For anybody starting out in photography, landscapes are a popular subject choice. They don’t move very quickly, don’t complain if you take half an hour to get your camera settings locked down, and there are plenty of them around. If pushed to categorise myself, I would say that I am a ‘landscape photographer’, even though I also shoot weddings and portraits from time to time. I can, and do, shoot other genres, but deep down my passion is photographing nature. I could even argue that there are really only two genres in photography – landscapes and portraits. You are only ever taking one, or the other. I might even take that further and say that a landscape image is just a ‘portrait’ of nature. But I digress.
12 Mile Beach. Nikon D90 with Nikkor 18-105mm ©Wayne Lorimer
Landscapes are also popular, perhaps, because the beginning photographer sees them as being somewhat ‘easier’ than portraiture – for all of the reasons mentioned above. It can be very stressful to take someone’s portrait, even if that someone happens to be a very patient family member or friend. Even the most patient sitter will get bored if it’s taking a long time to set up the shot. And how do you pose them, interact with them, or get them to do what you want them to do? A landscape, on the other hand, has all day. It’s already posed for you. All you have to do is point and shoot – right?
Any photographer, beginner or otherwise, who takes this approach to shooting landscapes, will quickly realise that it’s not as easy as it seems. Yes, many of us are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes. And yes, many of them can be also quite easy to get to. But why then, do we often come away disappointed with our landscape images? Why is it that they don’t convey the grandeur or the emotion that we felt when we were there taking the photograph? Why don’t my images look like the ones I see when I have a look through landscape forums or other photographers work? I guess it must be the gear I’m using? If I find out what they shoot with, and buy that, then it stands to reason that my landscape photos will look like theirs too – won’t they?
Hang on a minute. Not so fast. Before you go off and buy that $5000 camera body, or $2000 wide angle lens, let’s think about this. What I’m about to say may shock you, it may upset you (sorry about that), or it may even delight you? But it’s the truth. And the truth is, a $2000 lens will NOT make you a better landscape photographer. And a $5000 camera will NOT make you a better photographer – period. The photographers you admire may very well use the latest full frame bodies, and the most expensive ultra-wide lenses that money can buy. But that’s not what makes them great photographers either. Trust me, you can take wonderful, amazing, stunning, incredible landscape pictures with an entry level or mid-range camera body and the humble kit lens. Seriously. When it comes to beautiful landscape images, it is most definitely not about the gear.
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