Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Thought Process Of A Landscape Photographer (Part 1)

Landscape photography is easy; find a nice scene, get your camera out and take a photo. Done! Right……….?

Not so much!  Aspiring landscape photographers seldom understand the ins and outs of creating great shots. We certainly didn’t when we were starting out! So we’ve decided to write a bit about what goes on in the mind of a landscape photographer; the thought process behind the making of great landscape images. It’s a lot more involved than you might think!

To avoid dumping a heap of information on you at once, we’ve broken down this subject into a series of posts. In part one of this series we discuss the importance of research and pre-visualization.

Research and Pre-visualization (Part 1)
Shaun at The Grampians, Vic.
Shaun at The Grampians, Vic.

Before arriving at a location, it’s important to do some research in order to give yourself the best chance of capturing something great. Maybe you have a specific shot or series of shots in mind, or maybe there’s a location of interest to you that you’d like to explore. If you do have specific shots in mind, write them down, and include as much detail as possible. Let yourself dream. Imagination is extremely important during the research phase. Imagining the scene you desire is part of the pre-visualization process. Many people think of pre-visualization when they’re on location, but it should actually begin at home, during the research phase.

With every shot or location you have in mind, ask yourself the following key questions:

  • Are special permits or permission required to access the area?
  • What would be the perfect weather conditions? Sunny, overcast, stormy, fog, snow, rain etc.
  • What season or time of the year would those weather conditions be most likely?
  • Do I need to consider rainfall? Waterfalls, creeks, rainbows etc.
  • Do I want Autumnal foliage or wildflowers?
  • What time of day would be optimal?
  • From which direction do I need the light?
  • If shooting at dawn or dusk, what times are sunrise and sunset?
  • Do I need to consider ocean tides and times?
  • Do I need to consider the moon phase and times?

Obviously the internet will be your greatest source of information here. There’s also many apps available that can help you determine this information and more.

With these questions answered, you begin to paint a much clearer picture of the conditions, seasons and times you desire to capture that perfect shot you’ve imagined. Now when you arrive at your location, you’ve shifted the balance of luck in your favour, giving you a much better chance of capturing something special.

Research and Pre-visualization in action


The payoff: The above shot, “The Mighty Murray”, is a great example of the power of research and pre-visualization.

Believe it or not, this shot “The Mighty Murray” existed in our minds before it materialized itself to become a reality. We were heading to the Murray River for a week of photography and fishing and began dreaming up ideas for a great shot. We had a vision of a beautiful old River Red Gum overhanging the river, with the full moon reflecting off the water at either dawn or dusk. Remember, at this stage we had no idea if this scene actually existed; it was just a “vision”. Now that we had our vision, the research could begin.

Firstly, the stretch of river we planned on visiting was within a National Park, so we knew there would be plenty of old River Red Gums. We then used an app called “The Photographers Ephemeris” to determine the dates of the next full moon. The day before and after a full moon are also acceptable to capture a full looking moon. Using the same app we then determined the best times to be shooting. For our vision, these times are when the moon rise is approximately 30 minutes before sunset or when the moon set is approximately 30 minutes after sunrise. This puts the moon at a perfect altitude for our pre-visualized composition. We now had a date and time for both the perfect dawn shot and the perfect dusk shot. That was it… Only two opportunities!

We then had to go one step further. As a river winds through the landscape in a snaking pattern, there would only be certain stretches that would suit our vision of the full moon shining along the river rather than across the river. Once again using “The Photographers Ephemeris” app, we pin pointed the stretches of river where the moon would either rise or fall at the end of a stretch. We now had our locations to begin our scouting.

As luck would have it, one of the stretches of river we’d identified had a grand old River Red Gum that would suit our dawn shot perfectly. The morning came, the moon fell into perfect position and the “vision” materialized itself into “reality”.

Such is the power of pre-visualization and proper planning.




We hope you found this article interesting and return to read the rest of the series! To be sure you don’t miss a post, simply fill in the form above to receive our posts via email as soon as we post them!

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PS: Don’t forget to check out the gallery!