How to photograph landscapes – tips from the legend Steve Parish

Kate Thorburn
Published 24 Apr 2019 
by Steve Parish  
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<br/>Bottle-tree, DSLR, 24 mm, f/16, ISO 200
Bottle-tree, DSLR, 24 mm, f/16, ISO 200
<br/>Southwest National Park, Tasmania, DSLR, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 320, 1/400s
Southwest National Park, Tasmania, DSLR, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 320, 1/400s
<br/>The Hazards, Tasmania, medium-format DSLR, 28 mm, f/32, ISO 32, 1/.04s
The Hazards, Tasmania, medium-format DSLR, 28 mm, f/32, ISO 32, 1/.04s
<br/>Victorian Alps, medium-format DSLR, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/.08s, tripod and cable release
Victorian Alps, medium-format DSLR, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/.08s, tripod and cable release

Australia has amazingly varied landscapes, from spacious, open, arid dunes and grasslands with dead-flat horizons to precipitous alpine peaks. These extremes are often a short drive from most urban centres so, with camera in hand, it's easy to get lost in landscape magic.

Regardless of the format of your camera, or what lenses you have, the most important elements of photographing landscapes are content, mood and design. I find the initials ‘CMD’ a useful reminder of these primary elements.

The ‘content’ of a landscape scene refers to the land itself. The ‘mood’ is a combination of light and other natural elements. The ‘design’ is multifaceted, involving creative elements like shape, pattern, colour, form and composition (the planes, angles of view etc.).

Every time I approach a landscape, I consider all of these things. Focus and composition and depth of field management are crucial to the outcome.

Top tips: 

  • Include clouds in your shots, if there are any, and vary the horizon: maybe high, mid-way and low in the frame finder.
  • Take both horizontal and vertical shots.
  • Shoot in the early morning and late afternoon or when golden light is in effect, but don’t stop shooting when the sun goes down; work with twilight as well.
  • Use several lenses and vary your point of view, and don’t forget you can stitch your images together if you don’t have a wide angle lens.
  • Look for interest in the foreground.
  • Keep an eye out for ways to balance the elements in your photographs.
  • Use a tripod to stabilise your camera and also to make considered compositions.
  • Take care when composing the images, ensuring horizons are straight.
  • All lenses and all formats are excellent for landscape photography. The equipment/formats available to you may limit what you can communicate, but they will not stop you communicating.
  • The best way to educate yourself about the emotional interpretation of landscape is to study the works of renowned landscape artists, particularly abstract painters. They've learned to paint their feelings. John Olson’s landscape art has long been an inspiration for me.
  • Trees can provide a vital element of contrast in what may otherwise be a bland landscape; a tree, particularly when isolated against a clear unbroken horizon, can provide the perfect focal element for a sunset shot.
Steve Parish OAM is an award-winning Australian photographer with more than 57 years’ experience photographing Australian people, places and wildlife. Visit the Steve Parish website to view more of his work, and to see event dates for his 2019 workshops.
<br/>Bottle-tree, DSLR, 24 mm, f/16, ISO 200
Bottle-tree, DSLR, 24 mm, f/16, ISO 200
<br/>Southwest National Park, Tasmania, DSLR, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 320, 1/400s
Southwest National Park, Tasmania, DSLR, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 320, 1/400s
<br/>The Hazards, Tasmania, medium-format DSLR, 28 mm, f/32, ISO 32, 1/.04s
The Hazards, Tasmania, medium-format DSLR, 28 mm, f/32, ISO 32, 1/.04s
<br/>Victorian Alps, medium-format DSLR, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/.08s, tripod and cable release
Victorian Alps, medium-format DSLR, 300 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/.08s, tripod and cable release