Want to snap incredible photos of outdoor landscapes? Learn from Ross Hoddinott's top tips for turning a tricky travel landscape into a straight-forward masterpiece
Less is often more, especially when capturing travel and landscape images. If you try to include too much detail or complicate your composition, there is a high risk that it will look cluttered and the scene’s impact will be diminished. I prefer to look for simplicity.
The best way to achieve this is to identify the key elements within the landscape and then arrange them within the viewfinder to create a natural and attractive balance. For example, when I photographed Scotland’s Kilchurn Castle (pictured above), which is built on a rocky peninsula on Loch Awe, I avoided the temptation to go super wide-angle and include the shoreline and rocks in the foreground. Doing so would have added an extra layer of information that this tranquil Scottish scene didn’t need.
It is said that photography is the art of subtraction – and it’s true. Going wider, in this instance, would have made the castle smaller and less significant in the frame. Instead my Nikkor 24-70mm zoom proved the right fit for the scene, allowing me to keep emphasis on the ruins while retaining a lovely feeling of context.
Clear blue skies can look dull, but dark cloud, low-lying mist, frost or snow will provide atmosphere and drama. Therefore, use a good weather app – MeteoEarth or Yr – and visit photogenic locations when the weather suits the location. For example, sunshine and showers will often produce dramatic and attractive spot lighting.
The most beautiful light often occurs early-morning and late in the evening – the so-called ‘golden hours’. However, light levels will be low and exposure times can be excessively long. To avoid the risk of camera motion ruining your shots, use a tripod – lightweight and compact carbon models are ideal for travel photographers.
Photographers are often told not to place the horizon centrally in their shots, as this can create static, uninteresting compositions. But when you have a mirror-like reflection, as the image above has, then an even split can prove very effective in enhancing the symmetry of a shot.
Patience is important – you often have to wait for the light and conditions to be just right. So wear a good thermal base layer, wind and waterproof outer garments, gloves, a hat and appropriate footwear. Believe me, you won’t feel motivated to take great shots if you’re cold and wet!
Landscape photographers typically want everything from front to back to be sharp. To achieve a large depth of field, select a small aperture – f/11 or f/16. And to make life easier, select the semi-automatic Aperture Priority exposure mode, so the camera sets the corresponding shutter speed that will achieve correct exposure.
Top tip: You don’t have to have the most expensive kit; compacts and mobiles are very capable. But the most vital aspect of being a landscape travel photographer is being in the right place.