What do you need to be a landscape photographer?

Looking South along the Trotternish peninsula from the Quiraing at Dawn.
Looking South along the Trotternish peninsula from the Quiraing at Dawn.
Being a landscape photographer is more about who you are than what kit is in your bag. First and foremost you must have a love of the countryside and a passion to share that with others. Different / “better” equipment will improve your results but only marginally compared to an exhaustive knowledge of how to get the best out of what you have.

To be successful you must

have a good understanding of the workings of your camera and be able to adapt settings very quickly when required. The landscape changes only slowly but the light can change in moments and the ability to react to it or to anticipate it will capture that unrepeatable fleeting moment.

The famous photographer Edward Weston once said “Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn’t photogenic.”  Whilst there are many fine images to be made without walking far there are many more that require some leg-work so a willingness to take some gentle exercise will definitely help. With that in mind the contents of your kit bag should be kept to a minimum, a few extra kilos of lenses and accessories may not seem much on the car park but after an hour carrying it you may well feel differently.

To make the most of any location means visiting it under the best conditions and to get those requires research, using tools such as Google Maps, Google Earth and The Photographers Ephemeris all of which will help forecast where the sun and moon will be at a certain time on a given day and help predict how the scene may look. It also requires patience; I well remember standing on top of the Trotternish peninsula in sub-zero temperatures while the predicted sunrise was masked by dense clouds offshore, occasionally I could see a sunbeam break through and play on the sea some miles out and it gave me hope of what might come. Eventually, and long after sunrise, the sun broke through the clouds to play the most wonderful light on the land.

Persistence is another essential factor, I often visit locations again and again sometimes without ever making a photograph until the conditions are at their best; time of day and the seasons all have an effect on the location. One location in Norfolk has eluded me many, many times but I shall keep going back until the light, clouds and tide coincide to give me the perfect photograph that exists in my mind. The so-called “Golden Hours” around sunrise and sunset often give the best light; to benefit from this means being prepared to work unsocial hours. If dawn is at 5:00 a.m. and a location is 90 minutes drive I have to get up no later than 3:00 a.m. to arrive in time to arrive and be set up before the sun crests the horizon. Before doing this I would usually want to reconnoitre the location first to establish the best viewpoints in preparation for an early start.

May the light be with you.

Bill Allsopp

Postscript: A mono version as requested by artbyjimmy

The Quiraing


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