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Getting to Grips With Photographing the Wilderness

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Read Time: 6 min
This post is part of a series called Landscape Photography.

The wilderness, the great outdoors, a chance to escape, to be at one with nature. It's not for everyone with all that weather and strenuous exercise, but for those who do crave the fresh air and scenery, it can be liberation and freedom.

So how does one capture that sense of beauty and abandonment? Well I don't have any magical answers, but we'll begin by looking at the practical implications of a trip to the wilderness, before moving on to some technical and photographic advice.

How to Get Started

Heading out into the wilderness isn't something to be undertaken light-heartedly - there needs to be a certain level of commitment and self belief involved. A desire to get out and find what's going on around you in the natural world that won't be put off by the weather or a steep mountain climb.

It's best not to start off with a momentous eight hour hike up the biggest mountain you can find. Start at a level that you're comfortable with, within your physical capabilities. Try to go out nice and early so you give yourself as many daylight hours as possible and, if you can, choose a clear day so you can find your way around and enjoy the views!

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Photo by: ZOX

What You'll Need

Now for the health and safety bit. I don't want to be held responsible for you bounding off into the countryside and getting into trouble, so here are a few tips that will help keep you safe.

It is vital that you tell someone where you are going. Preferably you won't be going on your own, but regardless, tell someone else your route and what time you expect to be back. Take a map, compass and maybe even GPS with you and know how to use them, they will be invaluable!

Make sure your phone is charged up and have a torch and first aid kit with you. Pack food and water - more than enough for the meals during your trip. Depending on the forecast you'll need wet weather gear and a waterproof backpack, but a strong pair of boots are advised all year around.

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Photo by: Indiekidsdontdance

Camera Equipment

So as far as photographic equipment goes, you'll need a camera with full manual controls, preferably an SLR to give you the best chance to get some great shots. There are also two things that a landscape photographer can barely do without; the first is a tripod, essential for ensuring that the camera is steady for pretty much every shot. You don't want to be lugging around anything too heavy, but you also need something solid enough to hold your camera still whilst shooting at the top of a wind swept mountain.

The other item is a set of Neutral Density filters, a creative tool that any serious landscape photographer knows how to use effectively. They are the key to capturing those amazing long exposure scenes.

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Photo by: odaleigh

It's a good idea to take a spare battery or two depending on how long your trip is, and a shutter cable release to avoid movement when shooting. If you're feeling really extravagant you can get full weather sealing on your camera to keep it safe from crashing waves and heavy storms. With that in mind, it's also essential to keep all your photographic gear dry, so take a sturdy camera bag!

Now having told you about all the things you need, you'll think what I'm about to say sounds daft. Regardless, do your best to travel light! Try to stick to the essentials, because a large heavy bag will really slow you down, make you tired, and be restrictive.

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Photo by: Ennor


Finding a good location is the absolute key to getting great shots, in fact it's probably the most important aspect of landscape photography. Each landscape photographer has their favourite locations to shoot, each with their own reasons.

It could be the light, the scenery, the mood, the weather conditions or just an indescribable fondness or connection. So it's up to you to find your favourite locations, the only advice I can offer is to visit different places and soak them up, get a feel for them and you'll soon work out which ones you connect with and want to return to.

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Photo by: Vicky Hugheston

Time to Shoot!

So you've walked for miles, found your spot and you're finally ready to capture the amazing scenery surrounding you. There are lots of landscape photography basics that will be relevant here, but rather than list all of them, I'll try and fill you in on some of the more relevant tips.

Start with the mind set that less is more, keep it simple and get the essentials right. Look for lines within your shot, either coming across the frame or lines that lead the eye into the shot. Think about adding a sense of scale to the shot by including a person.

It's also a great compositional idea to add an object in the foreground such as a rock. Always ensure that your camera is level - some tripods have inbuilt spirit levels which are really helpful.

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Photo by: Agrinberg

Look for Detail

Once you've got your large scale shot, have a think about capturing some more detailed shots. Keep your eyes peeled for points of interest that you can use as foreground material in your larger scale shots, but also consider them as focal points in their own right.

You can even try looking down at your feet to see if there's anything on the ground around you. Try and get up close to your subjects, use your feet as opposed to just employing your zoom.

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Photo by: Martyn Hutchby

Be Flexible

One aspect that photographers cannot affect is nature. You can pick your location and fiddle with your camera settings until your heart is content, but you cannot change the weather, so it's important to learn to be patient and flexible.

It's good to go with pre-conceived ideas of compositions, but if it's not working, use what you've got. If the weather closes in and the view is restricted, try out some smaller scale shots.

Learn to set up your camera quickly. When you're out in the mountains, the weather and light can change so quickly, so if you've spotted a great view don't wait too long before setting up.

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Photo by: mosdave

Sensational Seasonality

The seasons are an amazing natural progression that we witness each year, but somehow we just get used to them. All around us the world is changing and sometimes we barely notice it.

As a photographer, I treasure each season for it's vast natural differences, the changes in the trees, leaves and wildlife and the difference that the weather makes to the light and scenery. So I would encourage you to get out and catalogue the seasons, head back to your favourite locations a few times a year and just take in all the changes that happen year on year.

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Photo by: Saturday flowers

Time to Get Outdoors!

So hopefully these few tips have given you some insight and inspiration to head out and capture the wilderness. Some aspects of what I've said might sound restrictive, but it's for good reason, you have to work with the conditions and your surroundings, not the other way around!

The guidelines for landscape photography will help you get the best results. It can be tempting to just turn up and just let the scenery do all the work, but this simply doesn't work.

Once you've mastered those basics, keep finding new locations and discovering new scenes or try something different like HDR or panorama shots.

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Photo by: indiekidsdontdance

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