It rained all Friday night. I was exhausted from work. I collapsed into my bed, but set an alarm for 6AM.

There are two days a week I can sleep in. I ruined one of them. Why? Because I had to take this photo:

Sunrise reflected in the harbor of Newport Beach

Taken around 7AM. You’ve got to get there early.

 

I love this photo, and I could never have gotten it unless I got up early and got my ass to the right spot. It was only really about 10 minutes of prep:

  1. I looked up when the sun would rise – something like 6:42. I needed to get there a bit before that to set up.
  2. The sun rises in the east, but I had to remember that it’s a bit further south in the winter.
  3. I looked over maps of the area to see what the best east-by-southeast vantage point would be.
  4. Since I’m familiar with the area, I quickly narrowed it down to the best couple spots.

And honestly, this is easy stuff compared to what some landscape photographers do. Here’s the important part: lighting changes 24/7. If you want an interesting photo of a landscape, you have to be in the right spot, and at the right time.

Warm clothes are absolutely part of the gear a landscape photographer needs. I’m no expert, but little things can make a big difference. Get there early for the sunrise or on time for the sunset – that’s normally the two most interesting lighting conditions. (Or, stay there for a while to see how it changes.)

So here are some basic landscape photography tips:

  • Have a plan. This includes where, when, and a backup spot.
  • Get there early and stay there late.
  • Timing is still everything. Just because it doesn’t move doesn’t mean your opportunities are fleeting.
  • Try to be there during sunrise or sunset – more often than not, that’s the most interesting lighting.
  • If you’re including the sky, I think the best amount of clouds is “some but not too many.”
  • More technical tips:
    • Shoot around f/8.0 to get a large depth of field and have everything in-focus.
    • Using a polarizing filter is a good idea.
    • If you have the sun, expose for the area around the sun. Then lighten the shadows in post-processing.