Choose the right season
To capture a scene at its best, be prepared to plan 12 months or more ahead…
Just like comedy and baking a cake, successful landscape photography is all about timing. You’ll have fuller, more interesting waterfall shots after a period of heavy rainfall, for instance, and timing a visit to the coast to coincide with the rise or fall of the tide is a key consideration for seascapes. Choosing the right season to capture a view is obviously crucial; although some places will look good year round, the colours of spring or autumn can add interest to many landscapes. Even coastal photography can benefit from being planned with seasonal details in mind, as Ross Hoddinott’s shot of The Rumps, near Polzeath, in Cornwall, proves.
“This is a viewpoint I’ve known about for years and that I’ve photographed before, but I’d always wanted to capture it in just the right light. Foreground interest can be lacking along this stretch of the north Cornish coast and my previous efforts from this spot had lacked the depth needed to make a great shot,” says Ross.
He decided to plan his next visit more carefully, not only to realise the quality and direction of light that would add depth to the shot, but also to ensure that his trip coincided with a time when the clifftops were carpeted with flowers.
“I knew from past visits – and from consulting The Photographer’s Ephemeris [http://photoephemeris. com] – that the sun would be setting in a lovely position, to bathe the coastline with warm, low light during late spring. I also knew that cow parsley grew along this stretch of the coast path, but the window of opportunity to photograph the flowers in bloom would be short. To ensure I didn’t miss it, I visited this location a couple of times during the weeks prior to taking this photo to check what stage the plants were at. Once they were flowering, I just had to wait for the right forecast – a sunny, but still evening.”
Ross had this beautiful shot in mind for a couple of years, but due to other commitments and unsuitable weather, he hadn’t had an opportunity to return. “Having planned the shot in my head – and then recced the location in the days leading up to the shot – I thankfully had good conditions on my very first attempt with my camera. I arrived nearly two hours before sunset to ensure that I had sufficient time to identify the very best composition prior to the best light. Despite it being a still evening, there was a slight breeze. I didn’t want the tall plants to be wind-blown and blurred in my shots, so I had to time my shots carefully, waiting for any subject movement to die down before triggering the shutter. I used the widest setting on my 17-35mm lens and got close to the flowers in my foreground. To ensure front-to-back sharpness I had to calculate and apply the hyperfocal distance (page 114). I used a polarising filter to give the colours a boost, and a graduated ND filter to balance the light. The cloud and warm sunlight complemented the scene beautifully – on this occasion, I managed to capture the shot I had planned and pre-visualised.”
Use an ultra-wide angle zoom, such as the Nikon 14-24mm pictured here, or one of the wide-angle primes featured in this issue’s Big Test (p. 112), to enable you to include a swathe of foreground detail, as in Ross’s shot