If you are interested in doing some landscape photography you already know that one of the most common “setups” for it involves the use of a wide angle lens and a tripod. You might already have the tripod, but you may lack the funds necessary to purchase the big lens. So, how can you take impressive landscape photographs without the most essential item? Actually, a clever and creative photographer can use a range of “tricks” to make their settings look wider, bigger, taller, and more expansive.
The focus of this brief discussion will be on the various techniques that can give the looks of a wide angle without the big budget. Firstly, however, let’s just do a quick review of the ways in which most wide angle landscape photographs are actually made. There really is a generalized set of guidelines that can be followed when getting ready for such a shot.
The essential thing is the aperture, and most photographers know that the details in the foreground and the distance are equally as valuable as the details in the middle ground. This is the reason that a small aperture is used for all wide angle landscape work. Of course, this means that lighting is a bit tricky because the narrow aperture restricts the amount that enters into the sensor. Because of this, most shots demand a tripod and a longer shutter.
The shutter speeds for most landscape images tend to also demand a cable release to prevent camera shake. If this is not possible, the photographer absolutely must make some effort to use the timer on the camera instead.
Finally, because landscapes are often a bit tricky, it is always a good idea to use the auto-bracketing feature whenever available. This will adjust either the shutter speed or aperture for the course of three consecutive exposures, and is a great way to ensure at least one flawless image.
Let’s look at our first deceptive landscape photograph below:
Here we see a massive swath of green field with a huge mountain range in the background. This image is something of an optical illusion because it is using the downward slope of the hill, the central tree, and the distant mountain to create space that isn’t really there at all. The angles in the image trick the eye into thinking that a very broad landscape is captured in the scene, but in all reality the field in the foreground is only a few dozen feet wide.
In the second image we can see that lines are again being used to pull the viewer “deeper” into a landscape that isn’t all that vast or expansive. The dark green lines in the field ask the viewer to visually follow them into the center of the image. This brings them to the house and then on to the enormous mountain beyond. This isn’t actually a “wide” setting, but the viewer will believe this to be the case.
Shadows in the landscape are put to use to create a bit of an illusion in the next photograph as well. Look at the many shadows in this scene:
This is not a very wide or broad location. The rocky formations are not even that tall. It is the heavy shadow at the base of the image along with the illumination along the face of the rocks that gives an impressive sense of height and majesty. This is an extremely clever technique and puts the “sweet light” hour of dusk or dawn to excellent use.
Finally, there is nothing compared to the use of an elevated position to create the sense of a wide angle lens in use. Consider the image below:
Here we can see that the photographer is in a plane, balloon, or other aircraft. They are pointing the camera back down on the vast landscape, but they have selected a savvy angle that adds a huge amount of depth and space to the scene. How did they do this? They included the horizon and an area of the sky in the image. This gives the whole scene a great deal of scale and perspective that tricks the eye into thinking that a specialized lens is recording the shot.
There are a few other tricks to use that include standing at the base of a hill or mountain and shooting upward into it to create depth and space. The photographer can also always seek the widest or flattest subjects to trick the eye, and they might also opt to incorporate large areas of shadow to add weight and width. It is also a good idea to seek out what many call “leading lines” that somehow guide the viewer’s eye into the scene as well. Any of these techniques will provide even a somewhat limited setting with a bit of expansiveness that can easily be recorded without the use of a wide angle lens.
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