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In this article, I wanted to share my 5 tips on photographing intimate landscapes. We don't all have access to the big wide sweeping scenes in our day to day life. Particularly now with the lockdown and limited outdoor activities. And it would be a shame not to use the time we have been given to learn, experiment and enjoy our photography. So my wish is that I can inspire you a little to pick up your camera! In terms of finding your subject, do not overlook anything. The smallest pieces of grass or flower, stone or plant can make a great subject.

Here are my 5 top tips.

1/ Using the Light 

Look out for where the light is coming from. If you are especially lucky the sun is shining and you can use it! Backlit images are fabulous. Look for where the light is coming from. It sounds basic, but it is something many people simply forget. Sometimes there is no sunlight, but when there is, the direction is crucial. I mostly shoot backlit if I have the luxury of sunlight!

That means directly into the sun, keeping it behind the subject. As long as the sun is not actually in the frame itself, you will be ok. Do not include the sky or the sun in this case! Keep it tight on the subject matter. This will give you a beautiful backlit image, often with light sparkling around the edges, like this image.

Heather photographed backlit in the sun

2/Getting low 

Generally speaking, get on the same focal plane as your subject. If the subject is shells on the ground, lie on the ground! You can see in the example below how the shells are backlit as well.
Margaret Soraya teaching intimate landscape photography Shell close up on the beach

3/ Distance & background! 

Make sure that you are aware of what is in the background and use it. If you have a blank sky, it won’t necessarily be very effective. I always try and avoid the sky in the background unless I am looking for a silhouette shot.

Throw the background out of focus and use the blurred colours. You can exaggerate the effect by distancing the subject from the background. The further away the background is from the focus point, the more shallow depth of field you will capture (blurred background). When photographing intimate landscapes, a blurred background is what we are looking for.
photographing intimate landscapes grasses in nature

4/ Lens  

When it comes to photographing intimate landscapes, lens and aperture can make a difference. It doesn't mean you can't do this without the best of kit though. So here is a little about my experience of what lenses work well when photographing nature and more importantly, why aperture comes into its own.

I used Nikon cameras for many years and my favourite lenses for this type of work were the 70-200mm 2.8 lens and the 60mm prime lens. The depth of field on the 60mm lens is exceptionally shallow and beautiful and the 70-200mm creates a lovely compression and blurry background at F2.8.
Here's a great lens though if you are on a budget - you can usually pick them up second hand very affordably and they can work for so many genres, although details is one such area in which they excel; The 50 mm prime lens 
Since moving over to Fuji, I am now finding the GF250mm lens working really well as well and use extension tubes which are a great way of adapting your lenses affordably. You can see an in-depth post on how I use the Fuji GFX with 250mm lens and extension tubes for this sort of work here 
If you are looking for advice, new or second-hand equipment I always recommend my local camera shop which has real people at the end of the phone to help and advise you on what you may need. Ffordes Photographic 
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5/ Aperture 

One of the main reasons that lens choice is important is to do with the aperture it can stop down to. It is actually very simple. With these type of images, the wider the aperture the lens can go (meaning the smaller the number on the lens) the better it will create this background blur. So you are looking for lenses that go to 2.8 or even 1.8 if at all possible.

Fujifilm GFX camera with macro extension tubes photographing intimate landscape

I hope this article helps and inspires you a little to get out there and look for the small things. I teach this on all my retreats and workshops so please take a look if you are interested in joining me next year.

1 Comment

  1. Caroline Large on April 10, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Thank you Margaret, some great tips here accompanied by some beautiful images. I will have a go this weekend in the garden. All the best Caroline

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