewer so that they could feel like that was them taking the picture that evening, watching the volcano erupt.

And then finally the final photo in the series, which is the one photo. I think that brings all this together. This is the closest thing to the perfect execution of all these concepts into one photo. This is actually not me. This is another photographer that was there, uh, who was standing on the crater rim, photographing the eruption. So I stepped back as far as I could and made this photograph, incorporating him in the scene. And I got a really nice eruption behind him, but what makes this shot work in my opinion is the really dynamic clouds in the sky. So they’ve got this really great shape and they fill that space in the sky. So I’m able to bring together that Twilight glow, the complimentary color scheme of the blues of the sky and the warm colors of the magma, the human element, and some interesting cloud shapes. So this is the closest I was able to get to achieving that vision that was in my head.

Well, that’s a really fantastic evolution. And what I enjoyed about that story just now is that it shows that it’s not just about rocking up to the location, slapping camera on the tripod, hitting that shutter button. And you’re good to go, you know, to really create any vocative iconic photograph. It’s about having an idea. First of all, then spending the time to get to know the place, then developing that idea and seeing where it takes you. But there are so many other elements that you can’t control, right? Like mother nature. And so even if you could position this photographer in this exact spot and have your exposure dialed, you’re also dependent on the clouds. You’re also dependent on where the magma bursts happen and do they create the right silhouette or are they in the wrong spot? So this is such, just a beautiful epitome of what it’s like to be a nature photographer, where you bring your a game and mother nature brings her a game and it all kind of comes together in this half controlled half chaotic dance, this beautiful expression of the world that we live in. And I’ve got two questions for you. Now, one is, um, you said that this was the closest that you got to capturing the vision that you had in your head. Is there something that you would do differently if you could go back another time?

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one other part of this process, this dance that you’re talking about is, is your own creative exploration and evolution. And so what often happens is when you’re out making photos in the field, you take a moment to step back when you’re done and really look critically at what you’ve done. And sometimes you are able to say, you know, I got it this time, everything worked out great. I wouldn’t change a thing. Other times you realize that there might’ve been a better way of doing things. And so one of the challenges I had when I was making these photographs is that the crater rim was very narrow at the top. And as a result, I was never able to really back away from someone I was photographing, whether it was myself or someone else. And so, as a result, the people in these photographs are fairly big relative to the overall scene.

And so the background landscape, this massive volcano, even these massive eruptions end up looking a little small relative to the silhouette of the person in the foreground. And so I would like to reverse that now I wasn’t able to get farther away from these people to make them shrink in the landscape, uh, because of the crater rim sloped so much. If you started moving backwards, you started going down and you lost the angle on the person and you couldn’t see the eruption behind them anymore, the volcano behind them. So I think the answer to this is if I do return is to try to use my drone, to do the same thing and the drone can fly farther back and, uh, it can also fly higher up. So I can keep that perspective where I’ve got that big, massive explosion in the background, but I can shrink the person in the foreground so that I can have the landscape scene look bigger than the person. So I think that would be a, a better way of showing the sense of scale and creating a dramatic image. And actually I was supposed to be back at this location this past may, but the pandemic completely screwed up my travel plans. So I’m going to probably have to wait maybe another year until I can go back and try this new concept and see if I can’t bring these images up to a higher level.

Cool. That sounds totally Epic. And I hope that we can get traveling again, because I want to see you get back there and take that photo, because I’m trying to imagine how that anything could be cooler than this, but if you think it could be next level than I really want to see it. And that leads into my last question that I’ve got for you right now, Ian, which is you spent a lot of time at this volcano, right? You, you were there for a week. You went up at sunrise and sunset every day. Why spend that much time? And you’re talking now about going back another time, you know, a lot of photographers would say, okay, I’ve got a week in Vanuatu. This is awesome. I’m going to hit 14 different locations at sunrise and sunset. You said, I’m going to hit the same location, every single sunrise and sunset. What’s your thought process? Why do you approach photography in that kind of way to go deep instead of broad?

Speaker 1: (27:59)
Well, I think first of all, that, you know, a lot of people are of the mindset that they want to see as much as they can photograph as much as they can and whatever time they have, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think that the end result is more likely to be maybe a bunch of good photos, but not that many great photos. If you want to make really great photos, you really got to put in some time and effort. Like sometimes you can just show up and get lucky, but usually you’ve got to scout the location, figure out what the best compositions are, figuring out the best light. And you can’t just, I mean, you can do some research ahead of time, but you really can’t understand how the light is going to work with a particular landscape until you’ve sat through it.

And you’ve seen exactly how it will play upon the landforms. And so you’ve got to put in some time there, but, you know, as we said earlier, you know, during this dance with mother nature, she’s not always bringing her best. And so sometimes you’ve got to wait it out. And I think it’s important to have a vision in your head and try to impose that vision on the real world. And the only way you can really do that is through patients because you have to wait for the real world to spontaneously align and converge in a way that is close to what your creative vision is. Hopefully you’ll get it to align in a way exactly the way it’s in your brain, but more often than not, you’ll just get as close as you possibly can to something that you’ve thought of. And I think the other thing to keep in mind here is that you’re probably going to make your best photographs when you are photographing something that inspires you.

And this was a place that really inspired. I mean, it really spoke to me in a dramatic and compelling way. And so if you’ve got a place that you really love, if you’ve kind of figured it out, but you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, then the best thing you can do is find a way to get back to that spot and keep working it until you get what you want. Because I don’t know. I think back at the parts of my evolution as a photographer that I regret the most and I, I don’t regret getting to a spot and taking photos, even if it’s a spot I’ve been to many, many times before, what I regret are the shots that get away from me the, the, the times where I was somewhere. And for some reason, I wasn’t able to execute at the highest level. That’s what you regret. And that’s what I try to avoid doing. I mean, I, I just shoot what inspires me and I just try to get the best shots that I can from those places that inspire me. And if I don’t get my very best, then I find a way to get back there and make it happen.

Well, you inspire me, man. I think that’s a great takeaway for everybody out there. Listening is the more meaningful photography that you want to do. It’s worth that time to execute on your vision, to make it happen, to follow the stories that inspire you as deeply as you can, to really get to know those subjects. The last thing the world needs is a thousand photographers skipping across the surface, creating cotton candy, pretty pictures. We need more meaningful imagery that tells these stories of what a marvelous, extraordinary place the planet really is. Right? So thank you so much, Ian. I really appreciate being able to spend this time with you to learn about a place that I didn’t even know existed, first of all, and to see these wonderful images and to know that you’re going to go back and shoot some more cool stuff that maybe we can have a chance to talk about again, in the future for everybody out there, who’s not already following Ian, please do yourself a favor. I’m going to link all of his stuff down below in the video description, go follow him. You’re going to be blown away by the quality of the photography and the commitment to creating these images. It’s really, really inspiring. It’s always great to talk to you, man. Thank you so much for being here on the program. It’s been an honor to talk to you.

Thank you, Josh. The honor is all mine.

All right, everybody. That’s going to do it for this episode of how I got the shot. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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Composition: A simple, story-based approach to effective landscape photos.

Composition: A simple, story-based approach to effective landscape photos.

Here’s a question for you. How do you tell truly captivating stories with your landscape photography stories that tell your viewers what you want them to know about a place I’d like you to ponder that for a minute? Because it seems to me that when you scroll through social media, these days, the only acceptable way to create a landscape photograph is to get as close as possible to your foreground subject, to have it dominate the entire frame. While I love a composition like this, when it’s appropriate shooting like this purely for visual impact is more like landscape photography porn in that it emphasizes aesthetics and visual impact over everything else, as opposed to being actual effective visual storytelling. In my opinion, the process should go the other way around first, start with the story that you want to tell, and then let that dictate your composition. And in this video, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that.Greetings my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. And as you know, I love the concept of storytelling in photography. And one of the things that I find truly extraordinary is that you can take the exact same physical stuff within a scene. And by changing your composition completely change the story that you were telling. Let me give you an example

You’ve ever been to Mount cook national park in New Zealand. It’s very likely that you have hiked the Valley track nurse. One particular spot on this track where you go over a swing bridge. And as you round the bend, you are smacked in the eyeballs with one of the most marvelous views of our [inaudible] Mount cook. This particular band. It’s one of my favorite places in the park for photography. And this particular setting I would say is dominated by five or six main features. There’s obviously [inaudible] Mount cook, but then there’s also this steely blue river. And within that, there are heaps of these cool chocky boulders. And there’s quite a lot of other stuff you can look at in this scene as well, like Mount Wakefield to the East and Mount Sefton out to the West as well of some beautiful little shrubberies. But for this video, I just want to focus on those three things out AKI Mount cook, the river and the Boulder Photography. Aesthetics would dictate that the correct composition for this scene would be to get as close as possible to a Boulder or a cascade in the river and make that foreground element as in face as possible. Now that’s fine. If the story that you want to tell your viewer, now that’s fine. 

Now. That’s fine. If the story you want to tell your viewer is more about your experience with the boulders and the river, more so than your experience with the mountain. And what I mean by that is, well, let me tell you a story. As I rounded the bend, the pathway came right down next to the river. I was mesmerized by the color of the water, the roaring cacophony of the cascades and the wonderful patterns and shapes in the boulders. And then often the background, you could also see our Rocky Mount cook. You see how this photo tells that kind of a story, but what if the story that you wanted to tell was more like I was walking down the trail, I came around a bend and that’s when I saw it out. Rocky Mount cook. It was so enormous and powerful, and I could not believe the way that it loomed over the entire Valley. I mean, you’re looking at 10,000 feet of mountain rising, straight up out of the landscape. And on top of that astounding physical presence, the light from the peak even reflected and started dancing over the river and the boulders at my feet. You see how these two stories, even though they contain the exact same physical stuff, mountain river boulders, they emphasize two completely different things.

If you want to be an effective storyteller as a photographer will, then you need your compositions to match your impressions of the location. Your composition needs to show how you were feeling about the place and what was most important to your experience in that second story that I told you would be much better served by creating a composition like this one, where you stand back a little bit from the river’s edge and you zoom in a little bit more. In fact, this photo was taken with a 50 millimeter lens and you can see how it emphasizes the size of our Rocky Mount cook so much more dramatically than the boulders and the river. If I go back to a photo like this, what I’m telling the viewer is that the most important part of this scene was the river and the rocks. That’s what left the biggest impression on me as a photographer.

So I’m giving it the dominant amount of space in my photo, because that’s what I want you the viewer to take away from this scene. But of course, it’s not just about changing your focal length or zooming in to change the composition. So let me give you another example of how you can change your composition to tell a different story with the same elements. Here are two photos from Kings. They have the exact same elements in them. There’s a tar and there’s mountains, a sky or reflection. And those rocks under the water here in the foreground, and these photos were taken with the exact same camera, same setting, same focal length, same everything, just a different composition. This vertical composition puts so much more emphasis on the clarity of the water. And consequently, it sends a message of the pristine nature of this basin and gives you a sense of what it’s like to stand there, to dip your toes in this water.

But to be honest, that wasn’t exactly the story that I wanted to tell in that moment. For me personally, I was more struck by the infinity pool effect of this Tarn. And I really wanted to tell a story of the expansiveness of this place, how the sky in this basin seems to go on for forever, this vertical composition while it is engaging. It doesn’t tell that story does it. In fact, this composition feels a little bit tight and closed off, but a horizontal composition like this does paint that picture of endless space, right? You can see how the sky in this photo is so much more expansive and not just in the sky itself, but also in the reflection I’m actually giving you twice as much sky, which helps sell this idea of this place going on forever. Now, obviously you don’t have to choose one over the other.

You can think about both stories and take both photos. And that’s fine. I mean, clearly I shot both, but it is important that you actually think about these things in the field so that your compositions capture the stories that you actually want to tell your viewers. So to sum it all up, if you want to be your own artist, don’t be a slave to the popular aesthetic. First think consciously about the story that you want to tell and what you want your viewers to know about a place. Then use your composition to line up the elements in the scene in a way that tells that story. And if you do this, I guarantee that your photographs are going to be more successful and more personally expressive, which is what it takes to create art that you are proud of. Thank you so very much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, please like, and subscribe and share with your friends and your camera club, I will catch you guys soon in another video. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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How to Photograph the Full Moon: 4 Tips for Epic Shots

How to Photograph the Full Moon: 4 Tips for Epic Shots

Oh, my God, look at the moon tonight! That is unbelievably beautiful! I’m going to take the best moon picture anybody has ever seen. That sucks.

Hello my excellent friends. It’s Josh Cripps here. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that the full moon is one of my favorite things in the world to photograph. And I go on missions almost every month to shoot it, but I didn’t start out taking moon photos like these. I started like everybody else. Does they again? Okay. It’s nighttime and it’s dark out. So I need to put my camera on a tripod and use a longer exposure and a high ISO. And I ended up with photos that looked well, frankly, like crap. So trust me when I say that, I understand your frustrations. If you want to shoot the full moon, but you’re ending up with photos that look like this. The big breakthrough moment that I had, that allowed me to take photos of the moon that I was actually happy with was realizing that as beautiful as the full moon is to our naked eye, it is incredibly difficult to photograph because of four main things. One it’s not very interesting by itself, too. It’s so much brighter than you realize that it screws up your exposure. Seven ways from Sunday three, it’s tiny. I know it looks huge, but it’s not. It’s tiny. And four, it moves around like a drunken sailor. Well, not really, but it moves a lot. Overcome those four challenges and you’re going to have killer moon photos, oops, killer moon photos.

So in this video, I’m going to give you four quick tips to address each of those particular points.

Like I said, the moon is not really that compelling out there by itself, floating in the inky blackness. Even if you’re able to get a decent shot of the moon like this, it’s kind of dry and academic and isolated from the viewer and a full moon one month kind of looks like a full moon the next month and like the full moon the next month and on and on and on. So endless, you are doing some of those insane detail shots like Andrew McCarthy of cosmic background. Guys, definitely check out his Instagram. It’s blow your mind. Cool. So unless you’re doing shots like that, you are way better off shooting the moon when it’s near the horizon. Uh, that way you can align it with some cool stuff here on planet earth. And this is great because I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but it turns out all of your viewers live here on planet earth.

So they’re going to more easily connect with earthy stuff. And so if you connect the moon to that same earthy stuff, you’re automatically going to help create a much stronger connection to your viewer as well. And in my opinion, the best subjects to photograph the moon next to basically it’s anything that sticks up into the sky by itself and is a long way away from you. So things like mountains, lighthouses, or even people can work if they’re far enough away. Okay. So why is this important that your subject be far away? Well, it’s not the farther your subject is from you. The bigger the moon is going to appear compared to that subject. So this is how you make the moon as big as a person, or even as big as a mountain. And the reason it’s important that your subject sticks up into the sky by itself is so that you can actually align the moon with that thing, right? Even though this is a really cool tree, for example, and it would be neat to see the moon behind it from where I took this shot, the moon would actually never align with that tree because obviously the moon is going to drop behind this Ridge first. So you need something that sticks up into the sky. 

Crazy bright it’s orders of magnitude brighter than the earth at night time, or even the earth during blue hour. And so if you try to shoot it at night or during blue hour, you either end up with photos that look like this, where you’ve got no detail in the landscape at all, or you end up with a photo like this, where you’ve got a blown out nuke where the moon is supposed to be to overcome this challenge. We simply need to shoot the moon when there’s light on the landscape as well, because what happens is the overall dynamic range of the scene goes from something extreme to something way more manageable, which means that you can get a single exposure that captures the detail of the moon and of the landscape at the same time. Now, can you bracket exposures and combine them later in post?

Of course you can. Me personally, I like to do it in one shot. It’s just part of the fun challenge. Okay. So when does this actually happen? Well, we can use a little bit of moon geometry, one Oh one to figure it out. It turns out that the full moon is always in the exact opposite part of the sky as the sun. Nope. That’s kind of a bummer for us because it means that during the day when the landscape is fully lit by the sun and you could easily get a shot with the full moon and the landscape and have the dynamic range be manageable. Well at that time of day, the moon is on the other side of the planet underneath you. It’s not visible at all, but right at sunrise and sunset, both the sun and the moon are going be right at the horizon. Meaning at these very special moments, you can see the full moon and you can have light on the landscape as well. So that’s when I recommend you shoot sunrise and sunset. And sometimes the actual day of the full moon is best, but sometimes the day before is better or sometimes the day after is a little bit better just based on the timing. So look up the sun and moon rise and set times and just look for when they line up the best and then go out.

The moon always looks obscene really huge when it’s coming up over the horizon. Right? But as you probably know, that is just an optical illusion. It’s never more than about half a degree in diameter, which means you can actually completely hide the moon by holding out a single finger at arms length. Yeah, it’s tiny. And for this challenge, I have a really, really simple tip for you. Just use a long telephoto lens when you’re shooting. So anything between 200 and a thousand millimeters will work, but in my experience, the sweet spot is about 400 to 750 millimeters. And in this range, it helps the moon appear very large within your frame, but it also shows a lot of what makes your subject or makes the landscape interesting. It may be really tempting to get a 600 millimeter lens and then put a two X teleconverter on there.

But what ends up happening is that you blow up your landscape so much that there’s no longer any context of what it is. And that completely kills the connection for the viewer. And it kills the photos impact. Now those super long telephoto links like 1200 millimeters. They actually can be awesome when you’re shooting smaller subject. It’s like people, but you really have to make sure that your subject is far away like 500 feet or a thousand feet or 2000 feet or more. Or you’re just going to end up with a closeup of somebody’s ear with the moon behind it. The lens that I use for my full moon photography is this one from Nikon. It’s the 200 to 500 millimeter. [inaudible] for a lens that has this kind of reach and versatility. It’s super reasonable and cost. And it is crazy sharp as well. So get some kind of a super zoom like this. And I think it’s going to serve you really well for your moon photography.

Last challenge that we need to overcome is that the moon is well squirly in, it moves all hot. It does not set in a straight line up or down, but at an angle. And it wanders all over the sky and the full moon only sets at the same angle twice per year, roughly, which means that if you have everything lined up for a shot like this, but then something wrong and you don’t get the photo that you wanted. So you think, Oh, I’ll just go back the next full moon. I’ll go to the same spot and I’ll shoot it again. Then we’ll the alignment. Most likely is going to be completely off like this. The other thing is that the moon moves really fast, surprisingly fast. In fact, it moves its own diameter, roughly every hundred and 60 seconds. So if you’re not prepared or you’re not paying attention, the moon is going to go from being perfectly coinciding with your subject to being completely behind it, behind the mountain Ridge or whatever it happens to be in less than three minutes, it’s going to vanish before you realize it.

So to solve the challenge of this wiggly moon, you just need to be able to predict where the moon is going to be at any given moment. And for that all you need to do is use some kind of a planning app. My app of choice is photo pills. And I heard he know just by saying that I’m going to get a ton of comments from people who are like, I try to get into photo pills, but I just couldn’t understand it because it’s too complicated and I get it. Yes, there are a lot of tools and features in photo PhotoPills, but listen, you guys, I’m going to simplify this for you. I’m going to make your lives as easy as I can. All you have to do to get started with photo pills and shooting. The full moon is learn how to use the augmented reality tool.

You can go out the day before the full moon and the augmented reality feature is going to show you exactly where the moon is going to rise and set. So you can plan ahead super easily. And the cool thing about the moon, because it’s so far away from us, it tracks with your position. And what I mean by that is if you move to the North, the moon relative to the landscape, also moves to the North. And if you move to the South, the moon moves to the South as well. So if you’ve got a subject picked out like a mountain, let’s say, and you use a photo pills, augmented reality. And it showing that the moon is going to set to the North of that particular mountain. All you have to do is move to the South. The moon is going to track South with you.

So you just keep checking the app until that line that it shows you goes exactly through the mountain. It’s easy right now, of course, there is a, a lot more to learn about planning, moon photos using PhotoPills. But if you just learn to use this augmented reality tool, you can at least get started shooting these awesome full moon photos and getting started is what it’s all about. I could talk for hours about photographing the full moon. I’m kind of obsessed with it, but I know you guys want to get out there and try it yourselves. So I’m going to leave it at just those four tips for now. And I’m gonna encourage you to get out, to explore and shoot, and please tag your full moon photos. Hashtag Joshua Cripps photography on Instagram. I would love to see them and I might even feature them in an upcoming video. Thank you very, very much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, I would be honored if you could subscribe to the channel as it really does, help me bring you more photography tips like these. This is Josh grips signing off. So until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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PhotoPills Mammoth Lakes 1-Day Bootcamp!

PhotoPills Mammoth Lakes 1-Day Bootcamp!

DESCRIPTION:

Get ready to learn how to plan, shoot, and edit any photo you imagine with the Sun, the Moon, and the Milky Way.

Joshua Cripps from Pro Photo Tips will give you all you need to nail your shots, from equipment to camera settings and editing. And Rafael (the bard) from the PhotoPills team will teach you how to use the PhotoPills app to plan your photo ideas. So you’re always at the right place at the right time, to capture the scene you want, to tell the story you want.

After the theory class, we’ll get to practice in the field till dawn.

PROGRAM:

10 – 11am: Milky Way and Star Trails Planning with PhotoPills

11 – 12:30am: Milky Way Photography and Post Processing

Break for Lunch

2 – 3:30pm: Sun and Moon Planning with PhotoPills

3:30 – 5pm: Long Exposure with Filters

5 – 6pm: Examples and Q&A

Break for Dinner

7:30 pm Photo escape near Mammoth lakes (Sunset and Milky Way)

How to Create an Amazing Landscape Photo: Part 1 – Composition

Create amazing landscape photos by keeping things simple. In this video learn how to set up a simple, powerful composition for better landscape imagery.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel for even more landscape photography how-to.

Join Josh on Social!
http://instagram.com/joshuacrippsphotography
https://www.facebook.com/JoshuaCrippsPhotography

Purakaunui Falls, A Brand New Behind the Lens Video Course

Have you ever wanted to crack open a working photographer’s head to understand what thoughts are running around inside during a shoot? Well this tutorial does exactly that. Filmed on location in New Zealand, this tutorial will walk you through an entire waterfall shoot I did and narrate my exact decision-making process, from why I chose the settings I did to how I narrowed down my composition. I’ll show you all the shots that didn’t make the cut and explain why not. And then I wrap it up with my complete post-processing workflow. This is truly a one-of-a-kind, start-to-finish look inside the creation of a landscape photo.

This is my first live action tutorial, as well as my first with a dedicated emphasis on in-field photography, composition, technique, and approach. It’s a totally unique style of video course, and I haven’t seen anything else like it out there. There’s an analysis of 42 landscape photos, of what works and what doesn’t for each, and how every step in the process leads to the end result. It’s an insanely jam-packed tutorial, worth a rewatch or 10 just to absorb everything I go over. Even if you don’t shoot waterfalls you’ll learn lots of great lessons on composition, technique, and approach.

You can check out the full course here, or as part of your subscription at the Nature Photography Academy.

purakaunui

What You’ll Learn

  • How I approach a scene, explore the options, and analyze compositions on the fly.
  • Which settings I use and why, the reasons behind when I change settings, and the rationale for my technique.
  • What mistakes I made in the field and how to correct them.
  • How to take a good composition and refine it to make it great.
  • Why I shoot “variations on a theme” to make sure I’ve captured the best possible image.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel for even more landscape photography how-to.

Join Josh on Social!
http://instagram.com/joshuacrippsphotography
https://www.facebook.com/JoshuaCrippsPhotography

Better Composition – Use Leading Lines to Improve Your Photos

Leading Lines are one of the simplest ideas in composition, but also one of the most powerful because they are used to draw your viewers into your photo, lead them on a visual journey through the image, and ultimately show them some kind of visual payoff.

What do train tracks, docks, roads, streams, and reflected clouds have in common? They can all potentially be used as leading lines to make your photos suck your viewers right into the frame.

Think about when somebody says “Holy sh*t, loookit that!” ….and points right at whatever it is.

Well leading lines are a way of doing the exact same thing in your photos, of grabbing your viewers’ eyeballs, getting them to travel a visual path and, ideally, pointing them to something cool. But before we learn how to do that we have to learn…

What Is a Leading Line?

The world around us is full of lines; the trick is learning to see it that way. For example, I’m standing next to this river, which looks like a river. But if I think about it more abstractly, this river is actually one big curving line that flows into the distance. Similarly, you can think of a road not as a stretch of pavement, but rather a series of parallel lines. Foam on a beach isn’t really foam at all, but really a long sinewy line. And once you understand that, then you’re halfway to understanding…

How to Use a Leading Line

The key to using LL effectively comes down to where they point. The best leading lines flow INTO your image, create a visual pathway, and end at some kind of visual payoff, like a mountain or a beautiful sunset. And to an amazing degree you can control exactly where your lines point. Even though I can’t physically move this river, I can make it flow from left to right in my photo by standing here and pointing my camera there. Or by moving just a little bit I can make it flow the complete opposite direction in my photo.

Where you stand and how you orient your camera makes all the difference in the world, so figure out what the visual climax of your shot is, and then find a way to point your lines right at it!

Another important thing to note is that leading lines are generally most effective when they appear as diagonal lines and curving lines, because these kinds of lines do two things. One, they break up the square format of our photos. And two, they help the viewer’s eye traverse the whole frame.

For these same reasons you often want to avoid horizontal and vertical lines in your frame.

  • Horizontals can create a visual roadblock that prevents flow INTO the photo and instead causes flow off the sides of the photo.
  • Vertical lines don’t work well because they keep your viewer’s attention limited to one side of the frame, and why include this stuff in the photo if your viewer won’t look at it?

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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The Rule of Thirds – Improve Your Photography Composition

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most widely known and fundamental ideas in composition. And while it’s often thought of as basic composition, understanding where it comes from means knowing when to use it, and knowing when to break it.

If you haven’t heard of the rule of thirds, here’s the 10-second version: Divide your frame up into a tic tac toe board, then place the important elements of the composition on those thirds, either horizontally, vertically, or on the intersection points. It’s a simple way to start making effective compositions, but what’s the real reason it works?

Well, the rule of thirds effectively accomplishes two main things. First, it allows you to unambiguously direct attention in your photos, creating visual flow from one side of the image to the other. If your subjects were more centered, your eye wouldn’t know which way to travel.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, the rule of thirds lets you tell people what the most interesting and important part of a scene is. This is why landscape photos often put the horizon on the top third, because it’s saying “this photo is about the landscape, so I’m giving it most of the weight of the photo, and the sky, while it may be beautiful, is less important to understanding this specific place than the landscape is, so it only gets 1/3 of the weight of the photo.”

So what happens if the sky IS the most interesting and important part of the scene?

Ah ha! Well here’s where things get really cool, and where you realize the rule of thirds has actually very little to do with thirds at all, and lots more to do with what you find interesting.

Say you do have a brilliant sky, and a bland landscape? Then give your sky most of the weight of the photo. That’s you saying: look at THIS. The more interesting you think something is, the more weight you should give it in your photo. Even to the point where the sky or the landscape might become a teeny sliver in the photo.

Or if you have two things of equal importance in your photo? Then give them equal weight. This is why reflection shots work so well with the horizon smack bang in the middle of the frame.

Because the rule of thirds is not about actual numbers, but rather about balancing the proportion of interesting elements in your frame. And once you realize that, then your compositions will begin to follow your artistic vision.

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Anatomy of a Landscape Photo

What goes into a great landscape photo? See how the four critical elements of any good image -Subject, Technique, Composition, and Light- are used to craft this photo from the Peruvian highlands.

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The Top 5 Most Common Mistakes in Landscape Photography

Contrary to popular opinion, mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They help you learn, they keep Hallmark in business, and sometimes they go hand in hand with really excellent tattoos. And in landscape photography identifying some common mistakes can help you improve your photos by leaps and bounds. Mistakes are a controversial topic in the very subjective world of art. After all, one man’s mistake is another man’s mistook. Nevertheless, I’m going to plunge right in and tell you what I think are the top 5 most common mistakes made by landscape photographers.

Image 5 - sky

Our eyes automatically home in on whatever is most interesting about a scene, so it’s only natural to take our cameras and point them straight at whatever we’re looking at, like say, this fantastic vista. The only problem is, this tends to put our subject smack dab in the middle of the frame and fills half the photo with boring, blue, emptiness. BlueSky001vidTo fix this, pan down, zoom in, or get closer in order to fill your photo with more goodness, and less emptiness.


BlueSky002vid

Image 4 - Poorly Exposed Photos

Your LCD will lie to you. Depending on the lighting conditions you’re shooting in, as well as the brightness of your camera’s display, looking at the LCD alone makes it difficult -if not impossible- to tell if your photo is actually well-exposed. So instead of relying on the LCD, learn to read the histogram in order to get better exposures.

Image 3 - Laxy Fieldwork

Part of the reason that the previous mistake happens so frequently is the idea that any mistakes made in the field can be fixed in post. This far-too-prevalent concept also leads to all kinds of lazy photography, from not using a tripod to making careless compositions. But this approach limits your photography in a serious way. Instead, if you take pains to capture the best possible photo in the field, then rather than making a bad photo good in post, you’ll be making a good photo great.

Image 2 - Bad light blues

Ok ok, before I give mother nature low self esteem, I should say there’s really no such thing as bad light. There is however, light that doesn’t do anything to beautify the particular scene you’re photographing. And the common mistake I see is photographers trying to shoehorn this non-ideal light into a photo where it doesn’t belong.Bad Light

So for any scene you’re shooting, think about what kind of light will make it look the best. For landscape photography an easy place to start is shooting at sunrise or sunset, when the light is generally softer, more colorful, and more even.Good Light

Image 1 - Complexification

And the number 1 mistake I see in landscape photography is this: not showing the viewer what your photo is about. Whether that’s because there’s too much stuff in your photo, there are distracting elements on the edges, or you’re simply not close enough to your subject, the problem is one of obfuscation, or of obscuring the message. And the way to fix it is simple: simplify.

Personally, I approach the issue like I’m making a caricature of the landscape: I figure out what the photo is really about, then I simplify and exaggerate those elements as much as possible, removing distractions and making it clear exactly what I want the viewer to see. Check out this article for more.

And there you have it, my top 5 mistakes in landscape photography. If you have your own common mistakes, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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Photography Composition – Creating Visual Tension

When you have two subjects in your photo, place them according to this guideline in order to create visual tension and pull.

Photos courtesy of:
Hugh Mobley – https://500px.com/HughMobley
Dan Davenport
Josh York – https://www.flickr.com/photos/josh-york/

For your chance to have your photo critiqued, upload it to the Pro Photo Tips group on Facebook.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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