HOW TO TAKE A GOOD LANDSCAPE PHOTO
Great vistas are all over the world waiting to be photographed, whether it’s the Grand Canyon or Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park it is important to know the basic techniques used to shoot vistas. In this short blog, I would like to share with you tips on how to take sharper and better quality photos, when photographing grand vistas. I’m going to start with some simple camera settings that I use when photographing grand vistas that will give you a good starting point, whether you are at Horeshoe Bend, The Nub in the Canadian Rockies, or Tunnel View in Yosemite. I am going to share with you what lenses I use, your focus point, aperture, and lastly ISO, when shooting grand vistas. So what is a vista? It is anything that doesn’t have an immediate foreground and has a distant view. There are many signs along the highway saying vista ahead, for example when you are driving up Highway 50 to Lake Tahoe. You will notice when starting your journey down into South Lake Tahoe, you will see a few signs that say vista or vista ahead with a small parking area. That means there is a nice view which is all encompassing.
The first thing we’re going to talk about is what kind of lens you should be shooting these vistas with. My go to lens that’s always in my bag when out photographing is my wide-angle lens (Canon – 16-35mm). If you are using Canon lenses, Canon just came out with the new 11-24mm, but with a price tag of $3,000 I will stick with my 16-35mm for now and also Nikon offers a 14-24mm wide angle lens.
The next thing we will focus on is hyperfocal distance which is the distance beyond which all objects are acceptably sharp. So when you are shooting grand vistas, you want to have your circle in the middle of your frame making sure it isn’t in a too lighted area or dark area. Some people put their focal point one third of the frame in but for me I like to put it right in the center. To get your camera to focus automatically, lens specific, you press halfway down on the shutter release and it should focus on the spot you chose.
The focus meter helps you determine what shutter speed and exposure your camera is going to take when you take the picture. It gives you a recommendation when pointing the red square on a subject matter. For me, I prefer to meter the sky and under expose the sky one stop. I then take a test shot and review the histogram to make sure I am not clipped in both my highlights and shadows and adjust accordingly. If the highlights are clipped and I cannot get it in one frame I then manually bracket. Don’t forget to review and zoom in on your test shot to make sure it’s as sharp as possible.
Next we will discuss aperture. I don’t want to have distortion in my corners, so I like to have my aperture between f13 to f14. In my experience, f18 to f21 creates distortion so I tend to stay away from those f-stops. Another thing you might want to consider is the sweet spot on your lens, to find your sweet spot for each lens you can either Google it or perform a test. To do the test you need to take a photo at1, f8, f11, f13, and at f14, and download them to your computer. Magnify each image and pick which image is the sharpest, and that will determine the sweet spot of your lens.
When shooting grand vistas typically everything is far away. For me I like to have my ISO at 100. If I know there are trees in the background and it is windy I will bump up my ISO (200-400) accordingly. Be careful though, the more you bump up your ISO, the more noise you create, so keep that in mind. I normally don’t go more than ISO 400 because again it’s so far away you really can’t see movement.
To summarize how to shoot a Grand vista, you want to make sure you have the correct wide-angle lens, you’re focused right in the middle of your frame and lastly you need to make sure that you have the correct aperture and ISO setting. Most importantly, review your images after you take each one for quality and sharpness. There are many tips and tricks to photograph landscapes, I hope you have learned something and can add this to your toolbox when out capturing grand vistas. Enjoy your picture taking!