When it comes to landscape photography, we’ve all heard the advice “work the scene”. But what exactly does that mean? It’s easy to hand out a generic piece of advice like that, but if you don’t give them something to “work” with, it’s meaningless. In this post, I’m going to give you that “something” to work with.
When you get to your location, the first thing you want to do is scout out the area. Find the optimum place you can shoot from. Next, examine your scene. Look for the elements you want to include in your composition. Now, look for compositions within that composition. Try to find at least three different compositions that you can take with minimal effort. To achieve this, use the equipment you have to its fullest. If you have a 400mm telephoto, use it if it’s appropriate. The image below was taken with a 400mm telephoto from the same location the opening image was taken. The red box in the opening image shows the area that I zoomed in on. Both images where taken from the exact same spot.
The next thing you want to be aware of when you’re working a scene is the light. Light literally changes every second that you are on location. Shadows form and then disappear. Clouds light up, then fall into shadow. All of these changes play with the dynamic of your image. Shoot multiple images of the same scene, and work with the changing light. Switch to your alternate compositions if the light becomes favorable there. Don’t lock yourself into those pre-chosen compositions though. If something dramatic happens where you didn’t expect it, react to it and shoot it. The most important thing is to stay with your scene throughout the show. Things happen quickly, and sometimes not so quickly. The two images in this post were taken about 40 minutes apart from each other, and have a completely different dynamic. Stay the course. You won’t be disappointed.
I hope this post helps you out the next time you’re in the field. If you are serious about learning the art of landscape photography, consider signing up for one of our workshops. The two images in this post are one of the locations we shoot on our Smoky Mountains workshops. Our workshops are an intense, four day, educational photographic adventure. For more information about the workshops, Click Here.