How my landscape photos are created

Sunrise in Pai, Thailand

Sunrise in Pai, Thailand

My landscape photos are the result of a creative process which had often started months or years ago. Until the final image serveral steps are needed. It often begins with an in-depth search for possible motifs of a certain location. A collection of sample photos help me to form a clear concept of the planned shot. When I’m conviced that I’ve found the right location to shot this motif, the angle of light is calculated for different times of the day, e.g. the sunrise and sunset. Possible shooting angles might change during this process. The calculation is done with the help of suncalc.net.

On location the first step are some sample shots taken with a zoom lens to see which focal length works best. If possible, the best framing is tested by choosing different focal lengths, shooting angles and positions by moving a few meters by foot. If the weather permits to shoot the scene as planned, the tripod will be set up and the lens changed to a prime lens. But quite often several attempts on different days are needed to get the sky and light right. Quite often only a few test images are taken with several different focal lengths for anaylsis at home. Wen the weather is right, the same motif is shot again and again with slightly different shooting angles and in changing light situations. This takes between 30 mins and several hours, depending on the weather and time of the day. It allows me to choose the perfect image from a few dozens to up to several hundreds.

My landscape shots are currently taken with the Canon full frame camera 5D Mark II and various prime lenses. I prefer Canon’s tilt-shift lenses for their superb sharpness and corner resolution. 24mm is my most used focal length both for single shots as well as for stitched panoramas. Most daylight landscape pictures are taken with various filters like a polarizer and a graduated neutral density filter in place. Without filters it is often very hard to balance the brightness of the sky and the foreground, so graduated neutral density filters are an essential part of my gear. See Equipment for more details.

Although my camera gear is the most important tool to form my vision of a scene into an actual picture, it is not the only one. The post processing helps to overcome some of the limitations of my camera equipment. I like to capture a landscape the way I see it with my bare eyes. This can require extreme wide angles and a huge dynamic range. The latter can be achived with physical and digital neutral density filters and sometimes by blending several exposures into a high dynamic range (HDR) image. But the obvious distortion and lack of corner resolution of even the most modern ultra wide angle lenses is a no-go for me. So I prefer to digitally stitch together several shots taken with longer focal lengths like 24mm or 45mm. Sometimes up to 30 shots are needed to capture a wide scene. After having chosen the aspect ratio of the final frame, the actual editing with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop starts. Dust marks of the sensor are removed and the brightness, saturation, contrast, white balance, sharpness etc. are adapted.

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