Light is the key to everything
The light makes the difference on everything. The same place can be sloppy or epic depending on how the light illuminates the scene. This means to wait for the climate to change, the clouds to move, the rain to stop. This could mean several hours waiting for a glimmer of light that makes the scene interesting and my advice can only be this: do not be impatient, do not rush and do not be content with something less than “top”.
Landscape photography requires a lot of patience, but often repays the effort. Sometimes you have to make site pre-inspections and note the various changes of light, or go back more than once in the same place, but other times exactly the opposite happens: the perfect scenario presents itself surprisingly as a wonderful gift.
Travel bloggers often have a limited time to stay in one place and, in these cases, I recommend taking as much shots as possible, varying the angles and finding strategic points, always keeping in mind the final results you want to obtain.
Imagine the final result
The post-production phase of a RAW file is essentially the evolution of the develop-printing phase of a film. It is fundamental to know the right tools for RAW’s development and which results we can achieve with them.
Said that, keeping in mind the development intervention on the shot, we evaluate the scene predicting the end result we want to obtain. There are shooting techniques that have no sense to exist without considering the following development phase. An example may be the ETTR (Exposition To The Right).
The editing phase of an image is as much important as the shooting phase. With the practice, during shooting and development it will become quite automatic to compose the image as we are thinking it in its final version.
Be always ready
An important step is the study of the places we're going to shoot.
Consider that the human eye tends to automatically eliminate "noise" from the scene, while a camera fixes everything.
Learn to observe, always. Watch a landscape, and before you start the composition, calculate the important elements and the distortions. Study the place, the light, the details.
Other issues to be considered are the clothes we're going to wear (wait for hours under a rainstorm without waterproof clothing is quite counterproductive, trust me!), a suitable camera bag or back pack, and climate changes that may take place. Be prepared and informed is very important.
Shoot in poor conditions
A sunny day with no clouds and clean air is the dream of a travel blogger who does not have to worry about nothing but shoot. But pictures in these conditions are usually boring and flat.
Shoot in adverse conditions! A storm, for example, will create suspense and give an epic character to the shots, a stormy sea will produce dramatic effects. Leave your comfort zone: you’ll probably suffer from cold, heat, rain and frost, but this is what makes the difference between an ordinary shot and a professional one. Landscape photography is also sacrifice.
Static and dynamic landscape
Compose a landscape shot is not simple as somebody may think. If you want to instill stillness you should use classic techniques of composition as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio.
If, on the other side, you want to give motion to the shot you should use diagonal, radians, or circular compositions.
But composition is not the only element that helps us to "move" a scene. We can use a long exposure to give the sense of movement to clouds, water, people. Rules are made to be broken, so my tip is to apply them rigorously and, once learnt, challenge yourself to go beyond.
Remember to be essential
Usually, in landscape picture there are three elements to be taken into account: Foreground, Middleground, and Background. If we insert another element, our work will be more complicated.
Being simple and basic is not at all easy, but we have to strive to leave out of the scene anything that is not needed.
Check and check again what you see through the lens and around you, focus on Background and Foreground and, once found, search for the most interesting point from which to shoot. Be essential!
The point of interest
The point of interest is the first thing we want the eyes of a viewer to land on. Why are you taking this pic? What do you want to instill? What’s the sense in having a perfect photo on a technical point of view but with no meaning? Images need a meaning, always.
Make more interesting photos with filters
The Neutral Density filters (ND), the Graduated Neutral Density filters (GND) or the Variable one are neutral gray filters that work by decreasing the amount of light that goes on the sensor.
These filters help us to increase the exposure time and / or depth of field, enabling us to give movement to elements (water-clouds-people-smoke) that, with high shutter speed, would result perfectly still.
With a GND we can give character to a dull sky, or balance the general exposure. The polarizing filter allows us to penetrate the reflective surfaces and, for example in seaside photography, makes our work much more creative.
We can combine multiple filters together to get the result we want. We will write a dedicated post on these kind of filters but, however, I recommend high quality products, as it makes little sense to have good lenses and use poor filters: the picture would come out downgraded. If you decide to buy a filter, buy a cool one.
Balance all elements
After finding composition, points of interest, and the shooting combination you have to think about the balance. The balancing uses the visual weights of the subjects and manages how to combine them with the space around.
Basically you have to calculate which weight every element will have in the composition and, according to the result you want, balance the image giving different levels of importance. To determine the weight of a subject are not only the size, and where it is positioned in the frame, but also the color and contrast it has.
In landscape photography a tripod is essential for fine adjustments, for long exposure and to get the shot levelled. You will probably walk a lot and perhaps with adverse weather conditions, so a waterproof backpack to carry and protect the equipment is another must.
You can develop techniques such as panoramic photo (with panoramic and geared heads) or stitching (collage more elaborate shots in post-production).
Landscape photography is very important to travel bloggers, and not only to those who are focused on nature and outdoor. I recommend you to practice a lot as, compared to reportage or street photography, which are more instinctive, the landscape requires a study and careful planning.
Passion is that thing makes you pick up the camera, but dedication is what make the difference in your works.