Articles, Tips and Tutorials about Landscape Photography
Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape photographer from Germany and he lives near Nürnberg in the northern part of Bavaria. He started with photography in 2008. Blog posts contain articles about Landscape Photography and digital post processing and also tutorials by him.
Today I want to show you a video I recorded during a hike in the Stubai valley. Of all the videos I created till now this might be one of my favorites. I tried to capture the atmosphere of the mountains and when I watch the video now I immediately want to pack my rucksack and head out again.
And I hope you get a similar feeling when watching the video.
Stubai Magic - Exploring and Photographing the Stubai Mountains - YouTube
After the hike of the day and the photo shoot at sunset I spent the night up in the mountains at 2500m elevation in a tent. The freezing temperatures didn’t allow for much sleep. But the absolute tranquillity I experienced up there surrounded by the the peaks of the Stubai Mountains helped me forget about the cold.
And this view right in front of my tent also helped a bit.
I hope you enjoyed the video and feel inspired to head out into nature. But always remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints. Especially if you plan to camp like I did, make sure to leave the place as you found it.
A few weeks ago DigitalPHOTO sent me the new Manfrotto BeFree Carbon to test and photograph for an upcoming article. For one day I took this tripod to the Bavarian Forest and Regensburg to capture some in the field product photos of it. In addition I also took some landscape photos.
All of those were planned for a four-pager in the magazine. So the first thing I did after receiving the tripod was creating kind of a shot list, so I knew which angles I wanted to capture. I did some research on the characteristic features of the tripod and made sure that I would show them in the photos I got.
Then it was just driving to the Bavarian forest and hoping for some good conditions. For waterfall photography this meant clouded skies. This was a actually bit tricky. But you’ll see in the video below.
For Regensburg I didn’t have any weather preference. Photographing cityscapes around sunset and blue hour usually works in any conditions.
On Assignment For DigitalPhoto - Behind the Scenes - YouTube
I hope you liked this little behind the scenes and the results I got. The magazine is out now, so, if you live in Germany, you can check out the finished article.
A few weeks ago I visited Berchtesgaden. Since this is quite a large area with a lot to explore and photograph, I focussed my photographic efforts on the Hintersee and the surrounding valleys.
The Hintersee is one of the most famous photography spots in Germany. There’s one viewpoint, which is visited year by year by hundreds of photographers. The view is impressive with the mighty Hochkalter mountain rising behind the lake. In the morning, if you are lucky, you can get some fog in the background while the Alpenglow touches the peaks.
But as beautiful as this view is, as a photographer it’s hard to get creative at this location. When I arrived an hour before sunrise the first morning, there were already three other photographers completely set up. So the best spots were taken. But even if I had been free to choose my camera position, to come away with a photo that stood out would have required some very unique conditions – which I didn’t get.
But that’s totally fine, because I wasn’t expecting to. To be honest, this first morning shoot’s main purpose was to get into the photographic routine and do some scouting, nothing more. The real photography started afterwards in the adjacent Zauberwald.
Zauberwald : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Kase K6 Kit with Polarizer Exif: f/9,5 | 19mm | ISO 100 – ISO 400| 1/15s – 1s multiple exposures for focus stacking and exposure blending
There I found some beautiful spots, of which I hand’t seen any photos yet. Those gems you find, if you look beyond the iconic locations, allow you to create unique photos; to get creative and free your mind from the previsualized photos that are the result of seeing the photos of photographers that have been there before you.
Beyond the Iconic Shot - Photographing Berchtesgaden - YouTube
That’s why I usually try to get the iconic photos right at the start of a trip to put them out of the way. Then I can focus on finding my own photos. Even when travelling I make sure to visit areas that still allow me to do this, areas that are not popular on Instagram yet.
During my travels around the world, for example, only a handful of times did I have to share a spot with other photographers. In a time where places like Iceland, the Lofoten or the Faroe Islands are overrun by photographers it’s very refreshing to find places that you can explore on your own.
Cuernos : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Kase Polarizer + Kase 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 17mm | ISO 100 | 0,5s – 30s multiple exposures for exposure blending
And you don’t have to travel the world to find those places. The photo above was taken just a 40 minutes hike away from the Hintersee. And, while you find thousands of photos of the Hintersee, this photo is one of the very few you will find from this spot – at least for now.
A few weeks ago, on the way back from my yearly Waterfall Workshop I made the usual stop in Heidelberg to photograph sunset. Since I had photographed this scene a couple of times already, I wanted to try something different.
Some of you might be familiar with the term Time Blending. It’s a special exposure blending technique, which is usually used to combine several photos of the same scene that have been taken over an extended period of time. Typical examples are the combination of a blue hour photo with a photo taken at night – with the stars or the Milky Way in the frame. Or a combination of a sunset photo with a twilight or blue hour photo of a cityscape.
The latter is what I wanted to create in Heidelberg. I wanted the sun and light from just before sunset and the city lights with the lit up Heidelberg Castle in one photo.
In the field
To achieve this I arrived well before sunset and took my time to find the perfect spot and properly compose my photo. Then I just sat there and waited, enjoying the beautiful evening.
Just before the sun vanished behind the hills in the background I took the first set of photos. The moment before the sun dips behind the horizon is the perfect time to capture a beautiful sunstar, as I did here by using a small aperture.
I also used bracketing to ensure I captured the complete dynamic range. Then I waited again, another 30 – 40 minutes until finally the castle and the city began to light up. This moment presented the perfect equilibrium between the warm glow in the sky and the artificial lights in the city.
To ensure that I would later be able to easily blend the photos I used a cable release and avoided touching the camera during the whole time.
Eventually I got two photos of the same scene taken at different times around sunset. I first worked on each photo individually, applying my usual post processing workflow. The resulting photos, which I show above, are completely finished and ready to go into my portfolio.
But, as I said, I wanted to take it a step further and combine the two scenes. For this to work it was important to have similar color and brightness in both photos. I tweaked minor differences during the blending, but it really helps, if the starting material is already similar. In this case the warm glow in the sky of the photo taken during twilight nicely blends with the sunset sky. Same goes for the orange light on the castle.
In the following video I show you exactly how I did the blend.
Time Blending - Post Processing Tutorial - YouTube
It’s certainly a matter of taste, if such a photo that bends reality is to your liking or not. But from time to time it’s good to experiment and also go a little beyond the boundaries of a natural photo.
Also, while it might be impossible to capture this scene in one frame, I wouldn’t say it’s an unrealistic scene in terms of what someone would experience up at this viewpoint throughout the evening.
In those terms Time Blending is just a tool to compress time and to capture what a person might experience over an extended period of time – just as video does. And it opens up new ways to be creative with photography.
I often get asked about where my photos were taken. And I’m usually quite open with photo locations because I also got plenty of help from other photographers over the years.
But in the future I will just reference this article as answer to those questions. Because with all the tools available today it’s really no rocket science to find most of those spots. One just has to put in the work and do the research.
A quite common situation is that I browse the internet for photos of a certain area or city, which I want to visit. I use google image search, the different photo sharing platforms and the catalogues of photo agencies as source of inspiration.
When I find a photo of an interesting view I try to find out from where this photo was taken. In the following video I show my workflow using two photo spots near Rothenburg as an example. The photo from above though, if you are interested, was not taken in Rothenburg but shows the beautiful city of Regensburg. The workflow for finding the photo spot was the same.
How to find great photo Spots - Location Research - YouTube
It’s true that this approach is much easier for cities than it is for landscapes. But I can also find prominent features in landscape photos, which I can use as reference for my research.
And if my research still does not reveal a location, I can still try to contact the photographer afterwards. But I will also accept, if he does not want to share the location. Because it’s very likely that he spent a lot of time and money for research and scouting himself.
And there are two more things to remember: Some locations are simply not meant to be found and should stay a secret. And if you found a photo spot, take the time to scout and look for new ways to photograph from there. You’ll find that sometimes there’s much more to a view than the photos on the internet showed you.
When I bought my first Graduated Neutral Density Filters more than seven years ago I had no idea which filters to buy. There are 1-stop (0.3), 2-stop (0.6), 3-stop (0.9) and even 4-stop (1.2) filters. And those are available as hard, soft, medium and reverse versions.
Such filters are expensive and, if I had believed some online resources, I would have had to buy a complete series of filters to be able to deal with all the different lighting situations.
Which GND Filters to buy
The first filter I bought though was a 0.6 hard GND. And it was a good start and didn’t leave too big of a hole in my wallet. But for many situations it wasn’t enough – especially for those where I photographed into the direction of the rising or setting sun.
In addition the hard grad is not ideal for mountainous terrain or in general for scenes where the horizon isn’t flat. So I saved up a bit more money and bought a 0.9 hard GND for those scenes with the sun in the frame and also a 0.6 soft GND. At some point I even bought a 0.6 reverse Grad because I thought I needed it.
Over the years I have become very experience with those filters. And my arsenal has not grown bigger, instead I reduced the number of GNDs I use to two: the 0.6 hard GND and the 0.6 soft GND. Those two filters are, in my opinion, the most versatile filter set.
How to use GND Filters
I can use either of the two on their own, or, if the light demands it, I can combine them. And I find the combination of a hard grad with a soft grad gives much better results than using a single 3 or 4-stop filter.
In the video below I explain how I decide which of the filters to use and how I combine them.
How to use GND Filters in Landscape Photography - YouTube
As you can see it is very easy to use GND filters. There’s no need to do complicated measurements of the light in the foreground and the light in the sky and then deciding which filter to use. The only decision I have to make is which filter to apply first and this happens based on the nature of the horizon. Then this filter is either enough or I add the other one.
And since I’m shooting with a digital camera I don’t need to get the perfect exposure in one frame. I use GND filters to get me as close as possible to it, but for the best result I often use bracketing in addition to filters.
Some people might argue that, if I use bracketing, I wouldn’t have to use filters at all. But I can get much cleaner results when I only have to apply exposure blending to very specific areas of the photo and the use of GND filters helps me to get the right starting material.
Which brand I use
To conclude this article, I also want to share with you the filter brand I’m currently using. Because in addition to all the filter options I talked about above, you now also can choose from many different brands. Seven years ago this was much easier. There were only three major brands available.
But the new diversity in this field has many advantages, because now there’s a lot of innovation. Just recently I switched from the well established Lee Filter brand to Kase. Kase is still quite a new player in this field. But as I browsed through their products and watched the videos about those filters, which I found on Youtube, I was very intrigued. I decided to give them a try and since then have never looked back. Below you can see my first impressions video.
Kase K6 Filter Kit - First Impressions - YouTube
In the past months I have used the filters a lot. I had them on a trip to the Seychelles, where I photographed in various lighting and weather conditions. And the filters held up perfectly. I will soon do full review video about them.
Till then I hope this article and the videos helped a bit to demystify the GND filters jungle and showed that you don’t need to break your bank to get into the filters game. You can start with a holder and one GND as I did, and then add a second one and maybe a ND filter. Then you’ll be flexible enough for most photo shoots.
The last article was less about photography and focussed more on the exploration and scouting part of travelling. Sometimes it’s nice to head out without the intention to take a photo. But I saw so many beautiful places that day. So the next morning I went out again to do some landscape photography.
Two hours before sunrise I set out and hiked back to the first beach I had discovered the day before. As I arrived it was still quite dark but the full moon provided enough light for me to find a composition. Had it been any darker I would have been in trouble, because I had totally forgotten to check for specific vantage points the day before. And in the pre-dawn darkness it can often be quite hard to find a composition.
Secret Beach Blues Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Kase 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 2500 + ISO 100 | 15s for the stars and 30s for the rest of the scene later
In the end it worked out and the photo I took that morning with the stars still above is one of my favorite photos of the whole Seychelles trip. It doesn’t always have to be a colorful, glowing sky. When I want to capture the mood of a scene a deep blue sky can sometimes be exactly what I need in the photo. The morning was beautifully calm. There was no wind at all and even with exposures of 15 seconds and more the palm trees in the photo didn’t move an inch.
After photographing the coast I went on to another composition, which is also featured in the video below.
Photographing the Seychelles - Secret Beach Sunrise - YouTube
This was the last vlog from the Seychelles. I hope you liked this little series. From now on I will focus more on photographing Germany again until later the year I’ll travel to some more exotic places again. So stay tuned for that and don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel.
When you’re staying in such a beautiful place as the Seychelles, it’s important to not focus on photography alone. From time to time head out without the intention of capturing a photo and just enjoy the landscape.
This is what I did on our third day on Mahe. I went on a jungle hike through the south of the island. I started the hike right at our hotel, went along the mile long beach, at which I had taken the photo I shared in the last article, and then followed a narrow trail along the coast.
Although I didn’t capture a photo that day, I filmed some B-roll, trying to record the experience in video instead of a single photo. It’s great, how starting to vlog created a whole new way to creatively express myself. In the past it was always about that one photo, that single moment where all came together. With video I now have much more creative freedom and it’s easier to share the whole experience of a photo shoot or, as in this case, a jungle hike with you.
Mahe Jungle Hike, secret Beaches and how to open a Coconut - YouTube
I also found that recording video doesn’t require so much focus as when I’m taking a single photo, where everything has to fit. So while I was hiking that day and recording, besides some staged shots of me waking through the frame, I had my mind wandering, taking it all in and enjoying the hike.
That doesn’t mean that when I’m out taking photos I don’t enjoy nature. But it’s easier to get lost in the process and I find I often have to remind myself to just let go for a moment, take a step back and forget about the photo, which I’m about to take.
Well, and a day later I actually came back to one of the beaches I found during the hike. This time with the intent of taking a photo. The video about that sunrise shoot will be up next weekend on my Youtube channel and I’ll also share it here on my blog afterwards.
After eight days on beautiful La Digue it was time to say Goodbye and head over to the main island of the Seychelles, Mahe. This island is much larger and to get to all the different beaches you either need a car or have to go by bus.
For me it was important to find a hotel in an area, where I had direct access to several beautiful beaches. Despite having a rental car, I didn’t want to drive to every sunrise or sunset shoot. After some research I came to the conclusion that the south of Mahe was the most photogenic.
After looking at several hotels in the area, I ended up booking a room in the wonderful Allamanda Resort*. Besides being a beautiful hotel, it is also located in one of the best locations on the island. With Anse Forbans and Anse Marie-Louise right in front of the hotel we ended up using our rental car very little.
Sunrise on the Rocks Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Kase 0.6 hard GND Exif: f/9,5 | 33mm | ISO 100 | 6s multiple exposures for focus stacking
As I show you in the video below it didn’t take me long to find the perfect sunrise photo location. With the typical granite rocks in the foreground and mountains in the background the only thing I needed the next morning was some color in the sky. And Mother Nature delivered. It was maybe the most beautiful sunrise of the complete trip and I was really enjoying the display of light that morning.
Photographing the Seychelles - Leave only Footprints, Take only Photos ... - YouTube
And if you are interested in how I edit photos like this here, you can check my post processing tutorials. There I show my complete workflow in all its detail.
* This is a Booking Affiliate Link. If you use them to book something, I’ll get a little commission from Booking
Today I take you behind the scenes of my morning shoot at Anse Coco on La Digue. This beach is located on the southern tip of the island, so a bit more work was involved this time to get the photo.
From the Patatran village, where I was staying, it took me roughly 20 minutes to get down to Grand Anse by bicycle. Then a hike of another 20 minutes took me to the, for me, most beautiful beach on La Digue. Anse Source D’Argent might be more spectacular with it’s many rocks and little coves. But it’s also much more touristy nowadays.
Anse Coco has also changed quite a bit since the last time I visited more than six years ago. But around sunrise it’s still the natural beauty it was and you feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe there.
Coco Rocks Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Kase 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 3s – 10s multiple exposures for focus stacking and exposure blending
Besides showing you how I took the photo above I also talk about what’s really important for me in Landscape Photography in my vlog. Sometimes I just have to stop taking photos. Landscape Photography is not about rushing around trying to get as many photos as possible of a scene – although this is what I sometimes end up doing. It’s about being out in nature, visiting these wonderful places and having a good time.
While taking all those photos, we shouldn’t forget to appreciate the scenery around us and just enjoy it for some time without the constant click of the shutter.
Photographing Anse Coco - What's really important in Landscape Photography - YouTube
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