Landscapes, Panoramas & HDR

Landscape, Panorama and HDR Photography

horses - landscapes

Horses on Mima Mounds

Landscape, Panorama and HDR photographs can be lumped together as you may use one or all these options to make a good landscape image. In the Spring, I spend all my time and effort hunting out nice places to photograph Spring wildflowers. As late Summer and Fall arrive and the trees and grass mature into many colors, I spend my time pursuing  landscapes.

I wish I could say I am good at it, but the light and time have more to do with the final product than just snapping a picture. Good landscapes require a lot of work and study of the landscape you are trying to photograph. Many people spend there entire lives trying to get everything just right. One little weed, stick  or object in the wrong place can ruin a picture as can shadows and bright areas. Proper light is everything.

Once you find the landscape you want to photograph, you need to choose the right lens to give just the right composition of the picture. I like to shoot landscapes with a prime lens and try to work with my feet to get in just the right spot. Telephoto lenses are nice, but made more for point and shooters or wildlife photography. A couple of good sharp prime lenses can be a very good investment to supplement your telephotos. The image below of Umatilla Rock is 4 vertical images combined to make a Panorama.

landscapes - umatilla rock

Umatilla Rock at Sunrise Panorama

The next thing you need to decide on is the composition. Many times a beautiful landscape just needs more than a single picture can handle and a panorama may be needed. I don’t mean a 360 degree panorama, but maybe an extra image or two may help. You also need to decide whether a vertical or horizontal picture works best. Most of the time, you will use horizontal for landscapes, but not always. Keep an open mind. I find that Microsoft ICE is very good for making panoramas. I added a Panning Base below my Ballhead and it makes doing accurate panoramas a breeze in either horizontal or vertical shots, but the tripod must be level to use it right. Mine has a bubble level on the tripod to facilitate this.

landscapes - mt st helens

Mt St Helens – Spirit Lake Panorama

Many times with landscapes, your dealing with canyons and trees, along with other shaded areas. A quick shot of these will show many shadows and many times that is the quickest way to tell what your working with as far as shadow detail. I often use HDR (high dynamic range) images to try and bring out detail in the shadows and bright areas, as in this B&W image of Palouse Falls. I try to keep the HDR work as natural as possible, not the over processed stuff you often see on the net. In other words, as your eyes see it. Although my camera has a built in HDR mode, it cannot compete with the flexibility of a good HDR program. Don’t overlook the usefulness of Graduated Neutral Density and Polarizing filters to calm down over bright skies and bring out the blue skies and clouds better.

landscapes - palouse falls

Palouse Falls WA – Black & White HDR

So in closing, I want to leave you with a couple of tips. Look over the area completely before trying to take the picture and always use a tripod. This forces you to slow down and look at the scene carefully before photographing. It also gives you a rock solid support for your camera. Simplify your composition and concentrate on what you want to draw attention to in the picture. Try several different compositions as long as you’re there and be patient for the right light – Bruce Perrault

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