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Best Tips To Capture Mood In Landscape Photography

Being in the right time and place is the key to every great photo but truly atmospheric and magical moments are usually dependent on location and weather especially when photographing landscape shots. While good planning and experience will help you decide when to shoot, some luck also plays a role.

Whether the sky is dark and gloomy or bright with streaks of sunshine, you will have a lot of opportunity to capture those unique moments if you put your determination and patience into it. Not only do you need to master the basics of camera techniques, but also the skill of portraying atmosphere at its best! Here are 3 different scenarios that are perfect for mood landscape shots. Read on for some handy tips!

Dawn & Dusk

The favorite time to shoot landscapes for most photographers is during the wee or final hours of the day. Light is the most important element in a perfect shot that allows us to convey the beauty of scenery and these early and late shots tend to be at their most dramatic at their peak.

Typical conditions would be a low sun’s position creating  beautiful color radiating from under the clouds plus longer and softer shadows. One challenge you may face is the sunrise and sunset duration is short so even if the weather is suitable, you may only get a few chances daily to capture the best light. BE PATIENT and be ready to get up early and stay out late. Remember, the earlier the better and know the sun’s exact position at your location so you can set everything up and wait for that golden moment.

Stock Photo - Palm trees silhouette at sunset

In addition, keep these points in mind:

  1. Give your images added warmth be selecting the Cloudy or Shade White Balance settings.

  2. Arrive at least 30 mins – 1 hour before sunrise or sunset to find the best viewpoint.

  3. Use a tripod. Shutter speeds are slower at dawn & dusk so you will need extra support.

  4. To enhance the golden hour effect, use a small aperture like f/16.

  5. For sunset shots, hang around even after the sun has set. The colors that follow are amazingly beautiful.

  6. Carry a torch with you especially if you’re shooting sunrise shots in an open field. It will be dark at 5 a.m.

  7. If your SLR have a built in horizon feature, this is very useful when shooting in low light.

Misty Mornings

Ahh, mist…a landscape photographer’s dream. It transforms a scene and adds mystery plus mood to photos. An early start is a must as misty weather often comes and goes in a blink of an eye, just before and after sunrise.

Whatever you do, don’t use Auto White Balance on your camera settings and let the lovely blue hue naturally shine. If the sun is low in the sky with beautifully diffused light, you may choose to shoot towards it to reduce the intensity of the overall picture and make for an amazing back-lit result of the foggy scene. As usual, work quickly before the sunlight burns the mist away.

Some takeaways:

  1. To create depth, include a foreground subject as a primary focal point.

  2. In misty shots, colors and subjects are less defined while disguising distractions and draw attention to key features.

  3. Consider adding some contrast during image processing to avoid flat and lifeless results.

  4. Radiation fog – occurs during clear, still nights – creates the most photogenic misty shot.

  5. Bookmark weather websites or download apps to forecast the weather and check visibility.

  6. Set your alarm early and allows plenty of time to locate your shooting point and set up.

  7. Try heading to a hilly region as low-lying mist looks best viewed from above, with the trees and buildings rising above the layers.

Stormy Skies

Now that you’ve got fair weather down pat, it’s time to think of the other side of the spectrum – storms. Bad weather can actually produce some amazing shots as it is the best condition for shooting mood and drama. Picture this: Threatening rain clouds creating a dramatic backdrop especially if you’re in the wild open field with rugged mountains at a distance.

Sometimes the effect happens in a short period of time, for example, a sky of stormy clouds above and suddenly a gap of sunlight burst through just enough to illuminate the scene below turns a gloomy picture into something extraordinary. In order to shoot just the right balance of shade and light, timing is key. Make sure you are all set up before the perfect moment to trigger the shutter so as not to miss out on this chance.

Some tips to take note:

  1. Practice adjusting the key shooting parameters such as ISO rating, f/number, exposure etc so you can focus on getting the composition and light perfect on shoot.

  2. The best time to head out is when you see a forecast of rainfall and sunshine at the same time.

  3. Be prepared to get wet! Protect yourself and your camera kit when heading out.

  4. If luck is on your side, you might even catch a rainbow! Always look in the opposite direction of the sun and compose your shots carefully.

  5. Using a polarized filter helps as it will enhance the colors of the rainbow when rotated correctly.

Great landscape shots should ignite an emotional response from viewers and communicate a certain feeling – peacefulness, loneliness or an overall calming effect. The key to capturing mood is to pick the right day and location – as is all landscape photography, but the real secret is to be fully prepared for when the “mood” arrives.

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