There was once I have a conversation with my friend with regard to wide angle lens. He voiced out his love for wide angle lenses and how he believe in shooting with one makes you a better landscape photographer. Well, to me in order to become a better landscape photographer, there’re so much more than just slapping an ultra wide angle lens in front of your camera.
I think many of us have the misconception to equate landscape photography to wide angle lens, the wider the better. Well, I can’t deny the impact of using a wide angle lens in landscape photography, the broad vista it present, the dynamic presentation of foreground and background and so on. But the truth is, landscape photography can be done with any lenses, be it wide angle or telephoto lens. It’s all about what you want to show, to frame and to present to viewers.
There are far more than just using a wide angle lens to improve on landscape photography. Effective composition can easily transform a rather ordinary scene to extraordinary. Always take note on the corners of your frame. Exclude unnecessary objects that doesn’t contribute to your picture. Be aware of the horizon. Observe your foreground and background in order to get the picture with maximum impact. This is where the wide angle lens will make or break your photograph. Since it’s so wide, you can end up having a whole lot of unwanted objects in your frame, or ended up including to many points of interest in your picture, making it too busy and less effective. Due to the pushing effect of wide angle lens, your foreground may end up too empty and lack of interest. Distortion may also be too much until a point it becomes distracting.
Another common misconception is that people tends to equate landscape photography to sunrise and sunset, a.k.a. shooting at the golden/blue hour. Well, there’s nothing wrong shooting landscape during the golden hour or the blue hour. But why limiting yourself just to shoot during these timing? Landscape photograph can be captured in almost anytime of the day. At the end of the day, is all about how you want to manipulate and capture the light hitting your frame. Do not hesitate to make use of accessories such as graduated ND, full ND filters or polarizer to play around with the light. Don’t be afraid to test out various settings and see what effect they provide.
On the more technical side, study on methods such as exposure bracketing, focus stacking, expose to the right (ETTR) and some post processing method such as High Dynamic Range and Exposure Blending, which will enhance your picture further to create the look that you want. Don’t be afraid to convert your landscape picture into monochrome and set your imagination free.
Last but not least, practice more. Try not to mimic what others have shot. Even though you are standing on the same spot, try to scout for different perspective and composition. Find a way to be different from others. Think, experiment, don’t get lazy, and you will be able to improve on your skills in landscape photography.