Landscape photography is definitely one of the most loved genres of photography around the world but it’s undeniable that it can also be intimidating to many.
For the same reasons why many photographers love landscape photography (some to the point of obsession), it can be very intimidating. The fascination with beautiful scenery and jaw-dropping locations is pretty much universal to people but it often takes more than just that to actually start shooting and going on adventures to practice and learn landscape photography. Like most other genres, landscape photography is built on the same fundamentals but the workflow has evolved drastically through the years. Shooting landscapes has been generalized to have more complicated settings, gear, and workflows, and perhaps this is the main reason behind the intimidation.
Different Workflow and Settings
There’s a hasty generalization about shooting landscapes that seems to assume that all landscape photographs require more complex shooting techniques. Perhaps the most common is that all landscape photos have to be shot in long exposure. Some think that all landscape photos have to be shot with filters, with a tripod, and so on. While these techniques are inarguably very popular among landscape photographers for the very simple reason that they are effective in achieving certain standards in image quality and visual design, they are not absolute requirements. The essence of landscape photography lies not in the way that an image was shot but instead in the content of the image altogether.
While many landscape photographers say that they enjoy it most because of the creative process, it does not have to always be complicated especially not for those who are just beginning their learning process. Suffice to say, the best way to start and try landscape photography is to just go out and learn as you go. Learning the proper use of exposure techniques and other methods beyond the fundamentals of photography best happens on-location. These techniques are problem-solving methods to achieve certain results on the photographs. However, it is not an absolute prerequisite and should not be a reason to hinder one’s self from trying it out.
Anyone who has any curiosity about photography, in general, would probably have some expectations. Cameras are so common nowadays that the process may seem so simple to most people. It’s so easy to be inspired by amazing photographers we see online and in print and more often than not, the process and the struggles behind those images are left unseen. A person might get inspired by amazing landscape photographs they see on in-flight magazines or even on Instagram enough for them to dig into the craft but sooner or later, they will realize that the steps to get to a location, the challenges faced to even get to a vantage point, and the actual technical obstacles of taking the photograph are not as simple as the image made it seem.
The weather, the natural environment, the light, and the implications of dynamic range on a simpler camera play key roles in the huge gap between what we initially expected to take and the results that we get. This is part of any landscape photographer’s journey and with practice and enough learning, that gap can be bridged.
In this day and age, it is impossible for our photographic journeys to not be influenced by other photographers. Social media and various photography communities have made it so much easier to spread inspiration to one another, along with the widespread learning material that can be found online. This has left both positive and negative effects on how newer photographers may perceive the craft and their decision to try out a certain genre altogether.
There are so many amazing landscape photographers in the world and on the internet. These people who share their talents definitely play a key role in encouraging younger and less experienced photographers to keep learning, keep traveling, and keep shooting. The amazing works that these photographers share with the world inspire many people and trigger curiosity enough for many to try the craft themselves. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that sometimes outstanding talent and their works can be so good that it intimidates someone of less experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, people commonly referred to as “Gatekeepers” have a huge impact on this as well. “Gatekeepers” are people who seem to make an effort to close doors on people in photography communities and discourage less experienced photographers from trying it out on their own. These people aren’t necessarily good photographers themselves but somehow abuse the availability of social media to bully other photographers. They commonly impose their opinions on other people and the way they work, and often impose their own preferences in aesthetics or methods as if their way is the only way to take landscape photos. Some take it as far as to bash photographers with different methods as theirs as lazy or undeserving simply because they take a different approach. From a wider perspective, it is very likely that they affect this perception of landscape photography in harmful ways.
'Specialized' Gear for Landscape Photography
Perhaps the most common reason why many are intimidated by landscape photography is the perception that it requires a lot of expensive “specialized” gear. While it is true that later on, many landscape photographers invest in more expensive gear and accessories that are dedicated to better results in landscape photography, it never means that you need all of those as you are starting out. Perhaps the most unpopular tip about landscape photography is that you can actually shoot with any camera and lens, yes even with your tiny smartphone. This of course pertains again to that point of starting to learn the basics of landscape photography. It doesn’t mean that a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera will be enough for more advanced requirements of shooting outdoors but merely as a good starting point for anyone.
Ultimately the most common source of intimidation for many photographers who have not yet tried or learned landscape photography is the use of filters. Many photographers assume that filters are an absolute need in landscape photography and that every image requires the use of one. However, the reality is that one can absolutely be successful in photographing landscapes without the use of a single ND filter.
Filters are best learned by understanding the indications and effects of each filter to various lighting scenarios. Ultimately, the choice of which filter to use should be dictated by the effect that the photographer has in mind. As one photographer is exposed to a multitude of shooting experiences, they would realize that many shooting scenarios don’t actually require any filters, and that the most important aspect of any shoot needed to attain the best-balanced exposures and vibrant colors is proper timing. It’s always best to be prepared with all the filters you might need during a shoot but given proper timing and creative vision, one can definitely dish out amazing photographs even without them.