Updated: Feb 7
This won't be a fancy article dealing with the best tips for better photography and make you dream, this is more a of a landscape photographer risk management guide. As landscape photographers, we have all faced (and are still facing) some frustration, disapointment, nightmares at some point in our photographic journey. Whether we didn't get the expected light , the locations rights, being late for sunrise or sunsets, all of it happens at least once in a while to all of us. Unfortunately, some of them are more recurrent than others, and getting better and better to deal with them is a daily exercise, but this will hugely limit your disappointment over time.
In this article, I will present you some of the most important risks I am facing as a landscape photographer. But I will also share with you some tips and tricks that can help you face any of these challenges.
1- Not getting the expected weather
I am guessing that as a landscape photographer or aspiring landscape photographer there's always a lot of excitement into getting to a new location or to an already known photogenic location. But, how high has been the disappointment when driving for an hour, hiking for 2 hours and arriving onsite to get this cloudy or rainy day? Well, I m guessing very high. Exactly as it happened to me so many times. If you're on vacation far away from home for a short period of time, then there's unfortunately not much you can do about it as your plans, partners, friends etc. might limit your flexibility. But if you're on your own or with a group of photographers, here are few tips that might help you making the best out of your next shoot:
Check and practice weather conditions forecasts: there are countless apps today that are really accurate. Use them on a daily basis to understand how they work and how much you can rely on them. Here I share some cool weather apps I am using to plan my shootings.
Make the most out of the situation. When you don't really get what you came for, try stuff that you would not do normally, or even try to shoot what you were hoping for and see the result. You might end up with beautiful dramatic shots, unexpected minimalist shots, artistic abstract shots, etc.
I am finally stating the obvious, but coming back more prepared might sometimes be your best option and that's the worst you might have to deal with. But, as long as you're mentally prepared, it should all be fine.
2- Completely missing a shot
I remember that time, when I went for an early shoot at a lake in winter at a location I knew well which was at about an hour drive from my place. Since it was winter and the weather was rather cold over the past few weeks, I was hoping for snow and freeze, which is what I got. What's not to dream about? On top of that, I got that beautiful leaf that froze in the ice and could be used as foreground. I was so excited about it. I put on my ultra-wide angle lens, got my composition ready and started shooting. That's only when I got back home and unloaded my SD card that I saw that I got a partially blurry shot and that this was unacceptable to me. I should have used a technique called focus stacking and totally forgot about it at this moment of excitement.
Well, my shot was ruined, but I put a system in place to avoid this type of mistakes in the future. So here are some tips to help you deal with this:
Review your pic directly after shooting it. You've got an amazing camera that allows you to zoom in and check your pics carefully. Use it! It's truly useful to check that everything is in focus, especially if you really like your composition.
Use a cheat sheet. There are countless cheat sheets for photography online. Find some that you like and use them. If you're a beginner, this might be really helpful for some time. Once you've got the good reflexes, you won't really need this anymore. This means they helped you and that you're advanced enough to be on your own.
3- Not waking up/being late
Oh yeah, I know you feel that one too! How many times your alarm rang at 4am, and you did not manage to wake up because you went to bed at 12am thinking that 4 hours of sleepwould be sufficient! Yet, how did you feel afterward... like you wasted your morning and that you could have been enjoying a great sunrise! Truth is that at times, you wake up that early, and you're facing point number 1 above. BUT, this could have been the best shot of your life.
The only remedies I found to that one, are the followings:
Sleeping onsite whenever possible will save you tons of sleeping time and help with organization.
Think about the amazing shots you could get if you go out there.
Think about the feeling of freedom you'll get once onsite.
Since you started your day very early, you'll still get the entire rest of your day (minus a short nap) to do plenty of other stuff.
Last but not least, snooze and put an alarm every 3 minutes to force yourself to wake up.
4- Missing batteries / forgetting gear
I am sure that some of you are like me and a little distracted at times and that you might have the same issue as I do. It happened to me that I arrived onsite and realized that I forgot my SD cards or, worst, I did not charge any of my batteries properly, despite owning 8 of them for my Fuji. This can easily happen to any of our accessories or even sometimes lenses.
I didn't find a miracle recipe for that one, but I created a systematic and organized approach to it:
I always prepare my bagpack the day or night before by checking that I do not miss anything, checking my batteries, my SD cards and so on.
Owning several items of the small but crucial accessories such as batteries and SD cards. For example, I have 8 batteries for my Fuji, not only because I tend to forget stuff but also because Fuji cameras are sucking batteries at a high pace, especially while doing videos. I do have 4 SD cards mostly because while travelling I do not always have my laptop with me, and need to store my pictures until I can unload them. But then, if I forget one, I know that out of the three remaining I probably have one which I can use if needed.
This is porbably the biggest risk and nightmare that a photographer can face. That one, I can easily speak about, becasue I recently had a two month old Lacie 5To hard drive that crashed with about... 5to of photographs on it! Luckily for me, most of the pictures were already backed up and I benefited from the Rescue service from Lacie/Seagate. I am still in the process of receiving the new drive and recovering my data, so I remain a little nervous but feel a little reinsured. As a photographer, you're data and therefore your photographs are the core of
what you're doing, so the last thing you want is to loose them all.
Here are a few solutions that could be helpful to limit your risks. Consider using one or two of these solutions if you're really serious about your photography.
Have some back ups drive with you. Keeping a back up with you will be helpful in case your main drive crashes while you're on the go and won't have access to your other back up anytime soon.
Have some back up drive at a place of confidence like family, friends or both. This is really a safety parachute. Imagine you get stolen, you get your bag completely wet or whatever that leads you to lose your data, you know that you have a safe option somewhere.
Put your data on the cloud. The cloud will allow you to back up and access your data anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. What an amazing solution. However, I have yet to find the best cloud offer for photographers. Cloud solutions are either limited in size, way too expensve or technically limited or all of them. For photographers which are either individual passionates or independant photographers with limited budget (for most), this solution is both atractive and repulsive at the same time making it difficult to ignore.
The final one, is a solution I am exploring closely at the moment: using a NAS. It's an initial elevated cost, but it is pretty much your own personal and private cloud. As long as your NAS is connected to an internet connection and plugged to electricity of course, you'll be able to access and manage your data from anywhere.
6- Dirt and Dust
Here I am guilty. I guess that dirt and dust are my worst enemies in photography. If I tend to plan relatively well the rest of my photographs, I have a strong tendency to forget cleaning my gear in between each sessions. I usually regret it a lot. Not cleaning your gear and especially lenses and/or filter are really creating a high level of frustration in photography and should be a thing to avoid at all cost, Not cleaning properly your gear means that you're likely to get lots of dust, possibly finger marks, dried water on it creating very visible markings on your pictures. This is especially visible when narrowing down your aperture, which is a common thing in landscape photography.
No magic recipe here too, just a lot of common sense:
Invest in a cleaning kit including a dust blower, pen brush, wet and dry wipes or alternatively dry wipes with a glasses' cleanser with some dry wipes, Q-tips, etc.
Clean your gear on a regular basis, possibly the day before you're going for a shoot, as you are preparing your bag. Some like to do it right after shooting. I unfortunately do not have this discipline.
7- Shooting in a wet environment
If you've ever shot in a wet environment, especially at sea or facing a waterfall, you probably know what I am talking about. For the others, let me explain quickly. When shooting in a wet environment, there tends to be a lot of water moving around, like at a waterfall, at sea or under rain. In this case, water droplets will gently cover your lens with water, making any pictures you're going to take usable. At sea, even up on a cliff, water droplets from the ocean will tend to fly around.
The best way to be prepared is to get ready and do the following:
Get some dry cleaning wipes, for glasses, for examples. I tend to avoid microfibers as they are actually harsher than we think. Cover your lens with it or clean your lens before each shot to ensure to have a perfect pic.
Get a shower cap. I never used these techniques, but apparently it works well to protect your lens while waiting for your perfect shot.
Instead, I tend to use a lot my lens cap by putting and taking it off after/before each shot. It is a bit cumbersome, but at least you stop for sure droplets accumulation on your front glass.
Rain sleeves are also a good options but you need to find the appropriate one. I purchased one once but never used it, as it was really bulky and way too big for my Fujifilm X-T3.
Try not to use a timer, as during the waiting time your lens is likely to be covered with droplets.
Last tip, know in advance where you want to focus and shoot quickly to avoid droplets on your lens as much as possible. Alternatively, use your focus lock if you camera has it or use a manual focus.
8- Crowded places
This is a huge frustration for landscape photographers. Getting to touristic places when there are a lot of... toursits. I know, we're all tourists in a way but, in general, while shooting, I tend to care about the place itself, the magic it produces, the beauty it reflects and not really me in front of it as many people tend to do. I am guessing that this feeling is share by many landscape photographers. Although I have fundamentally nothing against people taking shots of themselves in front of amazing places, arriving in a crowded place means not being able to shoot a picture properly. But, as landscape photographer, we also need to accept that all these places do not belong to us. Therefore, we need to adapt ourselves to be able to do what we're hoping for: great landscape photographs.
Here is how I manage to get my bests shots at these locations:
Going to shoot at sunrise. Going to most places at sunrise will almost guaranty you to get it for yourself or only very few people, most probably including other photographers.
Going off-season or shoulder season. I am currently shooting in Europe in winter with my camper and I can't tell you enough how much I am enjoying being at places where there is no one, while it is normally packed with people in spring or summer. I do not have the best weather, for sure, but I am mostly alone and with very interesting winter lights.
Just avoid the too touristic places, they will never going to be free from people and that's it.
I am actually curious if you guys are facing other types of risk ansd yould be kindly share them in the comment section below.
In the meantime, I truly hope that you enjoyed this article and that it helped with some of the risks face by landscape photographers.
About the Author
I am Rémi Bergougnoux, a French travel and landscape photographer currently based in Zurich, Switzerland. My most influential destinations include Latin America, where I spent about a year, Namibia, Iceland, Lofoten and certainly many others.
Aside from photography, hiking, cooking, enjoying good wines and socializing are my main hobbies.