Essential Summer Photography Ideas and Techniques

Summer creates opportunities for striking images. Here are six great ideas and techniques to help you make the most of the season. 

Coming to you from Christian Möhrle - The Phlog Photography, this insightful video explores a range of summer photo ideas. Astrophotography during the summer offers an exciting challenge. From April to September, the Milky Way is visible in the Northern Hemisphere, with the best viewing opportunities in June, July, and August. Clear skies and low light pollution are essential for capturing the Milky Way. Shooting during a new moon and between midnight and 5 a.m. provides the best results. A wide angle lens (16-24 mm) with a large aperture (f/2.8) is ideal for these shots. Use the 500 rule to determine the maximum shutter speed to avoid star trails: divide 500 by your focal length. For example, a 24 mm lens would use a 20-second exposure at most. For those with crop sensor cameras, use 300 instead of 500.

Summer is also perfect for hiking and mountain photography. Trails are open, and the weather is comfortable. Mountain lakes and ridges offer stunning subjects. Use a wide angle lens (around 16 mm) to capture the expansive scenery, and visit lakes early in the morning or late in the evening for calm water and beautiful reflections. Mountain ridges make excellent leading lines in your composition, guiding the viewer's eye through the image. Telephoto lenses are great for dramatic shots of cloud-covered peaks. 

If mountains aren't accessible, fields and farmlands provide beautiful photo opportunities. Wheat fields during golden hour are picturesque but can be enhanced by including another element like a tree or barn. Use a wide angle lens to capture the texture of the wheat in the foreground and the subject in the distance. Summer fields often have hay or wheat bales, which add interest to your composition. Sunflower fields, with their vibrant blossoms, are another fantastic subject. Focus stacking can help achieve sharp results.

Waterfalls and canyons offer cool retreats and excellent photography spots. Early mornings provide magical light in canyons, while overcast days are perfect for waterfalls. Use a wide lens for capturing the full scenery and a telephoto lens for classic canyon views. Longer shutter speeds (1/3 to 1 second) create the smooth, flowing water effect in waterfall photos. If the light is too bright, use an ND filter to achieve the desired exposure. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Möhrle.

And if you do go on a hike or photograph storms, always remember safety first. 

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out our latest tutorial, "Photographing the World: Japan With Elia Locardi!" 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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1 Comment

Yes many opportunities in summer! First a correction for Milky Way's the season starts in February and goes to October. From Feb to Jun is the time for the MW arch where doing a panorama you capture it where as a super wide even the 16mm you get the MW trailing straight across the sky vs the ARCH.
Some important things the 500 rule is so long ago PhotoPills app Spot Stars where you input lens mm and f/# and most important the camera model and you get a default and accurate NPF RULE SS. Also pixels numbers do not really matter for even the Sony A7RV will capture even a old Canon T2i.
You have 10 days 5 on either side of new moon to capture this lets you work around weather, but if capture 5 days before you will get a crescent moon looking like a full moon under the MW or 10 days of traveling to different spots if clear skies.
A key for using 2.8 and wider is you have to use a faster SS as well as using a camera with a lot of pixels this is great for doing panoramas for you can do a 180 degree in less than 1 1/2 minutes even leaving camera NR on, using a stepper on the base of a pano rig you go to the next step during black out of NR. A ultra wide 10,12,14mm when doing a pano during Jun, Jul, Aug will get the very top of the MW for it will be up overhead even a little beyond and you can get the whole MW with one level capture vs a 24mm needing 2 or 3 rows of capture needing PS or PTGui for info you can import say 10 image pano into Lr syncing all and edit (mainly getting lens info to all) then doing Lr's denoise getting all new images then sending to PS for merging all and saving it gets sent back to Lr, yes it merges even a pano captured over water like the ocean or lake where there are no points hardly to merge a image with another, this I just learned a couple months ago when tired doing points in PTGui.
With cities going to white LED lighting you no longer need filters to get colors right.
The Biggie thing is you do not need to go to a very dark place, do not be afraid of the lights as long as you have a dark sky even with some city glow. People go to the desert where snakes play at night.
Very important use green headlamps/lights red is the hardest to clone out. Next carry bear spray good for bear, big cats, snakes and gators just have the wind coming at your back also for 2 legged critters. If around big cats like in the Grand Canyon wear a hat with big eyes attached facing backwards it may deter a big cat.
Also PhotoPills has in the planner a night AR mode where you can go on a scouting and plan where the MW will be and put on a map for later. Another app Planit Pro also has a tide section where it shows in a sinewave when it is low or high tide starting at high tide going to low you get a clean beach and very few if any other people. Info as the moon rises the tide goes out till overhead then comes in.
I know this is a lot but I have been capturing since 2015 and every time you go out you learn something. As far as light I have captured it over my house a vertical looking south in the middle of a bright neighborhood under a street lamp on my first night after capturing on the local beach.
Also another summer thing is go to the Zoo instead of travel to a foreign land early mornings when it is cool. Disney World as a great hotel next to their animal park where you ride in a long pulled trailer.