Prepare for great landscapes

Techniques

24 October 2007 14:05

Don’t just grab your kit and head for the hills – think about where you’re going, when you should be there and what you should take.

Always check the weather forecast. Light, cloud and weather conditions are key aspects of landscape photography, so the weather forecast should be top of your checklist before you travel. The BBC and Met Office offer comprehensive forecasts for both national and local areas, although don’t always take them at face value, especially when the forecast is several days in advance. This is particularly true on the coast or in mountainous areas where the conditions can change minute-by-minute.

Scout out locations in advance where possible. When the weather’s dull and cloudy, rather than waste time cursing the conditions, try to visit likely future locations and spot some potential viewpoints instead. This can save valuable time when the perfect light finally arrives. It’s also great for sunrise shot reconnaissance, as you’ll be arriving in the dark, making it difficult to find your way.

Check where  and when the sun will rise or set. There’s no point getting to your location only to find that the sun rises or sets in the wrong position. If you can’t get to a location beforehand, use a sun position compass, along with an Ordnance Survey map, to predict where it’s going to happen.

Be prepared to change your plans. No matter how much planning you do, there are always going to be times when things like the weather, lighting or traffic will change. Always look out for locations that are easy to get to as a ‘stand-by’ for longer trips.

Take some food and water. Even if you’re only planning to be out for an hour or two it pays to take some basic food and drink. This can be something as simple as a bottle of water and your favourite snack. It’s amazing how much more bearable things are if you’ve got a bite to eat and a drink, especially when the lighting is poor or the weather closes in. Longer trips should be treated more seriously, especially if you’re going to be out in the wilds for any period of time. In colder conditions, take a hot beverage in a Thermos flask or a stove to make a hot brew to lift the spirits when you’ve been out for a while.

Always carry warm clothing. Even though it may be fine when you set out, always carry some simple waterproof clothing and an extra layer to help you keep warm if the weather should change. When shooting sunsets it’s all too easy to start out in warm sunshine, but once the sun goes down the temperature can drop quickly. It’s also surprising how much colder it is standing around waiting for the right photographic conditions compared to walking to the location. So store a hat, gloves and scarf in your bag, even in reasonably warm conditions.

It’s tempting to load up your bag with every item of gear just in case. This is fine for a short distance, but after a few miles those extra kilos in your bag can become a burden. Be ruthless with your choice of kit and use a backpack rather than a shoulder bag to spread the weight. Don’t skimp on batteries and film or memory cards though, and don’t forget to charge the batteries before you go.