Photography Tips for Beginners

Savor the wonder of the outdoors with these landscape photography tips for your next adventure
April 22, 2014

For me, the real joy of adventure travel photography is the luxury of time. Time to play, explore and create, unlike anything work related! Follow these outdoor photography tips for beginners to return from your break with images that really capture the magic of travel in nature.

1. Look the other way

©Shutterstock:  Yanikap

©Shutterstock: Yanikap

While producing a documentary on South African landscape photographer Koos Van de Linde, I was surprised to see him setting up camera pointing the opposite way from the impending fireball about to set against the Namibian desert. Only when I saw the resulting gorgeous tones and hues did I realize this is where the magic happens.

Though the fiery sunset and sunrise may hold the draw card, it is 180 degrees that produces the most beautiful blue, violet and pink hues – and long exposures are the best way to capture them. Use a brilliant website called to pinpoint sunrise position on the horizon at a set location and time. Then, when you’re there, get up 45 minutes before sunrise (having scoped the location you want to shoot the night before) to get into position and await nature’s very own lightshow.

2. Find the foreground



When it comes to landscape photography tips, foreground is especially important. As gorgeous as that expansive vista may appear to you now, you can guarantee that once you bring the shot up on screen a few weeks later it won’t be nearly as captivating. Try to include some foreground detail that draws the viewer in and helps lend perspective - a branch, long grass or ultimately a figure to lend perspective.

3. Have fun with light: bring the scene to life


©JamesCarnegiePhotography website

Don’t be afraid to experiment and paint the scene with light using your flashgun, headlamp, car headlights or the embers of a burning log. Play with color by using the color lenses for your Petzl or wrap a compression sac over the flash.

The joy of a long exposure (1sec plus) is that unless light falls on you, your figure won’t be exposed, leaving you free to run around popping flash against trees, lighting up arches with your headlamp and getting creative. It’s digital - it’s free!

4. Low light, hold tight



It is a crying shame to come home and realize those gorgeous cityscapes you took at dusk from your once-in-a-lifetime holiday in the Far-East aren’t, on closer inspection, sharp. In fact, they look like double vision and you can’t go back and try again. The rule here is if the lights are on, you need to steady the camera. Rest it on something level and steady or better yet invest in a trekking pole with camera thread in the handle for a monopod, lightweight tripod or Gorilla Pod by Joby. A great outdoor photography tip in low light is to use the timer or better yet remote trigger - that tiny shutter release you stab with shivering fingers can cause further motion blur as you take the shot.

Take things to the next level with an 8hr overnight exposure - don’t worry, you don’t have to sit there! Set your aperture to f8 or above and shutter to Bulb, pointing your lens toward the Southern Cross or North Star. Fire the shutter once darkness descends, remember to wake up well before first light and (if the night sky was clear) you should have the most incredible, wow-inducing star trail exposure you’ve ever seen!

5. Inversion hunting

The real business of outdoor adventure photography is a cloud-inversion, i.e. when you are standing on a mountain above a gorgeous blanket of cloud. How to find these? Check the forecast for calm wind speeds, a clear night sky and find a relatively deep or sheltered valley. Look out for any rising smoke flattening out the night before as this is a clue to a temperature inversion forming for the following morning. Apply Point 4, grab your thermos and tripod and head high!

With these photography tips for beginners, you can start to capture some of your favorite moments outside. But don’t forget to savor them while you are present. It’s wonderful to retain the tangible memories of your adventure travels, but there’s something about seeing both with and without the lens that lends a unique perspective to your trip. On your next venture into the wild, put these outdoor landscape photography tips to the test and share your photo experiences on Merrell’s Facebook page.


James Carnegie

Ultra Marathons, Trail Running, Photography
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