To make seemingly ugly landscapes look beautiful
Time: Half a day
Skill level: Beginner
Kit needed: D-SLR, Tripod
We’ve all experienced it: you rock up somewhere hoping to photograph a landscape, mutter “Oh!” and put your camera back in the bag. Maybe the weather is miserable or there’s building work going on – whatever it is, you’re just not inspired to take a picture. But we say shoot it! Your camera wasn’t bought to be sat in your camera bag as you walk to the nearest coffee shop, so get it out and take a picture of that view you exclaimed at. There’s no telling what you’ll get until you shoot it, but your photography skills will enable you to find the hidden beauty in your landscape and reveal it with your camera.
In fact, try actively hunting out bleak views. You may choose a steelworks like we did, or perhaps alleys near your house. Whatever it is, you’ll need to keep a few techniques in mind…
STEP BY STEP: Stunning steelworks
Research your location before going. Online forums and local Facebook groups can give you an idea of the best location to shoot from
1 BEAUTY SPOT?
A big part of making the scene beautiful is finding the best aspect of it. We chose a high vantage point to look down on Port Talbot’s steelworks. Pick out the key elements that you want to photograph in advance. We arrived three hours before sunset to find this spot.
2 POETRY IN MOTION
The steam, the clouds, a plane passing by – these are all moving elements in the landscape. In order to capture the movement you’ll need to set a long exposure, and that means keeping your camera still atop a tripod. Make sure each leg is on a stable part of the ground.
3 FRAME THE EXTREMES
This technique is about what you leave out of your frame. Isolate only the very worst or very best of the scene – don’t settle for average as your image will have no impact. A telephoto zoom in the region of 70-300mm will give you flexibility when it comes to varying the framing.
Make balanced shots with patterns or strong structures. If you have row after row piping, why not find a pattern and make a more visually pleasing image? Steps are also good as they usually lead somewhere, and you can use a vanishing point to make a photo with infinite depth.
A neutral density filter makes the whole scene darker, and a strong ND filter (like a 10-stop) allows you to use long shutter speeds of a few seconds, sometimes up to a minute during the day. It’s a great way to smooth lakes, blur clouds and capture plane light trails.
In manual mode, set a shutter speed of 3 secs to blur the clouds. To do this during the day you’ll need an aperture of f/16 or above plus a five-to-10 stop ND filter, or f/2.8 without a filter at night. Use the self-timer at 2 secs to avoid nudging the camera. Keep the ISO at 100.
6 AS NIGHT ROLLS IN…
…Slow your shutter speed. As the sky darkens, the histogram will lean against the left side of the graph. This is normal – just check to see if the highlights are touching the right-side of the graph; if they are then they’re blown out and you should increase your shutter speed.