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Use an L-bracket to capture stunning landscape photography

If you're looking to make a living from your landscape photography, you should consider shooting in both landscape and portrait orientation for one reason: it doubles your chances of sales. This is because people buying shots for use in print are mostly looking for a photo that’ll fit onto a single page, which demands it’s longer on the vertical edge, or to go across two pages, which has to be longer on the horizontal. 

Tripods are mainly designed for shooting horizontally. Once you’ve set up the legs so it’s level, you screw the base plate into the camera and it sits on top, the centre of gravity of the camera above the tripod. To shoot vertically, ball heads have an indent which the attachment to the baseplate slots into. But this means the weight is now off-centre. Worse, the camera has moved to a new position and so we have to recompose. However, we can quickly and easily solve this frustrating problem with the simple addition of an L-bracket.

• Read more: Best travel tripods

An L-bracket means that it takes just seconds to switch from horizontal to vertical, and the camera will still be in the same place, weight above the tripod – the centre of the frame will also be the same. 

When we went to shoot Aston Windmill in Somerset, overcast conditions meant the sun would only break through the clouds occasionally. We wanted the windmill to be sunlit, but by the time we had switched orientation and recomposed, it was in plunged into shade once again. This is where an L-bracket can really help save your landscape photography. However, it can be even more helpful at sunset or sunrise, where the light changes quickly and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

01. Composing horizontally with a ball head

(Image credit: Future)

We’ve lined up our horizontal composition, ensuring our landscapes is level, and taken our shot with the windmill towards one side of the frame, following the ‘rule of thirds’. This gives the image room to breathe, but is also attractive to stock library customers as there’s plenty of space to place text.

02. Composing vertically with a ball head

(Image credit: Future)

To shoot vertically our ball head has a notch for the camera to drop into. But rotating the camera body 90 degrees means it no longer sits atop the tripod, but at the side. It’s lower too, so our shot now crops the windmill towards the edges of the frame and adds too much foreground. 

03. Switch to an L-bracket

(Image credit: Future)

The L-bracket screws into the tripod-mounting socket, but the Arca Swiss mounting plate extends along the bottom of the camera and up one side. Our 3 Legged Thing Zelda is custom-made to fit the Nikon Z range, leaving the ports accessible. With ‘universal’ L-brackets, check compatibility with your particular camera.

04. Level up your shot

(Image credit: Future)

With the camera attached to the L-bracket, pop it onto the tripod in landscape orientation. Then ensure the camera is perfectly horizontal using the digital level in the Live View display, but also tilt the camera up so that the top and bottom of the windmill are evenly spaced, and not too close to the edge of the frame.

05. Wait for the right moment

(Image credit: Future)

We waited until the sun broke through the clouds to light up the face of the windmill, casting a dramatic shadow from its sail, and took our landscape-orientation image. Then unlocked the tripod head release clamp, and popped the camera back on the tripod in portrait, and locked the clamp securely again.  

06. Make the switch to vertical

(Image credit: Future)

The Live View display confirms that the image is still perfectly level and the composition still has the windmill to the right of our frame, but with a little more foreground and sky, and naturally less space on the left, while still adhering to the rule of thirds. We were able to take our horizontal and vertical photographs within just a few seconds of each other, meaning that the light was consistent in both of our images.

(Image credit: Future)

About N-Photo magazine

This tutorial originally appeared in N-Photo, the monthly newsstand magazine for Nikon photographers. Why not subscribe to a print edition, and have the magazine delivered direct to your door every month?

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