Recently someone commented on how lovely some of my images were and the followed it with "its easy to take a great image when you have a lovely view". It's certainly true that the view or the composition you work with makes the photograph, however, taking the photograph is only one step in what can be a lengthy process, with no GUARANTEE of success. This is my process for landscape photography:
1. Research your location.
You have to do your homework, think about where you want to go and take a photograph in this case I wanted to go to the lake district and hike up Walla Crag to get a sunset shot. The first thing I personally do is google Walla Crag Sunset and see what images come up, this will give you some inspiration (I try never to copy a photograph, always putting or trying to put my own spin on the image) and also tell you whether what you are planning will come off, you can also use Flickr, 500px or tumbler as well for this. Use and OS map, I have more than 50 maps, although you can sign up to view maps on line now for less than two pounds a month. Do a recce and use old fashioned leg work, go for a walk and see what you can find, you’ll be surprised. Once you have some ideas decide upon when to go.
2. When to go.
You know where you want to go, but when do you go? Check the weather forecast, I use the met office website as well as a website called Skippy Sky which accurately shows you high, middle and low-level cloud coverage. If you are going to the coast check the tide times. I also use an app called the photographer's ephemeris (which is free) which allows you to drop a pin on a map and then see where the sun will be hitting in the landscape on any given day. Also when you commit to a sunrise shoot then make sure you give yourself enough time to drive to the location and hike in, I knew what I wanted with the above image and got on location 45 minutes before the sunset so I could get set up.
3. Prep and Check your equipment.
I always keep my camera bag packed and ready to go, when I come back from a previous photo trip I clean everything, charge batteries and format memory cards returning them to the bag ready for the next trip. I have learned the hard way, when I got to the location in the image below I discovered that I didn’t have the tripod base plate attached to the camera, I had to drive back home and then onto Dunstanburgh which had been my initial target, I was rushed and failed to get any images of worth at what was a spectacular sunset. Remember its not just camera gear you need to check, wellies, walking boots, waterproofs, head torch with batteries, first aid kit, hat, gloves and bloody warm jacket (am writing this during #beastfromtheeast). I put all of the non-expensive electricals i.e. camera gear in the car the night before I leave so all I have to do is grab the camera bag and go.
4. Pull the trigger and get out of the house
Possibly the most important stage. Get out of the house, you cant take any form of photograph from the front room of your house, okay I've just realised that I spent two hours the other day photographing Fieldfares from my front room, so let's just say you cant take any form of landscape photography from your sofa. I know this can be difficult, especially when your alarm rings at 4.30 in the morning. Still, I find it incredibly rewarding to be out and taking images, sometimes, when you are the only person to witness a great sunrise. If I hadn’t got up and got out I would have missed out on the two images below.
5. Download, edit, backup, and share (in sort of that order)
The first thing I like to do when I get back from a day out photographising (my wife came up with that one) is get the RAW images off the card and on to the computer, that way I can relax knowing that they are safe. If it is late and it usually is I won't start to edit them until the next day I use Lightroom for organisation, workflow and editing I do have Photoshop but don't tend to use it all that much. Out of all the images I have edited I pick the ones which I feel are the best giving them a unique code number and title. For some reason, I really struggle with titles for images, don't know why, I just do. I back up my images in two places and then share them on social media and my website.
What I am trying to say is this. Photography is not easy, there is a process and a journey to each and photograph you take, one which people who view your images don't necessarily know. All I know is that when it comes off its more than worth the hard work.