I first started shooting landscapes in 2014 when I went on a workshop in Estes Park, Colorado. On this trip, I learned three important keys to landscape photography. Since then, I have grown a lot in my skill of landscapes but these have still held true.
Key 1: Composition
Composition is the base to any kind of photography, it is literally the elements that make up a photograph. Typically in landscape photography, an image consists of a foreground, mid-ground and background. This is to show dimension and have the viewers eyes move through the piece. You can also encourage this by using leading lines or "S" curves that occur naturally in a certain direction. Placing an object in the foreground that creates this helps it to be visually appealing. You may have to hike, or spend time searching for the perfect shot, but when all of the components come together, it can be something to stop the viewer from scrolling past.
Composition: Dream SunriseThis shows the implementation of having objects in the foreground (log), mid-ground (fog) and background (mountains and sky). It creates interest at each level, and the log creates a line that points you towards the fog and mountains.
Key 2: Lighting
After you find the elements and have framed the scene you want, you must wait. Waiting for the perfect lighting and sky can take a while. Remember to scout and set up before the lighting is how you want it. You may have to come back several times before the sky cooperates. Sunrises and sunsets are perfect, but you need clouds that are prevalent enough to show the colors across the sky, but not so dense that the light can't get through. While sunrises and sunsets can make for some stunning scenes, don't forget that shooting during the middle of the day can be beneficial too. Lighting: Hurricane WindsFor this photo, I had to sit through hurricane force winds, and turn away from the beach to see the lighting over these mountains. Sometimes this can happen by chance, but a lot of it is planning.
Key 3: Patience
Hiking for hours to find the perfect composition. Waiting for the lighting to shift or change. Waiting for the sun to rise or set. Having to return to the same spot over and over until the photo comes out right. This all takes patience. All for that one photo that makes it worth it.
It can be demoralizing to have to wait hours, or return to location more than once, but if you are not willing to wait and repeat, landscape photography will be difficult for you.
Patience: Mt. Fitz RoyThis location was a 3 hour hike in the dark, while sick. Finding this shot was not easy, and I did not think that the lighting was going to work until the sun hit the mountains. There was a beautiful sunrise behind me, and if I had not been with a group I would have loved a chance to shoot a sunset over this mountain. While I love how this turned out, I wish I had the chance to visit it again.
These 3 keys work together to create landscape photography. Of course, the other photography rules come into play as well, but these are things that I believe to be unique to landscape. If you are in a studio or shooting weddings, you are not at the will of nature.