Investing in time
Time is the most important investment you can make in capturing excellent landscape pictures. When you visit a location for the first time, spend time scouting in order to find the best possible composition.
Carry a compass or phone app to figure out where the sun will rise and set, and imagine how the place would look in different kinds of light.
If there is water in your framing, look carefully for reflections. You can use reflections to enhance the image. You may have to move around a bit to include or eliminate them, or return when the sun is at a different angle.
Use a polarizing filter to eliminate reflections on water and glass and increase contrast. The same applies for the blue colour in the sky, rotate it until you have the effect you want.
In the forest
Photographing forests presents a different set of challenges. First, think about the character of the forest you want to shoot and the feeling you want to convey in your image. Should it feel dark and brooding, or light and airy? Are there any special features that will help express how you feel about it? As with any photograph, find a point of interest. It might be one slightly different tree trunk, a path winding through, or a splash of colour during autumn. Whatever it is, compose in such a way to lead the viewer to it. Look for shafts of light penetrating the canopy or one spot on the forest floor directly lit by the sun.
Do you want a lot or a little of sky in the frame? A clear blue sky might best reflect the character of one place, a brewing storm another. Remember the rule of thirds. If the sky is important, place the horizon along the top third division of the frame. If it is not important and uninteresting, leave it out all together.
Consider these different scenes: a tranquil isle with turquoise water lapping at a white, sandy beach; storm waves pounding a rocky shore; a densely packed vacation beach. What kind of shore are you photographing, and how can you best convey it? What time of day, what kind of weather, and what season is most appropriate for showing its character? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself while scouting for the right vantage point and composition before shooting. Every shoreline is different in some way. Show the difference in your images.
Always carry a plastic bag or a shower cap in your backpack. If a sudden shower develops and your equipment is on the tripod, cover it with the bag instead of taking it off.
A photograph is all about light so always think of how the light is striking your subject. The best bet is to move around so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out colour and shades, and the slight angle (side lighting) produces some shadow to indicate texture and form.
Depth is an important quality of good photographs. We want the viewer to think that they are not looking at a flat picture, but through a window, into a three-dimensional world. Add pointers to assist the eye. If your subject is a distant mountain, add a tree in the foreground. A wide angle lens can exaggerate this perspective.
Rule of thirds
The beauty of an image is often in its proportions. A popular technique with artists is called the Rule of Thirds. Imagine the frame divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Now place your subject on one of the lines or intersections. Always centering your subject can get dull. Use the Rule of Thirds to add variety and interest. Once you have mastered the rule of thirds, then think about breaking it.
Aim for impact
A great photograph catches the eye. It leaps off the page and demands attention. While a picture may say a thousand words, I think a great photo should say just one – “Wow!”
There are four keys to visual impact: simplicity, color, light, and depth.
The more you research a destination, the better your photos will likely be. Do not forget to research weather and tide before you leave the house.
Strive for variety
Variety is the spice of life – and photography. Think how your photos will look as a group and shoot accordingly. Try to vary your styles, mix wide-angle overviews and individual details, daytime and night, portraits and abstracts.
Do not just look at the pictures of photographers you admire, study them. Ask yourself why you like them, what is it about them that inspires you and make suggestions to yourself on what you think you should do.
Landscape photography means patience. You have to wait for that special moment the light will be at its best.