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landscape photography


  • great landscape photography is a challenge as it generally requires:
    • a nice landscape scene with nice composition
      • what is the focal point for the viewer's eye to keep coming back to?
      • compositional elements - walk around and search of a point of view that gives the ambience you want
      • water or cloud movement - freeze it or let it flow
      • pre-visualise the scene - perhaps it will work better in monochrome?
      • level horizon and where do you put it - 1/3rd from top, from bottom or in the middle?
      • planning - when is the best light direction for the location? do you need to worry about tides?
      • think creatively for plan B if weather doesn't turn out as expected - go with the flow
      • safety - don't get struck by lightning, fall off a cliff, get caught by rising tides, step on a snake, break an ankle or get lost or mugged
      • protect your gear from the weather
    • nice lighting
      • this requires planning, timing and patience
      • many photographers only shoot the “Golden Hour” around sunrise and sunset
    • a complimentary sky - this requires planning, timing, patience and some luck
    • avoidance of subject blur unless it is flowing water:
      • minimal wind is usually desirable to avoid plants and trees moving
      • camera tripod or at least an image stabiliser or a fast shutter speed
      • self-timer or remote control to reduce camera shake further if using a tripod
    • maximal detail across the whole image including foreground to background:
        • relatively small aperture
        • consider focusing one third into the scene, although some consider focusing on the distant subject gives the better subject detail
        • tilt lens may be an option
        • focus stacking may be required
      • avoidance of too small an aperture that diffraction effects reduce image sharpness
      • avoidance of camera shake
      • avoidance of noise reduction - use base ISO where possible
      • excellent optics with minimal aberrations edge to edge at the desired aperture
      • avoidance of internal lens flare - coated lenses, the best filters, lens hoods, etc
    • management of high contrast scenes, options include:
      • shoot in RAW mode to attain best control over high contrast and tweak white balance if needed
      • avoid high contrast scenes (eg. eliminate a featureless cloudy sky from the composition)
      • use a camera with the best dynamic range (eg. the latest full frame or medium format camera)
      • use ND gradient filters to darken the bright sky - but avoid if tall objects such as mountains
      • HDR techniques although rarely give realistic, nice landscape imagery - can the camera do exposure bracketing such as 5 or 7 shots at 1EV increments?
  • professional landscape photographers can generally afford to resort to super expensive medium format digital cameras or perhaps wide panoramic medium format film cameras or even large format film cameras
  • high resolution cameras are ideal for landscapes but you won't get the high resolution unless you use a sturdy tripod, avoid mirror camera shake, and have a optically superb lens - if you are shooting hand held, you may as well have a 10-20mp camera not a 40-50mp one
  • larger sensor cameras can offer better image quality but will require smaller apertures for the same depth of field (DOF) and thus higher ISO if you need a faster shutter speed for windy days

every camera kit will be a compromise and have challenges

high resolution medium format digital camera

  • best image quality for studio and landscapes as long as you don't need high ISO
  • super expensive (>$50,000)
  • heavy and large, and requires heavy, expensive tripods and tripod heads as well as expensive, large filters and filter holders
  • requires mirror lockup
  • no 16:9 panorama option other than by cropping
  • not an option for backpacking overnight unless you have a team of sherpas
  • not an option for including in cabin luggage on air flights - you will need expensive, special insurance to cover this kit

medium format panoramic film

  • expensive (>$10,000 for kit), large, heavy and requires relatively heavy, expensive tripods and tripod heads as well as relatively expensive and large filters and filter holders
  • travel issues as for medium format digital
  • only get a few shots per roll of film - shots are expensive and you need to change rolls of film on location
  • potential issues with film - eg. airport Xrays, need to process professional film as soon as possible, cannot change film to another type mid-way, cannot check to see if you got the shot while on location, etc
  • requires a special central ND filter to address the severe vignetting which occurs

high resolution full frame dSLR

  • expensive (>$10,000 for kit), large, heavy and requires relatively heavy, expensive tripods and tripod heads as well as relatively expensive and large filters and filter holders
  • requires mirror lockup
  • requires aperture f/11-f/22 to maximise depth of field (DOF)
  • no 16:9 panorama option other than by cropping
  • not an option for backpacking overnight unless you have a sherpa

high resolution full frame mirrorless

Micro Four Thirds

  • has major advantages in terms of:
  • can use a smaller, lighter, less expensive tripod and tripod head as lower weight
  • smaller, less expensive lens filters
  • more portable size encourages one to seek out alternate points of view and perspectives - the flip out live view allows easier, more comfortable, camera on close to ground shots
  • potentially better edge-to-edge image optical quality
  • can use faster shutter speed (and less wind blur) at base ISO as best aperture to use is f/5.6-f/8 rather than f/11-16 as on full frame (full frame can address this by increasing ISO 2 stops but that defeats some of the advantages of sensor image quality)
  • can use slower shutter speed hand held as they generally have the best image stabiliser
  • can use automatic in-camera focus stacking to increase depth of field (DOF)
  • Olympus cameras have awesome weathersealing - heavy rain is not an issue
  • disadvantages include:
    • slightly less sensor dynamic range but similar to color film - use a ND gradient filter or be careful with composition
    • less megapixels although the latest Olympus cameras can get you to 50mp in HiRes mode but this requires a static scene and tripod
    • smaller camera controls can make use with gloves in cold weather difficult
    • smaller battery means battery life in cold conditions can be problematic - may need to take a few!

dynamic range of some current cameras (DxOMark tests)

camera megapixels dynamic range
Nikon D810 34mp 14.8EV
Sony a7R II 42mp 13.9EV
Canon 5D Mark IV 13.6EV
Phase One IQ180 mp 13.6EV
Canon 1DX mark II 20mp 13.5EV
Canon 80D 13.2EV
4“x5” large format color film 200-400mp 12-13EV
medium format color film 50-80mp 12-13EV
Phase One P65 Plus 65mp 13EV
Olympus E-M1 Mark II 20/50mp >12.7EV
Olympus E-M1 Mark I 16mp 12.7EV
35mm color film 7-16mp 12-13EV
Canon 5DS R 50mp 12.4EV
Olympus E-M5 Mark I 16mp 12.3EV
Canon 1D mark III 10mp 11.7EV
photo/landscape.txt · Last modified: 2018/05/28 22:27 by gary1

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