Creating that fantastic visual is an amazing process. For me the process starts well before I pick up my camera and long after I put it down. It’s a happy partnership between planning, traveling, shooting and post production. It’s funny because most of the time the photography process is still misunderstood. One probably spends the least amount of time behind the camera and the most time in the other areas.
The planning stage is one of the most important ingredients for your landscape photo. Anytime I am travelling or thinking of visiting an area 500px is my go to research platform. There are hundreds of amazing photographers that may have been to the area you plan on visiting. With a simple location or keyword search you might discover a location worthwhile photographing. After you have researched a location try to plan when the lighting is going to be most complementary to the landscape. Interesting light is the foundation of any photo.
If you have the luxury of travelling for an assignment or even for leisure then don’t pass up the opportunity to explore the area. I generally plan my trips with photography in mind. The important thing to keep in mind is live in the moment and not necessarily to get “that photo”. Like some things in life the best arrives when you least expect it. Once you narrow down the location plan your arrival when the location produces the best lighting situation. Think blue or golden hours. Sometimes this means getting very little sleep or standing in the freezing cold. If it doesn’t happen for you on that occasion, try again. Persistence is the key.
In the bag my landscape tools consist of sturdy tripod, 10 stop filter, shutter release camera (sometimes mirrorless or dslr) and wide-angle lens. I purposely choose to leave out brands because they are really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Equipment is really just tools that only perform as well as their operator. I try to find interesting compositions with my eye and then place the camera and tripod in the general area. At this point slight compositional tweaks can then be made through live view. Don’t let the idea that someone has captured this scene before. All that matters is that you have not. Once the scene is selected my photographs are shot via live view and always manually focused (you want to be sure that the focus is tack sharp and exactly where you want it). Since landscape scenes are so diverse in terms of dynamic range I generally bracket for at least 5 exposures.
“It’s easier to get it right in the camera.” Don’t we all wish! The beauty of art is this could be the end of your photography adventure or you could spend hours in an editing program. There’s something for everybody and no right or wrong! A photographer generally spends the majority of his/her time behind a computer. So here’s the fun or not so fun stuff. The imported series of bracketed photos are briefly adjusted in Adobe Lightroom (general exposure, black and white points, tone curves, clarity, profile corrections, etc.) and then opened as layers in Adobe Photoshop. Once in Photoshop I choose to edit the images with Luminosity Masks. Luminosity Masks are a way of making advanced selections based on luminosity values. Say your foreground is properly exposed and your sky is overexposed. We can then target the channel selections for brighter or highlight values and blend in an underexposed layer from our bracketed set of images. Instead of manually blending Luminosity Masks can generate a specific selection based on what we are looking to target (shadows, mid tones and highlights). If you are interested on how to create luminosity masks there are a couple good tutorials floating around (Google Jimmy McIntyre) along with some action sets that will build your channels for you. Once the images are looking satisfactory we are done our incredible journey! From planning all the way to post production.
Matt Szymkow is a photography educator and owner of Sublime Photography. Matt specializes in wide array of photography with a truly unique style of imagery. Running a client-friendly, service-oriented business he believes that great creativity often is the result of team effort and values working closely with his clients.