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Landscapes: How to do it all!

Knowing how to photograph an eye-catching landscape is an important skill. Not only will it allow you to relive the moment of your encounter with a majestic mountain or your day-trip to the beach, there’s the benefit of creating a work of art you can proudly display. Russ Burden, professional photographer and an instructor at the Panasonic LUMIX Digital Photo Academy in Denver, discusses some key tips to capture that perfect landscape photo.  Digital Photo Academy is a nationwide series of classes for all digital camera owners who want to maximize their cameras’ features and create more rewarding photo experiences.  Available to beginning, intermediate, and advanced photographers, these classes are geared to specific levels so no student gets overwhelmed or lost. Russ’s landscape tips are just a preview of the many to be offered at the academy.

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© 2007 Russ Burden, Denver DPA Instructor

Landscape Photography Tips

Time of day. When you take a landscape photo, time of day is one of the critical factors to consider.  I can’t stress enough that it’s “all about the light.” The angle at which the light strikes the subject in conjunction with the time of day the image is made greatly effect the success of the photo.  The best shooting occurs at “sweet light” – when the highest quality of light imparts warm tones and soft illumination. Sweet light peaks during the first thirty minutes of a sunrise and during the last 30 minutes of a sunset.  During this time, you’ll find the most advantageous shades of yellow, red and orange filtering through the horizon.  If you’re using a DSLR, look for a white balance feature that will act as a built-in warming filter. For instance, the LUMIX DMC-L1 has a “cloudy” white balance setting that enhances beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Direction of light.  Governed by subject matter, the direction of light can make or break an image.  Frontlight can be very effective when trying to capture an evenly lit subject without any shadows or textures. Front light may yield a “nice” photo, but its lack of depth makes it a poor choice for shooting landscapes. So instead, work with sidelight. It provides increased textures, patterns and shapes and suddenly your subject becomes defined.  How you use the shadows and lighting can create unbelievable highlights of the peaks and valleys of your subject, really letting the photograph pop, as though it’s three dimensional.

Depth of Field.  In landscape photography, it’s essential that all elements be in focus and have a consistent level of sharpness in the foreground, middleground and background.  This requires having the maximum amount of depth of field, taking into account three fundamentals: the working aperture, the focal length of the lens, and the subject distance from the camera. It’s best to use a wide angle lens in the range of 28mm. You can get increased versatility by using a point-and-shoot, such as the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ3, which not only features a 28-mm lens and 10x optical zoom, but its compact form factor lets you quickly zoom in and out, letting you capture the bird that unexpectedly entered the shot.

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© 2007 Russ Burden, Denver DPA Instructor

Filters. There are two filters no landscape photographer should be without: the graduated neutral density and the polarizer.  The polarizer removes glare from reflective surfaces so colors become more saturated. By removing surface reflections, the color of the subject is better translated to the image sensor. Additionally, if you’re shooting a subject  90-degrees from sun, it helps saturate the blue of the sky and makes the clouds really pop.  The graduated neutral density filter helps tame contrast when making photos at the beginning and end of the day. By simply placing the dark part of the filter over the lens so it tones down the brighter part of the image, the contrast is reduced allowing the image sensor to capture details in both the shadow and highlight areas.

Go beyond the obvious. Finally, remember that photography is an art – so don’t forget to show your creativity by looking beyond the obvious shot.  Whatever subject inspired you to point your lens towards it in the first place – don’t be complacent with just one shot.  Instead – “exhaust all possibilities.”  If you took a shot of the mountains horitzontally, flip your camera and take it vertically.  If you photographed a field of flowers from a standing position, get on your stomach and shoot it from eye-level to create a unique perspective.  You’ll be surprised by the interesting shots that were not obvious at first, but prove to be priceless.

Russ Burden Tip3
© 2007 Russ Burden, Denver DPA Instructor

To learn more photography tips, sign-up for Digital Photo Academy in one of the 20 cities where courses are available. For more information about Russ Burden’s nature photo tours, visit


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