Photographing Dream Like Landscapes
Landscapes make for excellent images when done right. It doesn't mean just coming upon a nice vista and snapping the shutter. The scene in front of you has to be evaluated for critical elements that will make for a good photograph.
The angles have to be examined, the perspectives need to looked at, the light has to be taken into account and other elements need to be evaluated. If there are aspects in the scene that you cannot control by moving, cropping or anything else that you can do to make the image better, then it is worth thinking if the shot should be taken at all.
However, if there are some elements that you can control, then you as a photographer have to make those decisions. "Dreamy landscapes" is not a foreign term invented in the annals of a mad scientist's life. Creating them does take some creativity and planing in your part. Plus you will also need some tools and perhaps a little luck.
The best scenes for the project are those that contain moving water, trees and mountains. Other factors complement the scene but these are the basics. This does not mean that if you find a good scenic location and it lacks running water, or there are no trees or is missing strong features that you will just walk away and not record the image.
Carefully analyze the scope of things and compose the shot trying to make you audience feel like the spot is a good one to be photographing in the first place.
For scenes that have running water you should use a slow shutter speed. A slow shutter speed allows the movement of the water to blur, thus creating what appears as a floating "cloud."
If the location shows a mist, then by all means make an effort to capture it as it adds a mystic element to the image with fog and water together making the best combinations so far as this theme is concerned.
One of the most important aspects of such a project is to research and by research I mean check the weather. Find out when dusk and dawn occur, find out if there a chance of mist, will it be cloudy, will it rain and so on. Weather plays a huge part in creating a good set of dream-like images.
Photography in fog, mist or haze can give images a moody and atmospheric feel. However, it's also very easy to end up with photos that look washed-out and flat. You cannot use the automatic mode when doing scenes that have fog or haze. Your camera meter will probably be fooled into thinking that there is too much light and your images will be underexposed. Air that is laden with water reflects light and will play havoc with your meter, so go manual.
Color makes a statement even if it's subtle and it can often turn a weak scene into a strong one, but there are many scenes that can be rendered well in monochrome. Black & white sets the mood but the scene must depend on other strong elements to make a powerful impression.
Do not limit your photography to green scenes There are many opportunistic shots that winter brings along. Be cautious when photographing all white scenes. There must be other sources of reference so that you can take a reading from it and adjust your camera settings accordingly. For these scenes you need to pay attention to your color balance settings. Most digital cameras can do this with a few steps. If using film you need to bracket the film to accomplish this,.Otherwise, your white snow shots will appear as mid gray.
Dreamy landscapes do not necessarily have to be photograph during dusk or dawn, although this is when the light is often best as far as photography goes. Bright Sunshine works well so long as the other elements withing the scene are visually strong. You need to show your audience a location that will "transport" them to a magical place.
If you saw many of the scenes featuring "elves" in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy then you can begin to imagine what types of shots you need. But don't worry if you cannot travel to these exotic destinations There are filters that "soften" the image and these can be great aids when composing your photographs in most locations exotic or local.
A diffusion filter; mostly referred to as a softening filter, softens subjects by greatly diffusing the available light and generates a dreamy haze. This is most often used for portraits. It also has the effect of reducing contrast, and the filters are designed, labeled, sold, and used with that purpose in mind too.
If your scene has good balance in subject selection but seems to lack a good combination of color, or the color renditions seems too weak, there are other filters that add coloration. These are often called gradients and they come in may shades and gradient levels. Just use them sparingly as if used improperly they give the photo an unnatural looking tonality. Best to take photos with the filter and without it to test results.
Do not depend entirely on the filter, what is really important is your artistic mindset and how you make the best out of what you have in front of you. Take plenty of shots, change angles often, take shots in which you are low to the ground and standing up and then evaluate the images.
Look for samples when scouting locations that can lend themselves for depth; elements in front in the middle and in the back, and play with the images, taking shots that focus on the front, the middle and the back parts of the scene independently.
Take shots using manual but alternating shutter speeds and apertures. Trial and error is sometimes the best technique in order to learn and perfect your skills.
Photograph at dusk, at dawn, while is raining, during the day, the afternoon and at night, if the ambient light permits like during moonlight periods, since flash doesn't really work well for landscapes unless you are focusing on elements that are within the acceptable working range of the flash unit.
- Landscape Photography Tips -- National Geographic
Get landscape photography tips from photographer Robert Caputo in this photo field guide from National Geographic.
© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez
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