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The New DSLR Owner’s Guide to Landscape Photography

For me, travelling abroad is a chance to capture some gorgeous unique landscapes from faraway lands. It’s a way to dive into the world around me, and re-connect with nature.

There is often a misconception that DSLR photography is heavy and cumbersome, with many opting for a smartphone or compact camera to preserve their memories. However, to really capture the full beauty of a locale, I always prefer to shoot with my DSLR. There is simply a richness and detail in the images, which I find lacking in other devices. With the right gear and a few nifty packing tricks, travelling with your DSLR can be convenient and rewarding.

Here are a few handy tips for packing light with a DSLR, for breathtaking images you’ll be enjoying for years to come.

Jeongseon Skywalk, South Korea – Nikon D7100 with AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G
f/8, 1/250sec, ISO-100

What do you need?

A DSLR camera
• Any camera of your choice. Some options to consider would be the FX-format D750 for its striking light weight, or the D5500 for the new users. Alternatively, the DX-format D7200 is steadily becoming a favourite as well.

One practical, standard zoom lens for your entire journey
A standard zoom lens is sufficient for most subjects during your travel, ranging from wide-angle to mid-telephoto. Most landscapes are taken in wide-angle. Some lenses to consider:
• AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR (if you’re using FX-format camera body)
• AF-S NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR (if you’re using DX-format camera body)

Tripod (optional)
Tripods can add a significant amount of weight to your gear and are often optional unless you’re shooting landscapes which require a long-exposure such as during the golden/blue hour, or HDR and multiple-exposure, etc.

Polarizing filter (polarizer/CPL) to enhance vividness and contrast
A Polarizer is a must-have tool for landscape photography. Often overlooked, they help to enhance colours and heighten the contrast of your images while reducing reflection from objects such as water and glass. I often rely on them to “darken” the sky, which helps bring out the clouds and reduces atmospheric haze for clearer images.

The techniques

Know the exposure triangle
Familiarize yourself with the three elements of exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and understand how they interact to shape your image. For the majority of landscape subjects, it is recommended to use the Aperture priority mode and Matrix metering.

Use a small aperture to achieve greater depth-of-field
Sharpness and details are key throughout the entire frame for the perfect shot when it comes to landscapes. I often recommend starting with an aperture value one stop bigger than the smallest, for the best balance of both. For example, if your lens’ smallest aperture is f/22, its optimum sharpness at one stop bigger would be at f/16.

Keep the ISO as low as possible
For the best quality, shoot in low ISO whenever possible. During daylight, start with the base ISO of your camera, and increase it accordingly to get the desired exposure. Keep in mind that ISO is the last setting to tweak when you are unable to compensate the exposure by aperture or shutter-speed settings.

Shoot in RAW
A RAW file stores more image information as captured by the camera’s sensor, thus granting you more control during post-processing. This comes in handy, especially when needing to adjust the white balance, exposure compensation, tone and colour.

Fuji-Kawaguchiko, Japan – Nikon D750 with AF-S NIKKOR 24-120 f/4G ED VR
f/8, 1/250sec, ISO-400

All photos credit: Herman Wijaya