I often get asked about my workflow and how I go about scouting, composing, capturing, and processing my images. This is something that cannot be learned overnight, but rather over many years of trial and error. The reason you are seeing so many great landscape photographers emerge, is due to the fact that the learning curve is so accelerated due to instant results. In the past, you would have to wait weeks after development to see results of a shoot.
As far as scouting goes, I generally return to a location or area I have visited before, to capture the best light. So I will return there several times throughout the year. Obviously most places I visit are well known and most that are familiar with the American Southwest know right where they are.
However I try hard to get off the beaten path and find new and exciting locations. This is always a challenge due to the fact you are going into uncharted territory and may put a lot of effort into little gain, but when it pays off the results are gratifying.
Composing a photograph is one of the more difficult things to do when you are just learning photography. I have learned that when you use wide angle lenses, get close to your subject, and add dimension or layers, your images will turn out much better speaking in a general terms.
The most compelling landscape images I have seen, showcase patterns, consistency, or odd weather events. Shooting a different perspective of a popular scene, will give you a unique result. Try it!
Capturing the right “data” is critical. I would rather overshoot a scene and ensure that I have the right exposures, compositions, and focus, than to miss out on an opportunity. Often after I finish a shoot like such, I don’t look forward to the hours of processing and sorting.
I always bracket my shots that have a vast dynamic range, meaning a scene that is at sunset or sunrise I will capture several stops of data. If I ever have a doubt, I bracket! There is no worse feeling then getting home to process and you notice that white cloud are blown out or the dark shadow has no detail either.
Processing images is a sensitive subject for some, and for the uninformed the question often asked, “is that photoshopped?”. My answer is, “it better be!”. Those who are unfamiliar with RAW capture don’t understand the workflow of digital post processing. The best way I can tell someone who is not well informed about it is- A RAW image is much like a film negative, you must process the RAW image on a computer much like you would process a negative in the dark room to get the final product.
Now this topic deserves an entire blog post by itself, and it will in the future. When I think of the term “photoshopped” I think of photo composite, meaning different scenes or locations are blended into the same “photo”. I do not have any images that are photo composited, meaning all of my images have the same sky, mountains, trees, sun, etc. that I saw that day and at the particular time.
I am a true believer in Adobe RAW processing and blending for dynamic range. Meaning yes I will blend images shot at the same time with different exposures to show what I really saw. Modern DSLRs cannot capture what the human eye sees.
In the near future I will be releasing how-to tutorials on post processing images. Cost of the online tutorial will be $39.99 and be about an hour long. In these videos I will discuss the following:
-Adobe RAW processing
-How to use Color Efex Pro 4 filters for landscape photography
-Sizing and preparing your images, the final product!