Photography Tutorials &Tips

Landscape Photography on the Road

Abandoned buildings, disused plants, ghost towns, old mines and gas stations, attract the attention of photography lovers who, in addition to exploring the potential of traditional landscapes, want to take unusual shots to surprise not only themselves but also their friends and maybe even followers on social networks.

If, besides being a photo junkie, you are also an explorer, or if the idea of visiting abandoned places appeals to you, first of all I suggest that you always proceed with the utmost attention, both for your safety and in order not to violate the laws in any way by accessing forbidden areas. Adopting adequate protections is the best way to proceed first and foremost.

Having said that, landscape photography of abandoned places has its long-standing charm, it has the potential of generating strong emotions. In North America, ghost towns are generally associated with the wild west frontier. Given the presence of old mines and oil towns, states like Texas and California are among the first visited by amateurs of this photographic genre. Not to mention states like Kansas and Oklahoma where there are many ruins, including old disused farms that date back to the Dust Bowl period.

Obviously then there are all these places full of charm along US1 and Route 66.

landscape photography

Nevada Desert

The city of Detroit has always been one of the destinations sought after by explorers for the variety of sites, especially former industrial plants, but also public transport lines and old abandoned neighborhoods.

But what is the best way to portray these places in photography?

You may happen to see a place full of charm that immediately catches your attention and then, reviewing the photographs, you realize that they do not give the same feeling. They do not depict the essence and the atmosphere of that abandoned landscape.

This happens when you don’t pay enough attention to important aspects and photographic technique such as exposition, but also, and above all in the case of abandoned sites, the composition and the choice of the ideal observation point.

You must also keep in mind that these landscapes of abandoned places and towns, like traditional landscapes, vary according to the time of day (i.e. light) and weather conditions.

To capture the essence of a landscape, you need to know how to tune into the environment that surrounds it, feel its peculiarities and understand what makes that place, that subject, so unique. Once you have identified this aspect, you will know exactly what to emphasize and then convey the same sensations through your photographs.

Always keep in mind that the camera does not pay attention to one detail rather than another, that is your job. Take your time, do not hurry because, at the moment of shooting, you must have already understood what are the compositional elements that you like most in a given scene.

landscape photography

Chain of rocks bridge – Missouri

Before even going to photograph the abandoned place you want to visit, I suggest you practice with light and photograph the landscape closest to your home at the most varied times. In this way you will have practiced enough to understand how light affects a landscape subject.

Photograph the same landscape at all times of day, in all weather conditions, trying to convey, in your shots, what you felt in front of that given view. If you notice that your photos do not convey your concept, try to understand what didn’t work, ask yourself what you could do differently next time. This is the best way to learn how to photograph landscapes.

Also, when it comes to abandoned places, old railroads or gas stations, avoid placing the subject in the center of the frame to make the image less obvious, and therefore more interesting. For this reason, it is best to observe the site from different perspectives in order to choose the best possible view point.

When composing the image, respect the rule of thirds and balance the spaces adequately in order to avoid too many empty areas in your shots.

Another tip that will be useful to you, when photographing a landscape, is not to divide the photo into 50:50 between the sky and the earth. There may be exceptions, but in most cases the result is more pleasant when the proportion is 1/3, based on what you want to highlight.

When it comes to landscape photography, especially abandoned sites where there are various elements that can capture your attention, you will find that every time you look, you will see new elements that you had not noticed during the shooting phase. They are often elements that somehow tell the story of that landscape.

landscape photography

Calico – California

The advice I give you is to always seek simplicity, in order to represent a certain place, a given subject, in the most direct way possible. Do not try to overdo it and include everything otherwise you will not be able to capture the essence and narrate your photographic story in a clear and comprehensible way.

A trip to a ghost town, along route 66 or some traits of the US 1, a visit to a disused gas station, an old railway or an abandoned mine is a journey through time.

Each of these places has a story to tell. These are often stories full of hopes and dreams but also of families looking for a better future. Stories of economic change and unpredictable weather conditions.

All of these places has its own atmosphere and charm something that you can capture with your camera.


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Urban Landscape Photography

Urban photography is mainly distinguished in urban landscape and architectural photography. In architectural photography, the main subject of the photo, which occupies a large part of the composition, is often a single element: in general, a building, a building, a structure such as a monument or a complex of buildings.

Urban landscape photography, on the other hand, has as its purpose the representation of an entire area and not a single element. This type of landscape photography aims at giving a sense of the atmosphere of the city rather than depicting a single element.

It could be in a far off place or simply downtown close to where you live, urban landscape photography could be practiced in any city. Personally I believe the best city landscape shots are taken at night, using long exposure techniques so as to capture the city lights.

One thing is certain, photographing urban landscapes does not mean photographing monuments. That could be considered travel photography and even in that case I’d stay away from cliché, unoriginal pictures of the most famous monument or statue right in the middle of the frame.

urban landscape photography

Chicago Illinois – USA

First of all, you want to enjoy the process, which means going for a walk downtown without heavy gear. You could even use your smartphone. The key with urban landscape photography is not using the most sophisticated camera and lenses, but it lies in the ability to see differently, to compose the shot in order to create the metropolitan atmosphere and the magic of city lights.

The last half hour of the day, the so-called Golden hour, is ideal for photographs of urban landscapes. The sunset renders the atmosphere warm, the shadows lengthen, and the colors change from red to orange to shades of violet, all within half an hour.

However, if you want to create special effects such as light trails that can be created using the traffic and city lights, you will have to wait beyond sunset.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to create very marked contrasts and clearly marked darks, shadows and lights, the best time is midday, the central hours of the day.

Photographing urban landscapes has various advantages, mostly variety. A city can be comprised of Victorian-style houses, art deco buildings, ultra-modern skyscrapers, sometimes a river can cross the city, therefore bridges, but also railways and even 1950s buildings such as old theaters. All these, if taken from the right point of observation, with the right perspective and the most effective framing, constitute wonderful subjects for your urban landscape photographs.

urban landscape photography

Brooklyn bridge – NYC USA

The settings can vary however, closed diaphragms are usually preferred for good sharpness and greater depth of field. Unlike natural landscapes, mainly photographed with wide-angle lenses, longer focal lengths should be used for urban landscapes.

With the right settings, the city lights at night can take on a fascinating aspect. Backgrounds become less invasive (often dark). The lampposts and the interiors of the illuminated buildings give you lines and shapes of various colors to be exploited to your advantage. Cars look like traces of colorful lights: red, green, yellow. If you are willing to take the time to go out at night with your camera, with the necessary precautions, you will notice that there are interesting subjects everywhere.

As we said before, the experience needs to enjoyable and for that reason it’s best to travel lightly, however if you want to take night shots you will need a slower shutter speed, which can lead to blurry photos, and so in order to be able to hold the camera steady, a tripod is the best solution as well as shooting remotely.

A common problem with night photos is that dark areas of an image tend to show more digital noise than lighter areas. Resist the temptation to raise the ISO at night if you can. If you have a tripod, it is usually not necessary to set the ISO very high.

Urban landscapes, especially when you are in a big city full of lights and particular and tall buildings, are among the most fascinating photographs to make.

The most important element in a successful urban landscape is finding the right position from which to take the photograph.

Don’t forget to leave your comment here and share your experience with urban landscape photography!



American landscape photography, cityscape photo, landscape photography, landscape photography USA, urban landscape photography

Landscape photography: 3 common mistakes to avoid

Instead of saying: “do this in this way”, “do that, but be careful because you should do it like this” etc. sometimes it can be helpful to say exactly what not to do.

So here we can learn what mistakes to avoid and common things you don’t want to do when it comes to landscape photography.

There are common mistakes, and not only beginner’s mistakes, that can screw up your photos. However, if you know in advance what to do, you can easily avoid them and achieve the desired results.

One thing to keep in mind, when shooting, is that you want to convey the feeling you experienced in front of a certain view. Observing a picture is very different than being in the location itself. So, make sure you focus on the feeling, on your personal view of the scene. What did it mean to you? How did it make you feel? Your shots should answer those questions.

Only by following this concept will your images look authentic and unique.

landscape photography

Lake Tahoe

  • #1. Too much of everything

This is the first error because when there’s too much of everything, you can’t see anything. Instead of trying to fit everything in the frame, ask yourself which element gives the most character to your landscape and make sure you include that and give it importance by keeping it clean and tidy, nothing extra. Think zen!

Often what is sought in a landscape shot is to obtain an image that conveys a sense of majesty and vastness. If this is the goal, it is almost always a question of the relationship between what you have in the foreground and what is in the background. For example, if you photograph a mountain, however fascinating and immense it may be, it will look flat if it is not related to elements in the foreground. It could be rocks, plants, flowers or even just a green lawn. Inserting these elements in the composition allows you to create a connection between them. And this translates into a composition with greater depth.

  • #2. Make sure the horizon is level

This is a simple thing which means that it is really essential. Nothing is more disturbing to the eye than a sloping horizon. It is also a sign of neglect that can be easily avoided with minimal effort. There are no excuses. Do not evaluate with your eye, use a tripod and a level.

Speaking of horizon, it is important to notice that the lines that make up a frame can help convey different moods. This is especially true in landscape photography. For example, the prevalence of horizontal lines gives a feeling of relaxation and serenity. Conversely, the prevalence of vertical and diagonal lines conveys dynamism. An image in which ascending and descending lines dominate over the horizontal ones will have a vigorous mood.

landscape photography

Bryce Canyon

  • #3. Don’t spoil the exposure

Exposure is a key factor in photography and even more so in landscape photography where the various levels of the view can present different conditions. The challenge is that if you expose for the sky, the foreground can be too dark and if you expose for the foreground, the sky can be burnt and the detail lost. One of the solutions to overcome this problem is the use of filters. Your goal as a landscape photographer is to make sure that all the elements in the shot are exposed correctly, so that maximum detail is revealed.

Each landscape – according mostly to available light conditions – requires specific camera settings in order to be captured in a way that truly reveals its beauty.

As for the exposure, to work on the balancing of areas of shadow or excessive light, you need to adjust the shutter of your camera. Slow it down when there is low light or speed it up when there is too much light.

If you shoot in aperture priority mode, the digital camera has a special the exposure compensation feature which allows you to impact directly on the exposure, to increase and decrease the value, until the desired combination is reached.

I also advise you to set the white balance manually so as to find the ideal gradation for the landscape you have chosen based on the available light conditions.

landscape photography

River Hills California

And in conclusion…

Having said that, it is true that knowing how to proceed allows you to avoid errors that can compromise the results of your photographic outputs, but this does not mean that you have to restrain yourself from the fear of making mistakes. In fact, it is thanks to practice, experience and therefore also thanks to mistakes that you learn. The more you practice, the more your skills will improve and it will be easier for you to create successful images. Not only technically correct images but also capable of conveying strong feelings.


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Top 5 wildlife photography camera settings

Wildlife photography is filled with inspiring moments when you find yourself in awe of nature and its wonders. It is one of the most loved and popular photographic genres. You can practice nature photography and wildlife in fascinating places like Alaska, Colorado, Florida but it isn’t necessary to travel very far to practice wildlife photography. Usually a forest, a lake, a river or a meadow will do.

What it take is practice, patience and knowledge of your camera.

Wildlife photography USA

Here above is a picture of a whale taken with a Canon EOS 5d Mark IIi with the following settings:

EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM 210.0mm · ƒ/8.0 · 1/2000s · ISO 200

For most photographers dedicated to this genre, wildlife photography is all about the composition of the image. It’s about conveying the overall atmosphere of the environment and the play of light, rather than just on the animal itself. Any subject can become more powerful when placed in the right context. It communicates more and that’s why composition is key.

Let’s take a look in the next paragraphs of this article at the top 5 wildlife photography camera settings. They will give you a better understanding of how your camera works and hopefully some ideas of how you can set up your equipment to capture more captivating shots.

Note: Most of the following settings should work in most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.

1.- Image quality – Set it to RAW format.

Think of RAW as a snapshot of all the information that was on the sensor at the time you took the picture. All of that data stored in the memory card will allow you to have more flexibility to edit the image the way you want. Besides, shooting in RAW will give you a more detailed picture which is what every wildlife photographer aims to.

2.- Mode – Manual mode with Auto ISO (Auto ISO sensitivity controls).

Iso setting is kind of the least important one when you are shooting in wildlife photography. When you are out on the field shooting in different areas with different subjects, you just want to be able to change things like aperture and shutter speed and not worry about the ISO and let the camera deal with it. Why? Because of the next two reasons:

a) The aperture and the shutter speed are the physical ways of allowing more light to reach the sensor and influence the exposure of the image.

b) With an auto ISO, your camera takes all the light that the sensor is capturing and boosting it up to the right brightness so there’s not much use of controlling the ISO yourself

3.- Metering – Matrix metering.

Most photographers use the Matrix Metering mode by default in their wildlife photography camera to capture their images because when you point the camera to a scene it reads the entirely and automatically works out the correct exposure of a picture. It is very rare for wildlife photographers to change this mode but occasionally is useful to change it to Highlight weighted Metering especially when you are capturing images of light-colored animals or areas because it will expose the brightest thing in the scene. It is also useful when you are shooting a subject that moves into a contrasting backlight or a bright subject with a dark background.

4. Autofocus – Back button focus

The autofocus mode is one of the most important settings in wildlife photography because it gives you proper control of your wildlife photography camera. Most photographers configure it with the back button autofocus (you will only find this feature in midrange and professional equipment) and here are some of the reasons:

a) As a wildlife photographer, you don’t necessarily want the camera to refocus every time you try to take a picture. With back button focus the camera only focuses when you press the back button and leaving the shutter release button with the only function to capture the pictures.

b) The back button focus is useful for different types of photography but it does have some good applications in wildlife. For example, if you are trying that capture a subject that is hard to focus because its positioned between leaves and branches, the back button focus will let you to carefully focus once and then continue to take shots without the camera possibly hunting and messing up your focus point.

c) It gives you all 3 focus modes in one, saving time in switching through the
different focus modes:

  • AFS (single focus): Press the button, wait till your subject is focused and capture the image. You will see how good is its performance in difficult scenarios, especially with animals that are standing in environments with a lot of elements.
  • AFC (continue focus): Hold down the button and it will track continuously the subject without losing focus. Great for capturing animals in motion.
  • Manual focus: Don’t touch the button and manually focus the lens to the subject.

As you use this feature you will see how other benefits will appear and add up in the performance of your camera and shootings.

nature and wildlife photography

Here above is a bird named Oystercatcher. This image was taken with a Nikon D200 and the following settings: 170.0mm · ƒ/2.8 · 1/5000s · ISO 160

5.- The continuous shooting mode- Burst mode

Last but not least is the Burst mode. This setting is perhaps the most important setting to configure your camera with. With wildlife photography, you never know what’s going to happen or when. Being prepared is half the battle to capturing good images. What the burst mode does is change your camera from a single shot mode to a multi-shot sequence of images. By having this continuous sequence on, your camera will be ready to capture the frames of a scene that suddenly kicks off until the shutter button is released or until the camera´s internal memory buffer fills up. The resulting sequence of images that you get will increase the odds of capturing that perfectly-timed action shot.

Hopefully, these 5 settings have given you a better understanding of how your camera works. As well as a more clear path of how to capture more captivating and high-quality images. Do not forget to share your comments below, we love to read them.

landscape photography, nature photography, wildlife photography

camera for outdoor photography

Best camera for outdoor photography

Purchasing a new camera for outdoor photography or second body is a big decision for professional or enthusiast photographers. Especially when you are in the field of outdoor photography which covers: landscape, nature and wildlife photography. If you already are in the phase of searching, you probably have run into the innumerable options of brands, models, sensor sizes, etc. We know there is a lot of information to process, but to keep yourself on track, we want to give you some of the best options for purchasing your camera for outdoor photography.

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