So you got your first DSLR or advanced point and shoot and you want to expand your shooting to more then just snaps of the family and holiday documentation, then landscapes can be a great place to start. Many people are afraid of portraits and with landscapes you don’t have to work with the human element. Since landscapes surrounds us, it’s also easier to find subject, and you don’t have to ask the landscape to shoot it.
Don’t think that need to travle to some far away and remote location to capture some great shots. To start with landscapes you don’t need that much gear. A camera, a zoom-lens with a wide-angle setting, a remote or cable-release, a polarizing filter and tripod is all you need.
The kit-lens that comes with many DSLRs is a great lens to start with. Since landscapes is done with small aperature, the need for high end glass is not the place to start. Get to know your gear is the most important. The pricetag of gear is not a garantee for sucess.
So lets begin begin with the camera. First of what you need is to sett the camera to either Aperature-priority or Manual. The automatic mode or shutterpriority gives little creative controll over the subject you’re capturing. The main controll in landscape is aperature, since it’s the aperature that set the level and depth of sharpness in the image. Also, learn how your meter works, because there are many situation where the in-camera meter will be fooled.
Then the lens…
The kit lens that comes with many of todays DSLRs is an ok lens to start with. For the most part it has a angle of view that is equal to a 28-75mm on a full format camera. This work great for landscapes. And since you’ll mostly will be working in the lens sweet zone, optical problems will be minimal. One thing though with DX/Crop sensor-format and wide angle is that a 17mm will distort a bit more than a 28mm on a full format, so make sure to employ lens correction in the RAW-prossessor software.
This is where you should put some money, and it will be the most expensive piece of kit beside the camera and lens. Don’t and I repeat, don’t buy a cheep and flimsy tripod, as this would just end up as an irritating piece of kit that you would end up leaving at home. To capture good landscapes, the tripod is one of the most important pieces of kit you take with you. I know many out there recomend you to buy a tripod that will last you a lifetime, but when you’re starting out, buying tripodlegs for 600 $ and head for 500$ is overkill when you just want to take pictures for fun. There are more sober priced tripods on the market. A good tripod would be a Redged RTT-327 with a Redged RT-1 ballhead. The whole pack will set you back just 160 $. A far less price then you have to cash out for a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod and Really Right Stuff ballhead.
The two most important assessories you bring will be a remote/cable release and the circular polarizer (yes there is a cheaper linear polarizer, but these don’t work with modern auto focus cameras, so stick with the circular one). A cable release is a cheap investment but works wonders for sharp images. When it comes to the polarizer, remember to get the low frame version to avoid vignetting (dark or black corner from the filters frame) from the filter. Also, the polarizer work great as a 2 stop neutral density (not graduated like the one that will just hold back the sky), for those slow shutterspeed images of silky water.
Yes, reading will help you learn the tricks of the trade better then going out there trying to invent the wheel for your self. I have two books I can recommend for you.
– Michael Frye – Digital Landscape Photography (ISBN 978-1-905814-75-6)
– Ian Cameron – Transient Light (ISBN 978-1-86108-524-5)
Michael Frye also has a great blog to follow. http://www.michaelfrye.com/landscape-photography-blog/
But you’ll also find very good information at Moose Peterson’s Blog. A fantastic teacher and blogger. http://www.moosepeterson.com