How To Photograph Landscapes

calagaz-how-to-photograph-landscapesOriginal post provided by Tamron

For those of you who have been to a few of our photography workshops, you know that we have brought-in our friend and amazing photographer, David Akoubian, to lead the group and teach us the ways of his beautiful work.  David is a southern guy from Georgia, and he is no stranger to the outdoors – whether he’s shooting at his home in the mountains or leading one of his photography workshops to the Grand Tetons or Apalachicola, Florida, David has a special love of nature that translates effortlessly to his photography.

David has worked with our friends over at Tamron on an article on how to photograph a landscape – you can read the post in its entirety here.  Below is an excerpt of his tips for quick reference if you’re heading out to shoot this weekend. If you don’t have some of the equipment that David references in this post, check with us at Calagaz for any items we may have available for rent!

Choose the right lens.
When you’re selecting a nature and landscape lens, you want to pick a lens that’s incredibly sharp and has great compression/decompression abilities. The Tamron 24-70 VC was my lens of choice for this series. The resolution is unreal—it’s basically giving me medium-format resolution with my camera, which you can’t beat.

When I’m trying to stretch a landscape, the wide-angle end of the 24-70 gives me the decompression I need, “stretching” the landscape out and giving me the ability to use a compositional element to grab the viewer’s attention. (read more)

Evaluating a scene to increase visualization
Decide what kind of mood you’re trying to set. If you’re photographing a river, for example, ask yourself if you want to do a strong stop-action image with a faster shutter speed to show the power of the water coming down the river, or if you want to slow the shutter speed down and create a more relaxing mood.

You also have to think about how you’re going to process the image. What it’s going to look like straight out of the camera may be very different than how you want it to end up. By previsualizing and thinking it through, you may realize you want to add a little more contrast to make it a little warmer, for example, to match your original vision. (read more)

Look for S-curves and C-curves and use “power points.”
My background was originally as a painter. I studied the Renaissance artists, who would look for C-curves if they were painting a male, S-curves if they were painting a female.

If you lead a viewer into a photo with a straight line, you create a feeling of uncomfortableness, because there’s a static left and right side. You want to break that up while still giving viewers a way to travel through the image. You don’t want them to struggle to have to go through the picture—it should be a smooth transition.

When I want to make a picture soft or relaxing, I’ll go for the S-curve look, since that’s thought of as a more feminine appearance. For example, that could be a river winding through a landscape. On the other hand, waves crashing against a shoreline with a lighthouse might appear more masculine—the land against the sea appears to make a backward “C” shape.

Step away from the camera, then return to the camera to verify the image.
A question I’ll often get asked: What’s your keeper ratio? How many of your images do you actually keep? You might think you’ve got a great shot, with ferns in the foreground and a river in the background, but then when you go to look through the viewfinder, you might see a big, bright rock or other distracting element in the lower left of the frame. When there’s something there in the viewfinder that shouldn’t be, recompose by changing your angle of view, blurring out the background, or deciding otherwise how you’ll eliminate those distractions.

Evaluate your exposure.
The camera is fairly limited; the human eye sees so much more of a range of light. Photographers will sometimes head out and take just one image of a particular scene; then they get back home and see that what they wanted to show in the foreground doesn’t pop out because the foreground is too bright. To avoid that, I put my camera on a tripod, take one picture exposing for the foreground, one for the background, then I blend them together in Photoshop. You can use filters in the field, but I feel you get more accuracy adjusting it in the computer.

Use HDR (high dynamic range) enhancement when it’s advantageous.
It makes sense to tap into HDR if you’ve got a scene when there’s not a distinct horizon line or line of contrast. That means the border between the dark and light parts of the image aren’t as clear. If I have a lot of light coming in from different points and don’t have that straight line that gives me a 1- or 2-stop image, I’ll create an HDR image so I can get up to 9 stops. I get the details I need in, then go back in afterward and add contrast to it so it doesn’t look too fake. You don’t want the HDR to take away from your point of interest; you want it to be complementary.

Use a self-timer/camera release and a circular polarizer for water scenes.
If you’re shooting waterfalls or a creek or river, any little movement will take away from the clarity of the image if you’re dragging the shutter to create that dreamy, creamy effect. You want to have your hands off the camera as much as possible. Use a self-timer or remote camera release to accomplish what you want to in the image.

I’d also recommend using a high-grade circular polarizer. That’s typically the only thing I’ll stick on the front of a Tamron lens. The polarizer will take the glare off of any shiny rocks in the water and also saturate the greens in your image to make them richer. Don’t use a low-end polarizer, though. You want to get a filter that’s equal to the quality of your lens. Otherwise it’s like using plastic wrap on a Ferrari to protect the windshield.

Slow down and don’t sweat the technical stuff.
I always tell all my students that to improve their landscape photography (or their photography in general), slow down a little. You take the time to select a lens and focal length, decide on your photographic elements, pick an angle from which you’re going to shoot. But when you create an image, you’re also capturing the mood and memory of that image—a moment in time.

Enjoy the moment, and let your camera do the technical work for you. Concentrate on the composition. Bracket if you need to, get the scene onto your sensor and onto your memory card, and worry about the little things you want to fix later. You can’t fix bad composition on the computer.

To see more of David Akoubian’s work, go to


Photo Contest: Win a trip for two to Los Angeles!


Okay, folks… this is kind of an emergency.  You have FIVE… yes, 5 days to enter this photo contest that ends on April 16. We just received an email about it, and we think one our OUR customers should win because y’all are amazing. We see your stuff… you are amazing.

Look at this Grand Prize and tell me you don’t want to enter:

Win a trip for two to The Big Photo Show Los Angeles 2014, including round trip airfare from anywhere in the contiguous United States, accommodations in The Big Photo Show host hotel for up to three nights, and admission to The Big Photo Show Los Angeles, a Canon Rebel T3i kit and Pixma printer, and a deluxe frame job from On the Wall Gallery & Frames.

Okay, so here’s what you have to do according to their website:

Enter this photo challenge and help us to explore all of the fun you can have with photography.  What is the most fun thing to capture with photography? You tell us with your entries! Is it people interacting, emotions, animals, the world around you, sunsets, sports? We cannot wait to find out!

It’s easy to enter. Click here to enter online or email them your entry (one entry per email, please). Use subject line “Seriously Fun Photography”. Enter today for your chance at great prizes and to see your images displayed at The Big Photo Show Los Angeles, May 17-18, 2014, and on The Big Photo Show website.  And be sure to tell them you’re a Calagaz customer… you might get some brownie points :)

Submission deadline is April 16, 2014 so don’t delay! This photo challenge will award prizes for both popular choice and judging by professional photographers. Open to all photo enthusiasts but winners must be in the US for some prizes. Find the full challenge rules here.

Oh wait. There’s more… the other prizes for the Professionally Judged entries aren’t too shabby either. Check it out below.  Oh, and if you want to size-up the competition… the entries are all on this website!

2nd Place: Pentax K-50 camera, $100 certificate from Nations Photo Lab, Metallic print from Fullerton Photographics, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
3rd Place: Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM lens, Creative Kit by Macphun Software, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
4th Place: Sony a3000 camera with 18-55mm lens, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
5th Place: Erin Manning Home Studio Lighting Kit by Westcott and Sunpak Ultra Pro 423 Carbon Fiber Tripod

Popular choice winners:

1st Popular Choice: Panasonic Lumix ZS30 camera, Westcott 304 5-in-1 Reflector Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
2nd Popular Choice: Tamron SP 70-300 Di VC USD zoom lens, Macphun Creative Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
3rd Popular Choice: Tabelz laptop table and Macphun Creative Kit software

Now get out there and shoot this weekend!  We need to represent the Gulf Coast, people!

Our Favorite Things…


I don’t know about you, but I love to read reviews and take people’s recommendations. When I go out to eat, I ask the server what their favorite item on the menu is because I know when I was a server, I ate at my place of employment like… Every. Single. Day.

I mean, who would know what’s awesome better than the employee, right?  So I got to thinking… we (Calagaz employees) look at and use the stuff in our store ALL the time. Our store is huge and probably super intimidating when you walk in the first, second and maybe third time. So its likely that you’ve missed some of the really awesome stuff we have sitting around here. Or maybe… you haven’t ventured to the BACK of our store where we have a few little gems hidden in our classroom. (Yeah… we have a classroom!)

So we’re going to start posting some of our favorite things that aren’t so obvious like the newest camera with WiFi – we’re going to show you the obscure little items that are a little inexpensive nugget of awesomeness that you would have never noticed otherwise.

So since I just came up with this random idea and haven’t consulted with our sales team yet (hehehe! My evil plan!) I’m going to use one of the newest ProMaster YouTube videos as my first post. This one is about the go-anywhere, super compact and multi-colored pop-up background. You’ll see in this video and hear from a real photographer about how awesome and versatile this little guy is. In the meantime, I’ll be scanning the Thesaurus for a synonym for the word “awesome.” :)

Nugget of Awesomeness #1: ProMaster Pop-Up Background

A Colorful Weekend for some of Calagaz Photo’s finest…

Calagaz Photo's Finest Color Run Crowd

In case you missed it, this weekend marked the 2nd year for The Color Run in Orange Beach at The Wharf. Two of our employees, Jessika Kirkland and Bailey Chastang, were part of the crew documenting the entire event for all who participated – and they’re sharing their experience with us!

So, how was it?  Was the weather beautiful down in Orange Beach? 
JK: We had a blast, except we were drenched and covered in colors! I mean, its been two days and my toes are STILL blue!

photo (1)

It was raining the whole time?  What did you do about your camera? 
JK: Well, luckily I had my ProMaster Rain Jacket that covered all my equipment. Living in Mobile, and knowing it could rain every afternoon, I never leave home without it… and this weekend, the rain jacket didn’t just protect my camera from the weather… but from flying colors too!

What did you take pictures of while you were there?  What was the most challenging part of photographing this event? 
JK: I was inside the running course, set-up at the purple station called “Purple People Eater” – it was so much fun capturing people’s expressions as they’re being bombed with purple powder! The kids would run through, and then run back to get bombed again… it was really funny. It was so challenging though!  I was constantly having to change my exposure settings due to it being overcast at times, and then sun peeking back out… all while trying to keep a high enough shutter speed to catch the action. Last year when I photographed The Color Me Rad Run in Mobile, I learned that I should have brought a monopod or a tripod. But, with all the constant movement, a monopod would be ideal. So, you bet this year I didn’t forget it!  I like the ProMaster XC525C because its a lightweight, carbon-fiber tripod, but also includes a monopod by unscrewing one of the legs so its perfect for events like this because its so compact and versatile.

Bailey's Photo Booth Area

BC: I did the studio part, or the “photo booth” with the Color Run backdrop. Sometimes working a photo booth can get monotonous, so I just tried to keep things fun and interesting the whole time.  I asked people to jump in the air, throw their colors, make goofy faces… doing basically whatever they wanted. I feel like I really captured how fun the moment and the event was, which is really what’s most important.  I would say the most challenging thing was the number of people!  The line was probably a football field long, so we didn’t have that much time to get posed so I just had to stay on my toes and come up with creative ideas on the fly. The most difficult thing would be changing the shutter speed based on what the runners were doing. For instance, if they decided to jump in the air, I would need to raise the shutter speed and still be in-sync with my lights. Or, if they decided to throw color, I might need to drop or raise my exposure depending on how much color they threw and how bright it was compared to my lights.

What was the craziest thing that happened? 
BC: Well, the WHOLE THING was crazy!  But, for me… having a 6-year old attempt to chunk a large amount of paint directly at my camera was definitely a memorable experience for BOTH of us!  I freaked out at the moment, but afterwards realized that it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal because not only did I have my rain jacket on my camera, but I also had a ProMaster HGX Filter on my lens, which means that the paint would have come off very easily with a lens cleaning cloth. So, no need to see a cardiologist this week!

There are more 5k runs involving this color mess if you want to check it out… The Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds is hosting the Color Me Rad Run on May 3 and if you use the promo code “RONALD” you’ll save 10% on your registration, and a portion of your registration fee will benefit The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile!