How to take better landscape photographs

Photo of author

Words/photographs: Tony Eveling

Part 1 of 8 from my creatively composed series of posts.

Photography is all about composition. No more no less….within that there are fixed and spontaneous compositions. Both require the same compositional skills.

Pointing and shooting is a good way to tap into your inner photographer!

Photographing very quickly and spontaneously in a point and shooty kind of way helps to hone your compositional skills by forcing you to work fast.

Those skills can be incorporated into a much slower photography, where you know or have scouted a location and are waiting patiently for the right lighting conditions.

Sculpture and church in Hoxter Germany
Sculpture and church in Hoxter Germany

Part 1 of a series of 8 articles that are non technical, that describe my own attitude to photography. My aim is to reinforce the fact that photography in all its forms and formats is fun, highly creative, enjoyable and rewarding. From HDR to smartphones to instagram to large format black and white….Find a little corner that fits your personality and lifestyle…and allow your unique creativity to flourish

This is the first of a series of 8 articles that discuss aspects of photography. Everything I write about here is personal to my photography. It hasn’t come from books or wikipedia, or other websites!

What has prompted me to write this is the wonderful feedback that I have received over the past few months via my contact page, with people saying very appreciative things about my photography. So, to all those people, thankyou very much!

The thing is I’ve never known what the appropriate etiquette was when receiving such kind messages…Up till now I’ve not replied to them, not all of them anyway…If I answer them with a ‘thankyou’, people may feel obliged to answer back, then I’ll feel obliged to answer back……so I generally don’t say anything in reply. I do say thankyou in my head though…!

Some of those nice comments were about the photography itself, and with a number of questions, many different questions, but centering around the general topic of ‘what is my approach to photography?’

And so I thought about those questions and created some specific points that relate to my photography and that help me to create the photography that I so much enjoy making.

Forgive me if some of the content overlaps a little, I’ve tried not to repeat myself too much!

Part 1…Fixed compositions and spontaneous compositions

I learnt photography by myself whilst backpacking around the world. On those backpacking trips I was basically just pointing and shooting. I was composing my photographs without ever reading a book or magazine. I wasn’t bothered about the photography at all. I just wanted a record of where I had been.

When I had the pictures developed I liked the photos, and I tried to work out why. That was when I realised how important composition was.

The two images below use simple compositional techniques, but the final compositions are totally unique for the subject, lighting and landscape. They are compositions that were made up on the spot

Sculpture and church in Hoxter Germany
Sculpture and church in Hoxter Germany
Beachy head, east sussex,england,uk
Beachy head, east sussex,england,uk

This image uses simple compositional techniques to place all the objects, it has a bit of humour with the statue ‘holding up’ the building, created by walking around and getting a suitable angle. No wow factor, but other stuff that compensates.

Taken during the middle of the afternoon on a bright summers day. No pre-planning, just out and about with a camera. Adjust composition to suit the subject and light. Work spontaneously and hone your skills.

I loved the challenge of wandering around looking for original compositions.

Then I started reading photography magazines and books. The landscape photographers said that they would scout a location beforehand and work out where the light would be in the future, and come back to that spot when all of the conditions were right.

That also meant having a composition all worked out in your head beforehand. All that was left was to wait for the correct light that suited your composition and you would get your shot.

That is a fixed composition that requires a different attitude to the photography from the photographer in order to achieve success, you already have your composition, and you find the right location with the right light.

I find that I am more in control if I tailor the composition for a scene in the way spontaneous way I described, rather than have a composition and location in my head and then wait at that location for the right light.

In the three images below The subject matter is very different, but the compositions are the same.

I have a number of compositions that I just apply to different subjects, as in these three photos.

The locations are all unplanned (I was just wandering around, not looking for anything in particular), the composition is one that I use very often. I will also take a number of other compositions too, some a bit more creative maybe, but at least these are in the bag.

Communist monument, Shumen, Bulgaria
Communist monument, Shumen, Bulgaria
Looking up at a dilapidated building, Varna, Bulgaria
Looking up at a dilapidated building, Varna, Bulgaria
Bustling street scene, Kolkata, West Bengal,India
Bustling street scene, Kolkata, West Bengal,India

That fixed composition where the photographer scouts a fixed location applies to an extent to what I call The Sweeping Vista. It is great for planned trips, and they look great.

For a backpacker type person, dawn and dusk only last for a few hours of the day, and I want to take interesting photos all day long. I personally don’t mind if my photographs don’t have the dawn/dusk wow factor.

You however are unlikely to be a backpacker, and I am hardly ever one! But what about people going for a walk in the afternoon. A spontaneous approach to composition will help create pleasing photographs, that will look good, and help develop compositional skills.

One cultural change over the last ten years or so has been the acceptance that the golden-hour period of the day is not the only time to take landscape photography. Golden-hour photography being where a photograph is taken around the period of dawn or dusk in order to capture the warm light. It was almost an obsession 10 or 15 years ago for landscape photographers.

Nowadays, especially with the democratizing effect of the internet and improving digital technology, people have widened their horizons so to speak. High ISO settings allow for easier night time photography which used to be more specialised in the past. People are now more willing to include urban landscapes as landscapes, and people are now much more open minded about photography in general.

  • Great article, blog and resource.


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