GIVE YOUR LAND­SCAPE A boost

Man­ual mode puts you right back in con­trol of scenic shots

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

If you’re go­ing to the trou­ble of set­ting up a tri­pod, you’ve got time to take charge of the ex­po­sure set­tings too

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy is an op­por­tu­nity to slow down, think, and get ev­ery el­e­ment of your scene in per­fect har­mony. Your cam­era may make a fairly good es­ti­mate of the re­quired ex­po­sure on its own, but if you’re go­ing to the trou­ble of set­ting up a tri­pod and un­pack­ing your fil­ters, it’s worth tak­ing charge of the ex­po­sure set­tings too, be­cause the best re­sults of­ten take a lit­tle time to achieve.

For a start, the sky is of­ten a lot brighter than the land­scape it­self, and if you leave it to the cam­era to work out what to do, you’ll ei­ther get an un­der­ex­posed pic­ture or the sky will be com­pletely blown out. This is why land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers rely heav­ily on neu­tral-den­sity (ND) grad­u­ated fil­ters. These are clear at the bot­tom and dark at the top, and you po­si­tion them in front of the lens so that the dark­ened part is over the sky. You can still use the cam­era’s au­to­ex­po­sure modes when you’ve got a grad­u­ated fil­ter fit­ted on the lens, but the re­sults are not al­ways pre­dictable. It’s bet­ter to switch to man­ual mode and then set the ex­po­sure yourself so you can be sure that the fore­ground will come out prop­erly. You can use the cam­era’s spot me­ter­ing mode for this, or sim­ply point the cam­era to­wards an area of ground.

Next, you need to choose a grad­u­ated fil­ter that’s strong enough to bring the bright­ness of the sky back un­der con­trol – you don’t change the ex­po­sure set­tings at all. This is the method used by the ex­perts be­cause it’s re­li­able, pre­dictable and, once you get into the swing of it, re­ally straight­for­ward to do.

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers also like to blur mov­ing wa­ter with a long ex­po­sure, which of­ten means us­ing an ND fil­ter. These are evenly dark all over. You need to mea­sure the ex­po­sure with­out the fil­ter, add the fil­ter and then ap­ply a fixed cor­rec­tion. You have to do this in man­ual mode, be­cause the fil­ter will be too strong for the cam­era’s light me­ter to get an au­to­matic read­ing once it’s fit­ted.

Fi­nally, most land­scapes need max­i­mum depth of field, or near-to-far sharp­ness, which means us­ing a small lens aper­ture. In man­ual mode it’s easy – you sim­ply bal­ance the smaller aper­ture with a longer ex­po­sure.

EX­PO­SURE 6 sec, f/22, ISO50 LENS Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8

An ex­po­sure of eight sec­onds at an aper­ture of f/22 was used to blur the wa­ter in this pic­ture, but this was only one of a num­ber of pos­si­ble shut­ter speed and aper­ture com­bi­na­tions for the same ex­po­sure – oth­ers are shown above.

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