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Guides

Andy's Photography Guides

On this page I have information on my equipment and how I use it, with other useful tips. I hope you find this information useful and informative. Your feedback would be appreciated.

Preparation

This section is about all how I prepared for a shoot, sometimes a long time before the day of the shoot. In this section I have information on planning, safety and clothing.

Equipment

In this section I have lots of information about my journey with my camera and equipment.

On location

The shoot, the best bit! Here is some information about what I do when I am in the landscape.

Processing

This bit, in front of the computer, to some the boring bit. This is necessary to bring out the best in the images you have taken. Here I have some tips on what I do.

Reflection

I this section I talk about some other photographic information on my mind and I have my closing statement.


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Preparation

Planning:- 

This is very important for my landscape photography. Travelling to a location without planning could mean the difference between an average shot, a great shot, or a completely wasted trip. Going to a location at the right time of day or year can make a big difference. Good weather, with the sun in the right place can make the shot. 

 Tide Times 

If I am planning a shoot on a beach, knowing where the tide is at different times of the day is essential. Ideally, I would like the tide to be going out, so I can arrive at the location well before the tide uncovers rocks or other good photographic subjects. I do not want to get caught out by an incoming tide, as this could be very dangerous. On my phone I have AyeTides, this app was recommended by a Pro Landscape Photographer. Should I arrive at a beach on an unplanned visit, the tide app shows me where the tide is and which direction it is going. Sometimes luck may be on your side, but most of the time planning is essential to make most of your shoots successful.   

 The Photographers Ephermis 

I use the Photographers Ephermis to check where the sun is at different times of day or year. This enables me to plan a long time into the future, also if I want to go back to a location that has given me good results, l have the date and time the image was taken on the meta data. I can then look forward to see a date with similar conditions. The sun going down behind a particular rock at the same time of day, for example.

  Google Earth 

I find Google Earth very useful. I can look at a location and see if it has potential, where to park the car and see the distance to the location. With this information I have more of an idea when to leave home, or from the car to the location in the dark, for a sunrise shoot. Being able to see the lie of the land before making a trip can save time and money. 

 Google images 

If I have a location in mind, I look at the photographs of the location on Google images. This helps me see if it will be worth a visit, saving time and money.

Weather Forecasts 

The weather can be very good for the Landscape Photographer, or very difficult. When I am planning a shoot, I look at some weather forecasts before I leave, to save wasted trips. Sometimes the weather is just not corporative. 

I have planned trips when the weather looks good before I set out, but soon after arrival, at the location the weather changes for the worst, and all I get is grey. Grey with no contrast is not so good for the Landscape Photographer. 

I have had some shoots planned with all my equipment packed in the car, started on my journey to the location, only for the weather to change, so I turned back for home as all the clouds were disappearing.  

Safety:- 

Tide times 

If you are going to the coast or on a beach, please check the tide times. Concentrating on your photography and not keeping an eye on the sea, could be very dangerous with you getting cut off by the incoming tide. Your life may be at risk, or would be very costly if your camera equipment gets a soaking with salt water. possible freak wave. 

 Head torch 

If you are going to a location, walking 2 or 3 miles from your car for a sunset shoot. A good bright head torch helps you see what you are doing while you are shooting in the fading light and on the walk back to your car in the dark. It is essential to be able to see your way and be safe. 

 Mobile phone 

This may be standard practice for you to take your mobile phone with you when you go anywhere, but this is a reminder.  Always take a mobile phone with a good charge and a power bank as back up. Tell someone where you are going and the approximate time you plan to return. 

Tip:- Do not risk your life or injury to get the shot you want 

 Clothing:- 

Appropriate clothing is essential for your trip. The weather can change dramatically when you are out, especially If you are heading for the Moors or other high ground. The weather forecasters do not always get it right.  I keep in my backpack all the time, a water proof but light weight jacket. A cap to keep the sun off and a beanie hat to keep me warm. With the appropriate clothing you are warm or cool, dry and most important comfortable. This helps you concentrate on your photography.

Wellington boots, I always take these if I am going near the coast, river, stream or wet areas. Being in the water is sometimes essential to get the shot I want. Shooting in the water is what I do most of the time when I am in that sort of location. I once went out with a group of about fifteen photographers from a camera club, local to me to a small river in a wood. I was the only photographer with wellington boots, so I was able to shoot images the others were never going to get. 


Equipment

From film to digital 

In 2005 I brought my first digital SLR, the Nikon D70s a cropped sensor camera, before this I was using Nikon film SLR’s. I used this camera for 3 years, but I never got on with it as I was used to the 35mm format. In July 2008, Nikon introduced the Nikon D700 full frame DSLR. Later in early 2009 I purchased one and I have never regretted it, this is a superb camera. 

The evolution of my equipment

In 2011 I decided to concentrate on Landscape Photography as my main photographic subject. I needed to sort out what I keep in my camera bag for Landscape Photography. Over about 3 years I have brought and sold equipment that did or did not work for me, keeping what worked. I tried the Cokin range of filters, but as they did not work for me, I sold all of them and I decided to make a big investment in a Lee filter system, even buying and selling these until I found the right filters for me. My Lee filters were very expensive, but worth the investment to get the quality and versatility they offer. The neutral density filters are absolutely neutral, without any colour cast. Tip:- Always buy wide angle adapters, not standard. I purchased standard adapters first, sold all them and brought wide angle. The wider angle adapter cuts down on the vignetting. If the adapter is for a standard/telephoto lenses only, then a standard adapter is fine. 

I have tried many lenses before keeping what I use today. I have had 3 tripod legs many heads and 2 camera bags, finishing up with quite a large backpack, but only one camera since 2009, my Nikon D700, which I purchased new. A lot of my equipment is used, all my lenses are used. I am very careful when buying used equipment, making sure I buy the best, most looked after and boxed if possible. If what I have purchased does not work for my needs, someone will always want to buy an excellent condition, boxed piece of equipment from me after. 

 I may in the future upgrade my camera to a Nikon D810 or Nikon D850. Also I may purchase a drone for aerial landscape Images. Unfortunately the drone I would like is very expensive. A drone with a good camera is essential to produce large prints for exhibitions. A DJI Inspire drone with a Zenmuse x5 camera fitted would be ideal for my needs. This camera has a micro 4/3 sensor and is fine to print 12” X 18” print  I use for exhibitions. If funds cannot run to this drone a DJI Mavic Pro 2 with a 1” sensor may be good enough, bracketing multiple shots and merging them in post production to end up with a larger file size to print. 

Nikon D700 full frame DSLR

For Landscape Photography I use a Nikon D700 camera. I purchased it new from Misfuds of Brixham in 2009 and I have never regretted it. I set my camera to capture RAW files and for most of my photography I use manual exposure and manual focus with lenses set f16.  I use hyper-focal distance to get front to back sharpness. I use the scale on the lens barrels to judge the point of focus using an App on my phone. With f16 and a wide angle lens, say 24mm (full frame) acceptable focus if achieved from .7M to infinity. So setting the focus point on 2m will achieve this. I keep a tripod quick release plate on the camera all of the time. 

One of the most important things is to learn how to use your camera controls, so it becomes instinctive, particularly when operating it in the dark. The ability to do this will help you concentrate on the creative side of your photography. 

Lenses

From left to right: 

Nikon AF Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 ED lens

This lens is my wide angle zoom. I do not use this lens often, but I need to keep it as some shots require it. With the Lee filter holder on it, I cannot zoom out wider than 20mm as I get vignetting so that dose restrict its use for very wide angle shots with the Lee filters. This lens is very sharp, it does produce some distortion. This is soon corrected on the computer.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.3-4.5G ED

This lens is on my camera as my default lens. It has a good range, from a good wide angle to a medium telephoto. It is very sharp and It is very compact compared to the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. This lens is big, heavy and expensive. There is a VR version of my 24-85mm, but for landscape photography it is not needed, as most of my images are taken on a tripod.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-200 f4.5-5.6G ED

This lens I use as a holiday lens, when I have to travel light. The lens has a large zoom range and is very sharp. It is not much bigger than a Nikkor 50mm lens. It is actually the smallest 28-200mm zoom made by any manufacturer.  When travelling by air, weight and space is usually a problem, this lens is very versatile and compact.  

Nikon ED AF Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8D

This lens I only use occasionally, but when required it produces super sharp images even at f2.8. It is very heavy, large and has it’s own tripod foot to balance the weight on the tripod. I keep a quick release plate on it all the time. I have tried many other tele zooms, but they do not work like this one. It is large and heavy, but worth it.

Filters

The filters I use are Lee, Hitech and B & W. The Lee and Hitech are neutral density graduated filters, 100mm X 150mm. I use these filters to control the light by balancing the exposure between the sky and the land or sea, and other situations when required.

The neutral density 100mm X 100mm are solid neutral density not graduated. I use a Lee Pro glass .9 ND, Little and Big stopper. These are 3, 6 and 10 stops respectively. They hold back the light to give a longer exposure, creating movement in water and clouds. I have the Lee filters big stopper App on my phone for the exposure calculations. Some times I forget to close the view finder blind during long exposures and then have to take the shot again because the light coming into the view finder during long exposures effects the image. This makes the image look like it has been washed with light. Deleting the image is the only thing to do and take another exposure, it cannot be recovered on the computer. If your camera does not have a blind, cover the view finder with something to keep the light out. Remember whatever you use, do not move the camera during the exposure.

The B & W is a 105mm circular polariser. This filter I use to saturate colours and to cut down reflections in water. It also works as a 2 stop neutral density filter.All these filters fit the Lee filter system and the Lee system allows multiple filters to be used at the same time. When using filters on my camera, manual settings are essential. If an automatic mode is selected, the camera will change exposure or focus losing the effect I am trying to achieve, or it just may just not work at all. With manual settings I am in control, not the camera.

Lee filters:-
  • .9  hard grad (3 stop)
  • .6  hard grad (2 stop)
  • .45 hard grad (11/2 stop)
  • .6  soft grad (2 stop)
  • .9  Pro glass, solid neutral density (3 stop)
  • Big stopper (10 stop)
  • Little stopper (6 stop)
Other filters:-
  • B&W 105mm polariser
  • Hitech .9 reverse grad (3 stop)
Tripod and Head

The tripod, probably the most important piece of equipment for the Landscape Photographer, after a camera and lens. I use a Manfrotto 055XPROB aluminium legs with a Manfrotto 322RC2 heavy duty pistol grip ball head. I prefer this head to the traditional ball head with the 2 lock knobs. With my 322RC2 I squeeze the grip, position the camera for the composition I require and let go. There it stays until I want to reposition the camera for a different composition. It is also very simple to change from landscape to portrait and back when required.

Memory cards

My camera uses Compact Flash cards. I do not use high capacity cards like 64gb, 128gb or 256gb, I use 2gb (77 x 25mb images) and 4gb (144 x 25mb images). It may seem strange that I use these small capacity cards, but I do have a good reason. If I am going on a long photographic trip, to many locations. For each location I use a different card, recording the number on the card and the location name in my note book. Then I know where the images were taken, as my camera does not have GPS. If when I get home with many cards from a lot of different locations, one of the cards has failed and the images cannot be recovered. I have not had a wasted trip. If I only use one large card and the card fails, I have lost all my images.

Hoodman Hoodloupe 

I use a Hoodman Hoodloupe for my landscape photography. This piece of my equipment is used to view the LCD screen on the back of my D700 after an image has been taken and when using live view. On a bright day I cannot see the LCD screen, with the Hoodloupe I can study the image for composition and see the histogram. Then I can adjust, reshoot and check again. It hangs around my neck on a lanyard, ready to be used when needed. When viewing the LCD screen, it cuts out any other light giving a very clear view of the image taken. This is a simple piece of equipment but I find it very useful. On a bright day or when I am shooting into the sun at sunset or sunrise or when I am shooting in very a contrast light situation, it is invaluable.

Nikon SB-24 flash gun 

I keep the flash gun in my backpack and with it I have an off-camera flash cable SC-28A, you never know when it may be needed for fill in.

Other equipment

  • 2 spare batteries for my camera with good charge. 
  • A Nikon MC-30 remote release, essential to stop camera movement. 
  • A hot shoe spirit level. This item is not very expensive but essential. Better to get the horizon straight in camera, than have to correct it on the computer. 
  • Lens wipes. 
  • Led Lenser H14 head torch, very bright. 
  • Notepad and pencil, to record the location name and memory card numbers.  
  • Spare batteries for my flash gun and torch. 
  • A hat to keep the sun off. 
  • A woollen beanie to keep me warm. 
  • A very light but waterproof jacket. 
  • Water and snacks 

 Tip:- When I go on a shoot I do not remove pieces of equipment I think I will not need. I take my full kit. 

  


On Location

The shoot 

All the planning is done, the weather is right, the location looks like it has promise, all is in place. Unfortunately, life gets in the way, with work, family and doing other things. The most important thing is to get out into the landscape and take more images. 

Finally, all is set, no work, my family is happy! Now it is time to escape into the landscape and do what I love to do best, Landscape Photography. I get to the location early, with plenty of time to look around and find good compositions. My camera is set to capture RAW files and I use mostly manual exposure and focus. In some situations, I may use aperture priority metering and auto focus, this is usually when I am using my 80-200mm zoom hand held. I look for suitable subject matter and pre visualising the final image, or what I would like if all goes well. After I have taken a shot, I then take more images with different exposures, trying the landscape and portrait formats. Moving the camera, a small distance up, down, left or right can change the image a lot. Changing lenses can also completely change the image. Most of my images are taken using an aperture of f16, using the camera’s meter to select the correct shutter speed. I bracket at least one stop either side and quite often more before finding another composition. When on location it is important to make the most of your time, taking many images with different compositions, exposures and filter combinations to capture the images you have pre visualised. 

Probably about 95% of my landscape images are taken with a filter in front of the lens. Using the Lee filters and a tripod takes time to set up, this is another reason to have time in hand. Rushing to get an image can force you into making unnecessary errors. This means not getting your technique correct can result in you failing to capture a winning image or any usable images. Instinctive use of your camera and all the other equipment you use will make all the difference. 

Do not leave early, a great image could be missed. All that is needed is a break in the cloud cover or a cloud to form in the right place. Many other things could happen and leaving early could mean missing a great shot. Sometimes with the weather changing so quickly, you may have to react quickly to capture the image. Good fast and accurate technique is essential when you are under pressure, with possibly only seconds to capture the image before you lose the moment completely. 

Tip:- Always check the focus before depressing the shutter. Bad focus cannot be recovered on the computer. 

 


Processing

Processing the image

After the shoot, I wait about a week before loading my RAW files onto my computer. First, I save the RAW files into a new folder in pictures, using a separate folder for each location, I then add them to Lightroom. I use Lightroom to process my RAW files into JPEGS, other RAW converters will do a similar job. Waiting before looking at the images I have shot means I will be less emotionally attached to them; I will then look at them with a more critical eye.

On the first look through my images, I will have one finger on the delete key, deleting any files that are out of focus, the composition is wrong, or the exposure is so far out, it cannot be recovered. If I have many shots all the same, I delete all but one, miss fires and test shots also need to go. The next run through, I look at the files in more detail, deleting any files that do not make the grade. Then if I have reduced the images from, say 150 images to 10 or 12, I process these and I should the end up with the best from the shoot. Out of the 10 or 12 I have processed; I may only use 1 or 2 to print for Exhibiting or use as greeting cards. This keeps the time down on processing, leaving me more time to get out there and take more images. 

As Shot                                             Processed                                                                                             

     

As shot                                                                       Processed

     

Above are two examples of my images, with their as shot and the final processed images. If another person were given the two as shot RAW files to process, they will process them in a different way to me and end with different images. How you process your images is your personal preference. This is possible how you remember the seen or how you want the image to be seen when viewed by other people.

 


Reflection

Did not go as planned 

Sometimes all the planning, perfect weather, arriving early, taking many images and leaving late just does not work. After the shoot you load your images onto the computer and when you look through your images, none of them make the grade. I have had shoots like that, the best thing to do is delete all and look forward to the next shoot. A local photographer and I were talking about places we had been to photograph. I mentioned a location in particular, and I said “I had not taken a single usable image from that shoot”. He said “he had been there and he did not take a usable image from the same location”. We put that down to a learning experience. 

 Landscape Photographers need to be very patient, very persistent and occasionally lucky. Sometimes being in the right place, at the right time can bag a great shot. Other times persistence is required.  I have made multiple visits to the same location to bag the image I had previsualised. 

Below are examples on my website:- 

Poppies, two evenings                           Park Hill, three evenings

               

The Pier, Porthleven - four evenings                         Shobrooke Park - three evenings

       

My Landscape Photography has given me many hours of enjoyment, a lot of frustration and most of all it keeps the creative side of me active. The most important thing when I take images, is that I am pleased with them and if others like them to, then that is a bonus.

Everybody is a photographer these days, most people have a smart phone, tablet or many other devices that record images, and some even use a camera. Billions of images are taken every day, what you need to do is record something nobody else has taken. Add some more to the billions. So do not be put off, get out there into the landscape and take more images. Most importantly please yourself!