Getting Started in Landscape Photography

Joe Farace Photography

Guest post by Joe Farace

Joe Farace Photography

I’m not a serious landscape or nature photographer but I do enjoy making these kinds of photographs for fun. And one of the guiding philosophies over at my own blog is to have fun with your photography.” Back in the Jurassic era, as a student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, I developed a series of guiding principles―you can call’em suggestion if you like, on the “what” and “how” for photographing landscapes that I still follow today.

These four principles are not cast in concrete and are presented here only as guidelines for your own explorations in genre of landscape photography. Feel free to use’em or lose’em:

1. Photograph locally

2. Use a wide angle-of-view

3. Create the maximum depth-of-field

4. Saturate the colors

Let’s look at #1 today: While it may be a gross oversimplification to say that anybody can make a great photograph in Monument Valley the truth is that that the art of landscape photography often seems to get confused with the real estate business because of it’s emphasis on location, location, location.

Tip: Each weekday and some weekends―no matter the weather―I take a three-mile walk and usually take along a camera because I never what I may want to photograph. Using images captured during these walks, I produced a presentation called “Right in Your Own Backyard” that I present to various groups and people are always surprised what I can find within a short walk from my home. You can do it too; just give it a try.

A four hour drive may not be “local” to some people but that’s how long it takes to get to Aspen from where I live. The Maroon Bells in the Elk Mountains near Aspen Colorado consists of two peaks. South Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) and North Maroon Peak (14,014 feet) that are separated by about a third of a mile. This view is often cited as most-photographed spot in Colorado and that’s because it’s an easy one to make if the weather cooperates. You get off the shuttle bus and can walk up to the side of Maroon Lake and click! I was lucky to catch the effects of the first snow of the season and on my wife’s birthday.

Visit Joe Farace at his blog “Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time.” (

Defining your craft – and yourself!

Mexican Sunset

Photography as we know it has changed a lot over the past several years.  The advancements of digital are pretty well-known, and have been written about extensively.  In addition to the nature of the medium, several other factors have come together in what photographers are calling “the perfect storm”.  Included in this picture are the decreased cost of entry, increased interest from a wider and ever-increasing portion of the population, photographers are finding themselves in larger company than ever before…to put it quite simply:  there’s more of us!

David Ziser, the quintessential wedding photographer did an excellent write-up in two parts (here and here) as a guest blogger over at Scott Kelby’s blog.  Not only is he an incredible photographer, his writing is among the best in the industry too!  I would highly recommend reading these two posts because even if you aren’t a fan of “The Kelby Kool-Aid”,  (although I must admit, I take a sip of it every now and then…) because these specific writings give insights and directions for all of us moving forward.  While the insights and perspective-changing considerations to take into account (including drive, motivation, work ethic, etc.) are definitely helpful, the more serious question that lies at the root of all of it seems to find a cornerstone in one simple question:  WHY DO YOU TAKE/MAKE PICTURES?

Without getting into the semantics of taking versus making pictures – my point here is that we all pick up the camera for different reasons.  And only in understanding those reasons can you really determine where you want to go and how you want to get there from where ever you are now.  We may pick up our camera to capture a moment in time, with dew glistening off the petals of a flower in the morning light:

Black and White Flower

Does that make us nature photographers?  Absolutely!  But, by the same token, does that define us?  Of course not!  We may also enjoy capturing that beaming bride as she smiles and kisses her husband on their special day!  Or, we may revel in the laughter of children as we capture those moments in time!  By the same token, we may also be pulled on some deep and intangible level by the power of a sunrise or a sunset in some place!  Heck, maybe it’s even the place that moves us.  As David DuChemin says, “…vision is better!”

The Kiss


Mexican Sunset

There are so many scenes and images that surround us every day, but yet so often we do not trip that shutter, because we likely are not tuned in to a particular vision or perspective.  So, the question then becomes:  What is your vision?  Do you see the beauty inside that awkward teenager who only smiles for family?  Or what about the majesty of a skyline timed so perfectly?  The fact is, we can find it everywhere, and while we can blog and twitter, and Facebook until the cows come home about our latest project, or to promote and network across so many sectors of the economy (whether it’s improving or on the downturn), what ultimately matters is what motivates you to shoot in the first place?

Those Eyes!

Denver Skyline

When push comes to shove, the foundation for creating photographs (I believe) is something that comes from inside.  You have to want to be there, capturing that moment in time in order to the vision to really come to life.  Whether it’s a sunset, a smile, a skyline or anything, if you’re not true to your own roots, then twittering about it all becomes less than inspirational.

Of course, I could be completely half-cocked, and off base entirely here.  What do you think is at the root of photography?  Is it for the passion, the fame, or the glory?  Or is it something else altogether?  What drives those like David Ziser, Joe McNally, Zack Arias, David DuChemin and the rest to such degrees of excellence?  Time and again, what makes them and folks like them rise to the top?  Share your thoughts, comments, and feedback below!