Tonje Lilleås

Landscape photography locations – how to work a location to get maximum results

I’ve been vocal about how I prefer to explore locally, instead of going to shoot landscape photography honeypots. In todays post I want to share how you can work a landscape photography location to get maximum results.

Location and shoot research – it’s all in the preparations

One of my favorite things to do when I know I’m traveling somewhere, is to check out Google Maps. By searching Google Maps I don’t only get a great overview of an area, I’m also able to get enough detail information for it to work as a digital recon of the area.

When searching Google Maps I look for viewpoints and key features in the landscape. Picking out features that I think will be interesting to incorporate in a composition. I then try to visualize what my viewpoint has to be to capture the kind of image I’m after. Should I be down by the lakeside, or will the image be more interesting from that hill? Is there a trail to where I need to be?

In addition to searching Google Maps, I use an app called “The Photographers Ephemeris”. In this app I find information on the time and direction of sunrise and sunset. This helps me plan my shoot even further, as it can be difficult to know if a landscape photography location works best for sunrise or sunset if you’re not local.

It goes without saying that my preparations also include checking the weather forecast, including cloud coverage (low, medium, high).

I gather all the information I find during my research in a Milanote board for each landscape photography location.

If you’d like to check out Milanote, and do so using my links, please know that they are affiliate links.

On location – get the feel for it

Even though I really think the preparation before you get to a landscape photography location is important, I find the most important planning happens on location. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting one of the well known landscape photography locations or a local gem, you need to get the feel for the location yourself.

I like to walk around without my camera first, preferably in broad daylight. It’s not easy to find your way in a new location for the first time if it’s pitch dark. And you don’t want to miss sunset or the alpenglow because you hadn’t walked the trail to location before the conditions were perfect.

When I walk around I try to forget everything that I know about the location. I focus on just seeing, picturing what would make for interesting images in different conditions. I ask myself

  • What is the obvious composition from this location?
  • What would I shoot if it was overcast, harsh daylight, golden hour, sunrise or sunset?
  • What could make foreground interest?
  • How would I shoot this in landscape format? What about portrait format?
  • What’s the wide, medium and detail shot here?
  • How can I show scale?

I make notes and incorporate them into my photoshoot plan for the location once I’ve spent a fair amount of time just taking in the location. I then make a shotlist before I decide what’s the main image I want to capture from the location.

Working landscape photography locations during a shoot

Once all the preparations are done, it’s time to shoot. During a shoot I always make sure I capture the main image first. With the main image in the box I start working around the other compositions. I make sure to get a variety in angles and focal lengths. This way I come home with a variety of images that together will help tell the story of the landscape photography location in question.

No matter how much you’ve prepared for a shoot, the images doesn’t always turn out the way you thought they would. The cloud coverage could be different. The water not as still as you had envisioned. Or the tide could be covering the rocks you wanted as foreground interest once the sunset hit the perfect level of color explosion. One of the most important skills as a landscape photographer is to be able to work with what you’re handed. And to know that you can always come back.

Come back and do something different

A great way to get maximum results from a landscape photography location is to revisit and do something different. I’ve found that photographing the same location over and over again has been one of the things to really help me develop as a landscape photographer.

A location may look totally different during autumn or winter. And sometimes a sunrise location during autumn can look amazing during sunset or the blue hour in wintertime. Or a composition that was too busy and messy to work during summer, can become a splendid image once covered in snow once the winter hits. The limits of a landscape photography location very much lies in the photographer that is shooting it.

Landscape photography locations – how to work a location to get maximum results

One of the locations I’ve revisited again and again is Savalen. Both because it’s convenient with our family having a cabin there, but also because I’ve always felt that there’s more left to shoot. I’ve gotten some of my favorite images in Savalen, and I think that comes down to the fact that I know the location so well.

In this post I’ve tried to give you some tips on how to work landscape photography locations to get maximum results. A short summary is

  1. Research your location using digital maps and photography apps.
  2. Take notes or make a Milanote board to gather the information you find during your research.
  3. Visit the location in daylight before your shoot. Remember to be open minded about the possibilities of the location. It’s not just about the obvious shot.
  4. Capture your main image first during a shoot, then work on other compositions to tell the story.
  5. Wide, medium and detail, you need all three to capture the feel of a location.
  6. Be prepared for change in or imperfect conditions.
  7. Revisit and do something different.

I hope you’ve found this post valuable and interesting. If you did, please consider subscribing to my blog! It really makes a difference. Also I would love it if you would check out my Instagram, and if you like what you see consider following me on there as well. Now get planning your next landscape photoshoot, and remember; there’s always more to explore locally!

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