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The Three P's of Landscape Photography

Frozen, Lochan na h-Achlaise, Scotland Photograph by Steve GoslingI'm frequently asked for advice on how to achieve better landscape images. Obviously I talk about subjects like good technique (using a solid tripod, understanding how to use filters, learning how to read the histogram to achieve exposures with a full tonal range etc) and understanding how composition can be used to create more effective images. But successful images require much more than this. Good landscape photographs often require Planning, Patience and Persistence to increase our chances of success.

Planning - for example, to work out the best position of the sun in relation to the landscape, the best time of year to visit a location or the weather conditions required for a particular shot.

Patience – waiting several hours for the light & weather to co-operate with me is a regular occurrence.

Persistence – sometimes I’ll have to revisit a location numerous times before everything comes together.

Getting a fantastic landscape image usually involves a lot of hard work – turning up at random to a location to discover a perfect coincidence of conditions rarely (if ever) happens.

Both the images in this post were taken at a lochan on Rannoch Moor in Scotland (Lochan na h-Achlaise). It's a rugged wild landscape that I find very inspiring. It can also be an incredibly frustrating place to work - it's an exposed location and the weather is always changeable in that part of the world (they say if you don't like the weather in Scotland then wait 20 minutes because it'll change!). But that adds to the challenge and to the sense of satisfaction when everything comes together in a successful photograph.

Stepping Stones Lochan na h-Achlaise Scotland Photograph by Steve GoslingIt's a location I first discovered by looking at maps of the area and by researching locations in books and magazines (my first visits were made before the internet existed - yes there was such a time!). Using my sun position compass I'd worked out the best times of day & year to visit and the I knew the type of light and weather required to reveal the place in all it's glory.

I've subsequently visited many times over the years and it was a long while before I made an image that I was happy with. Either the weather didn't co-operate or I just failed to capture the drama and mood of the location. Persistence certainly played it's part in getting the two images you see here.

And so did Patience. On both visits I saw the potential for a great shot but knew I'd have to wait to get the cloud structure and light I required. Standing around in the cold for two or three hours is not unusual and this was the case to get these photographs. In fact I'd given up on getting an image when taking the 'Stepping Stones' shot - the clouds seemed to have blocked up and the chance for a burst of light had gone; or so I thought.

It's not like me to give up whilst there is still daylight (or even beyond!) but I was convinced the opportunity had passed. Sods Law of course determined that just as I was completing the packing of my gear back into my bag the sun broke through. Fortunately I was using my Olympus OMD camera & lenses and this is a system that's very quick to set up. Grabbing my camera I just managed to get it back on the tripod, refit the Lee filters and fire off one frame before the light went.

The moral of this story? Always put hope over experience i.e. never give up on a shot!