Smartphone Photography: Capturing Landscapes | Tim Landis | Skillshare

Smartphone Photography: Capturing Landscapes

Tim Landis, Photographer, Represented by Tinker Mobile

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8 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:53
    • 2. Project Assignment

      1:29
    • 3. Scouting & Planning

      2:21
    • 4. Shooting

      6:03
    • 5. Storytelling

      7:11
    • 6. Editing

      7:52
    • 7. Conclusion

      2:19
    • 8. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare

      0:36
11 students are watching this class

About This Class

Explore how to take compelling landscape photographs that inspire the viewer and reveal entirely new ways of seeing a place. This isn't your traditional form of landscape photography. Join photographer Tim Landis (curious2119) as he explores his home state of Arkansas, reveals how he chases light, composes amazing photos, and captures a uniquely beautiful scene. By the end, you'll be able to capture and share your own inspiring, incredible (and unconventional) landscape image.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: My name is Tim Landis, and I'm a photographer, and screen printer here in the state of Arkansas. Today, we started out pretty early this morning, but we are in the Buffalo River National Forest. I'm teaching mobile landscape photography. Telling stories out here. The other day, I do what I do because I love it. I love taking pictures. There's a sense I get like without sounding cheesy, but I feel more alive when I'm out taking photos. I just love to compose photos, and just basically for the love, and for the passion of it. I'm always striving to take a better picture than I did the day before. I started off on Instagram, probably about 10 weeks after Instagram started, after they launched the app. I was always in the social media, tried my hand at Twitter for a while, loved connecting with people. I also loved, at that time loved photography. So, Instagram merged the two together, where you could connect with people as well as take photographs. This class is about landscape photography, more on the lines covering more lines of mobile photography or iPhone photography. How to compose a good landscape, what light to shoot in, as well as telling stories, and not just shooting landscape, but making it intriguing for the viewers to see. All of that plays a part in it, starting where you're scouting out places to go. Talking to friends about what works, what time of day works, when you should shoot. What light looks good on a certain location during certain times of the day. All of that plays a factor in doing your homework. The project we have for you in this class is, act as if you're getting commission to do that, by your own state, by your own country. I'm going to hopefully help you guys navigate through that. 2. Project Assignment: So, the project we have for you in this class is to take your city, your landscapes around you of your state or maybe in your country, wherever you are, and the object of the project is to showcase that where you live the landscape for a week. The object of it is to draw people in and make people want to visit where you are. When I was commissioned in Turkey, went in Ontario, I was sent on assignment to go and capture the best places in those locations. There's a little bit more of a responsibility when you're commissioned to do that. So, that's what I'm asking you to do. Take on that responsibility to go. Act as if you're getting commission to do that by your own state, by your own country, and bring back and show your best work. This is going to be highlighted for the world to see. Think about some things that you want to highlight in the class for this project. Some things that you know that you've seen around you that maybe a place that you would love to go shoot you haven't even shot before or somewhere that a familiar place that you go to a lot, somewhere where you know that you can showcase where you're from. So, I'd love to see your work after you're done taking your photographs. So if you could, upload them to the Skillshare gallery as well as Instagram using the hashtag. 3. Scouting & Planning: It's important to pre-plan, especially for landscape, because a lot deals with light. A lot deals with what you're actually shooting. But most of it is time of day. So, really knowing how long something is going to take to get to, when is the best light, and it really comes down to that and just pre-planning. Like I talked about before, you want the best results. You are putting in time, you're dedicating time to it, so you definitely want that time to be well spent, and you definitely want what I call you want to set yourself up to win, so you want a nice photograph as your end result. You don't want to do all that work and then have to come away with nothing. So that's why pre-planning and scouting is really important. I came out with a friend who knows the Buffalo River area very well, and so I came out with him and we scouted couple different areas. Just knowing what certain scenic views facing what directions so you're getting good sunrise and where to be onsite at sunrise. So we did that. So doing a little bit of pre-process as far as your homework, asking others, asking people who've been places, hiked places, shot those places, where they've been, and ultimately, coming out here and showcasing, trying to showcase Arkansas. We're at the point now where we did a sunrise hike and then we went out to what's called Hawksbill Crag. So we did that this morning. Then right now, we did another hike and we're at one of the very huge bluff. We're right on the side of the bluff here. So these are both places I've scouted a couple weeks ago, also checked out some stuff online. So checked out what pictures have already been taken, what to look for, is it worth even the two hour hike to get here. So we discovered that it's worth it and then actually here we are, we came and did it. So, yeah. 4. Shooting: We were hanging out at Hawksbill Crag in Arkansas. I picked this spot because it's great for early morning shooting landscapes, it's got a nice point that sticks out. A crag that sticks out, and I guess you can see, we have some campers out there on it, and so it adds for nice subject for our landscape. So, plugging people into the landscapes is sometimes adds some really good scale. So, we got up really early, hiked in, and lights just starting to get really, really nice so we're going to take some photos. Usually it's good to take the early morning light because, especially a couple minutes ago before the sun came up, we had some really good light. Before the sun picked up over the mountains over there, point to that is because you can still capture all the detail in the landscape, the detail in the texture. Whereas if you have a high sun on it just blasting down, you're going to lose that, all that detail and color. Whereas it's just going to become real dark shadows and real bright brights. So with this shot composition wise, you have your subjects or the outcropping there, and then you have the sky, so it's always important to keep the thirds in mind when you're shooting landscape. Sometimes on the iPhone I will shoot in landscape, and this is totally up to you, but I like to shoot in landscape because especially when posting to Instagram you're going to have an easier time in post-process cropping for the square, because you have your top to bottom figured out. Whereas then you can just slide over what you want in from side to side or, sometimes I'll take in the native iPhone camera. I will shoot in the actual square which now on iOS 8 you can shoot in square, so it makes it easier, so you can crop right as you're shooting rather than having to try and figure that out, and sometimes saves you some time, and grief of trying to figure out how you want to crop a photo after you've taken it. So, if you do your work, do the hard work, some of the hard work before or while you're shooting, it can make it a lot easier on you and you get what you want. It's like in a sense it's what the cropping especially and composition, it's shooting with film gives you want if you only give yourself one crop you have one shot at it. So you want to do it right the first time, and that's an added challenge to it. But I like that better than just shooting wide open like a broad and then later being like especially with the purpose of a posting to Instagram. So, as far as composition goes, that's a big thing. If you're having exposure differences like such wide differences with the exposure, so you can take two shots where you will get the detail below, and then you expose it, take this same exact shot and expose it differently where you're getting the detail on the clouds in the sky. So, as more dramatic, so then later on in post processing it's a little bit of work but with an app called Blender, you could paint in the mask in the sky of your underexposed landscape below and then you can blend them together so paint in the sky so you have the detail of the sky and a detail of the landscape below and it works really nice. Other things to think about and look forward to is different angles, different ways of shooting. Where we're at this location, I chose this location because it's beautiful, probably, t I think it's the most photographed location in Arkansas. But I think sometimes we're going to shoot what everybody else just shoots and what you've seen. Sometimes it's good to look and see what other angles you can shoot at and other different things that might look good. Our minds are trained to just come and shoot, we have in our minds what we think we want to shoot, when we want to come and shoot. But it's always good to think outside the box a little bit, and think about being a little bit different what other people haven't given. One of the nice things about the stock camera which is what I use to shoot most of my photographs in on the iPhone. If you're taking a moving subject, the burst mode are just holding down the shutter button, the burst mode works great and then you can select the best shot you like the best of those. First composition goes I'm choosing to center of the river, the river is running as a vertical line up and down. I'm centering it. So, people's eyes are going to go from bottom to top. It's midday and it's tough shooting are probably overexposed the sky, so I get the detail in the river, and the color in the river, and the green in the trees. 5. Storytelling: You want to tell the story of the adventure you're on. Storytelling is another thing. Especially when it's coupled or paired with landscape, it's a challenge, but it can be done even today. So telling the story, you want to break it up into chunks like you want to say, "I want to take a landscape photo of us walking down the path. I want to take a photo of us when we went to sunrise at Hawksbill Crag." Capturing those moments inside the landscape is going to allow someone to come along with you on that journey. It takes practice and you have to continue to shoot and then it's going to allow you to tell a better story and know what to look for along the way. Because it's not something that's always planned. You could catch something happening to somebody or them standing in a different location that you had never planned on. Composition plays a big part in landscape and getting into leading lines. Leading lines are things that go horizontally lines or lines that go vertically and that's going to lead the eye. They call them leading lines because leading the eye up to your subject or your point of focus or your point of interests. What do you want to show your viewers? If you want to show them the detail in the foreground, you're going to want to have more of that as your focal point in your photograph. If you want to show more sky detail you're going to want to make sure you have your horizon, a bigger sky, less foreground, less landscape below. You do want to make sure that you have either one of those lines following the rule of thirds. As well as with the subject, you're going to want to place the subject in one of those intersecting lines it's very important, or if you have a whole vertical subject you're going to want them falling on that line somewhere. It's just so important. The human eye is just trained to work that way and the rule of thirds in photography for that reason. With vanishing points especially with roads, they could tell stories as far as let the audience know where you're headed or where you've been. Say you have a road and that leads to a nice backdrop or it can tell the story of a season, whether you have trees surrounding it with leaves, the leaves changing, so the the season changing in the fall or whether you have bare trees in winter. So you have a frame you're looking at, and the other hiker to the left of the frame and they're heading all the way across the photograph. I think that's very important to compose that in that way, in the direction they're headed and leave more open space to the direction they're headed. It just looks better aesthetically. It's more aesthetically pleasing, and it leaves it for the imagination for the viewers to say "Where is this person going? What's next in it in their journey for them?" Don't just shoot at what your eye sees because everybody sees that, that's not going to be appealing to most people. Most people want to see something different than what they can see with their own eye and that's what makes a photograph so intriguing. Changing the angle, whether you need to get low to the ground, making something that's not super big, look big. Getting low to the ground also, when you get low to the ground it also plays in a factor of a little depth of field so you could have something a point of interest or a focal point real close to you, whether it be a flower in the foreground and you're focusing on that and then you have the real depth of field. It gives you the big spans of where that flower is or something like that. Changing your angles up is definitely important for the viewer because everybody sees from eye level. In my own mind, I feel like it adds so much more to a landscape when you plug someone else in. It tells a little bit of a story of the adventure that person's going on or where they're at in their surrounding. It definitely also plays a factor in the scale of where you are, like today we're at a big, huge, pretty much a cliff, a bluff, and we hiked alongside it and we took a couple of pictures of the side of that bluff and people walking along the trail. It just gives you an idea of the size of what you are at, where you're at, what you're taking pictures of what you're viewing. It leaves the audience more awestruck in that sense. Scale is a huge thing. I also like to plug people in patches of light. That's a really neat thing as well as to work with symmetry. I would like to plug if I have a tree running vertically, I like to plug a person in almost opposite so you have your grid. So you have a tree and then you have a person and it works really well as far as the vertical, your vertical lines. Solo trees is kind of a cliche thing, I think, maybe more on Instagram, but I really like the way especially if a tree is lit from behind the tree. I like the idea of isolating your subject sometimes. So when you have a solo tree, it just makes it so much visually appealing when you see something just isolated by itself. That's another preference thing, but it's definitely something you should try to do, try to make it a point even when you go out shooting landscape to find a subject whether it's a tree on a hill or a person by themselves and isolate them, and what I mean by isolating them, I mean you're putting them, say if we picture a hill, you have a hill and you have one tree or a person and then you just have all the rest in the background is sky, so you're isolating that person or the tree in as far as a silhouette and it works really well and it tells a neat story. To draw a viewer in to feel like they're there in that moment with you is probably one of the most difficult things in photography, I feel like that comes to your passion and if you're passionate enough about what you're shooting, then someone else is going to feel it too. If you're super passionate about, you have an idea or a certain place you want to shoot and you want to tell your own story, I feel like it's going to resonate with certain people. It might not resonate with everybody, but I think that the key is being passionate about what you're producing most of all. 6. Editing: Do you shoot, you're done shooting your landscapes, it's now time to do a little post-process. So, you got to think about what apps you use, couple of apps I use would be VSCO, I use Snapseed and just recently started using Lightroom, Lightroom's really, Lightroom Mobile I should say, those are probably my three primary things. I also occasionally if say you have some sun flare, unwanted subobjects in your photo maybe, an example would be sun flare, like a little green dot sometimes iPhone will get. You're going to want to use TouchRetouch, and the reason for that is, so you can basically mask out, so you just paint a little brush over top of the object you went out and like magic, it's gone. So, that's one thing that's key for different things like that, you can even take out branches, just any unwanted object in the photo, so TouchRetouch is really good for that. Sometimes people have a tendency to take a beautiful landscape and they have beautiful colors, everything's working and sometimes you can go to that post-process and add a little bit too much saturation and when I say that I mean, you can really over edit some times. Most of the time if you're over editing, if you're changing too many things up, to many elements, too many colors, it can really ruin all your hard work that you put in, as far as going back to scouting, going to, driving two hours to a location or even hiking in somewhere. Then you have that photo, that beautiful photo that only needs maybe a couple of things changed or a couple of highlights changed and then you find yourself ruining that photo with little over editing. So, just be careful not to do that, there are sometimes people can tend to do that, if they want to manipulate the photo too much. I think color play a big factor in that, in the mood you're trying to portray in each photo. So, if you're looking for something bright, and cheery, and happy, you're going to want to warm up the photo a little bit. Saturate more the colors, bring out some of the colors, brighten them up, it can change a lot in the mood of the viewer or even show the mood that you're kind of trying to portray in your photograph. You can desaturate it and make it a little bit more moody, a little bit more washed-out, the tones can be a little bit more washed-out and it can change the whole view of the photo. So, that's just a personal thing, most times people have sort of an aesthetic they want to go with and a style they want to portray in their photos. So, you have a path in the middle of a forest, sometimes you want to darken certain areas of the photo and then lighten, so, dodging and burning. Dodging is the lighting, adding light to whatever you're selecting, whatever you're editing and burning is darkening that area. Snapseed is very good for that, that's the primary use, I use Snapseed with the selective adjust, where you can take any part of your photograph and you can select it and it'll show you what you're masking, it'll highlight it in red. Snapseed is a very good tool for dodging and burning when it comes to that, you can change the contrast, you can change the saturation and you can change the brightness. So, all those things can can come into play when you're dodging and burning especially on your mobile. So here I'm using selective adjust to change, brighten and contrast certain areas and you push the eye you can see what you've done. So, maybe contrast this a little bit, add some of this stuff down here, brighten it up, little saturation and then even maybe brighten up some of that fog in there, take down this is looking a little too blue. So, this is what I was talking about with the selective adjust in Snapseed, it works great for selecting different things and then you can see what I've done there. Also another thing in Snapseed I like to use is the detailing, so the sharpening and the structure, usually the structure is really good for picking up some of those midtones in your photo, structure is in the details along with sharpening. So, add structure to some of those midtones in your photo, so, I'm going to bring this photo into Lightroom Mobile, the one I just saved out, I'm going to select that. One thing I love about Lightroom Mobile is some of these adjustments you can make, warm that up a little bit, you can change your white balance, auto custom or a shot, exposure, you can take that down a little bit. The one thing I really love about Lightroom Mobile is the ability to change the highlights, highlights is anything that's bright and highlighted in your photo, you can either brighten it up even more. But what I usually use it for is to squash the highlights for a little bit and take it down and that just gives the photo better looking feel to it and as well as the shadows. So, you can use both of those things to make your photo a little bit more appealing and contrasting, we're going to save it out to here. Then VSCOcam is primarily what I use to add the finishing touches, get a look and a tone that I'm looking for in a photo. So, if I'm going into VSCOcam I'm going to look at what presets are like, so I'm going to go through some presets, usually I have a couple of favorites, I like the 810 a lot, A6 and even the e2. So, you see, VSCO primarily I'll use for finishing touches on the photo, that helps me achieve the look I'm going for, maybe this one I want to do like a totally washed out sky and have a little more, just some of those washed out turns. VSCO is also good, if I feel like I haven't done enough, I can save the highlights and it brings some of that light in there, just some finishing touches, maybe a little more of saturation after added a preset and warm it up a little bit, there you have it, voila. 7. Conclusion: When we're actually it's a shoot day, and you're actually going out to shoot your landscapes, then comes the fun part, where you actually get to go. Today, we went on a hike. So, no matter what it is you decide you want to do, if it's in a field nearby or if it's you have some water close by where you live, now it's time to go shoot, and now you're looking at early morning light or late evening, the golden hour, so to speak. Obviously, what we've been talking about is the best time to go out and shoot. So, you're at that point now, and you're going out, and now you're looking at the way light is hitting your landscape. Which direction is it coming from? How can you use that light as far as maybe leading lines with shadows, with reflections, is the light soft? Is it hard? How do you want to handle that light? Light is the most important thing in photography. As far as reflections go, reflections in water, in puddles, they're usually best in softer light. Reflections work really well in soft light, if the light's hitting a certain direction, and you have that softer light. Trying to achieve a certain look, it all depends on the mood that it could come down to the the weather that day. If it's foggy, what are you looking for? If it's bright, and it's colorful. I think that all comes into play. Definitely weather, light, when you're shooting, that all comes into play as far as what story you're trying to tell, and then as well as sometimes it does come along the way. Sometimes, you'll be shooting and thinking you're wanting to achieve a certain thing, and then as you're shooting, it could totally change, and be like, hey I think I want to go this direction. So, guys I just want to say thank you for taking this class. I can't wait to see all the work you produce. I appreciate your time 8. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: