Landscape Photography Lighting
Light is king. Whether you love landscape, food, portrait, street, sports or macro, getting the light right will make or break your images. You can’t fix ‘bad’ light after the shot’s been taken, you have to get it right in camera at the precise moment of releasing the shutter. Understanding the importance of light and its qualities is what more photographers struggle to learn than anything else.
It’s so easy to think. “I can see it, therefore there’s light.” or that more light is better than less. It’s the quality of light that’s important. So what does quality of light really mean? It means light that makes the subject or scene look its best. So one windy morning after completing my workshop on Lanzarote I thought I’d go shoot some Landscapes and show you how quickly it can change.
Days like the one in the video are perfect for landscape photography. Lots of clouds mean more than an interesting sky, they mean there’s be patches of light and shade moving across the landscape, highlighting different areas of it as it goes. If you want to shoot landscape, you have to be patient, find a scene that’ll be pleasing to look at and think about what you want to include, where to place those things in the composition (in other words where to position the camera).
You must look at the light and ask yourself if it’s lighting up the scene to show it at its best. And if not, when will it do that? You often have to return at another time or day or even month for the light to be appropriate. Sorry, there are no shortcuts.
A windy day with plenty of cloud is a good day to go out shooting landscape. The stronger the wind, the faster the clouds move and the blue holes between them through which the sunlight shines. These are like searchlights sweeping the land. All you have to do is be patient and wait for it to hit the spot you want to stand out - and be ready. On very windy days light moves fast and changes in seconds as you saw in the video.
You’ve probably heard of Henri Carier Breson’s concept of the ‘decisive moment’. If you’re unsure what it means, here are some definitions I found online.
"The capture of a unique, fleeting, and meaningful moment, ideally one involving movement and action."
"A precisely timed, unrepeatable, one-chance shot."
"The simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression."
- Henri Cartier Bresson
Many photographers think of it only in terms of street or people photography, but it surely applies to the ever changing play of light on a landscape just as much as human behavior. In landscape photography the decisive moment is when the light qualities are perfect for the shot you have pre-visualised.
In the video, whilst photographing the stone building, vinyard and volcanoes in the distance I wanted light to highlight the building and the ‘curly volcano’ in the background so I had to wait until it happened.
Light on Building - volcanoes in shade
Building in shade - light on volcanoes
Light on building and volcanoes
If you missed the light moving across the landscape, go back and watch the video again and look out of me going in and out of shade, patches of light and shade moving across the ground and how quickly it does it.
If you’re going to capture the decisive moment when the light is perfect you have to
- Be ready with your camera set up before the event. If you’re fiddling with settings you’ll probably miss it.
- Know what you want
If you don’t know what you want or how to have the camera ready, my Ultimate Beginners course will quickly get you up to speed with your camera, light, composition, lenses and more, and the 7 Building Blocks Of Photography will have you knowing how to combine these things appropriately for any image you want to take.
If you’re really serious about your photography, why not come and shoot these locations with me as your guide and mentor on the next Lanzarote workshop?
Until next time….
Mike's instructional technique works in the Ultimate Beginners Course because it is simplistic, without being condescending. Although he is very careful to explain the all facts, it is done in such a way that is completely stress free. Almost like chatting with a knowledgable friend.
- Paul Ferns -