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  • Writer's pictureHelen McLeod


Visualize, compose and shoot: I go through the same three-step process with almost every landscape photograph I take.

The first step, visualization, is all about becoming aware of the photograph. I scout for interesting details, look at the view from different heights (if possible), and try to visualize what it might look like from another angle, at a different vantage point. At this time I also consider how adding filters, bracketing, HDR imaging, or additional colour work might affect the final image.

Visualizing an image is a who, what, when, where, why and how process, with "what if?" being the most important element of creative landscape photography.

Some questions you need to ask your yourself are:

What if...

  • I were to look at this scene from a higher/lower angle?

  • I used a longer shutter speed?

  • I tried a different lens or filter?

  • I used a shallow depth of field?

  • I adjusted the ISO setting?

  • I tried panning the camera?

  • I changed the angle of my camera?

Once those questions have been answered, the second step is to get the camera out, put a lens on, and physically work the scene with different focal lengths.

The key to composition, which beginners tend to struggle with, is to condense the larger view down to the main supporting details within a scene. Our tendency is to step into a grand landscape and visualize the whole scene, but creating an evocative photograph comes from composing the image around eye-catching details.

Some people work from the details out, but a hangover from my crime scene attendance days sees me working a landscape scene like a crime scene: wide angle, working inwards to the details. That is, I typically look for the broadest view that will work for a composition first.

This is how I encourage my workshop attendees to approach a scene too. This enables wide angle shots to be captured without having to wait for another photographer(s) to walk out of the frame.

Oftentimes, there are many smaller detailed views with a larger view.

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