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Photograph Awesome Landscapes with these 7 Tips

Like you, I love to photograph landscapes.  It’s always good to grab some pointers to push your creativity so you can photograph awesome landscapes!  Below are 7 tips that I have learned through the years of photographing landscapes, especially deserts.


Photograph during storms and be safe.

Dramatic is what you’ll have…during our winter hike in Zion National park, there was a winter storm.  We were lucky to see the desert snow and took time to play in various locations of the park. The video below shares some of the fun!

Please be careful!  I know it’s exciting when you know you have an opportunity to photograph an exciting stormy landscape, but it can be dangerous.  I shot this image right after they had opened up the road from a huge rock landslide that trapped several cars.  The people were ok, and nobody was killed, but they had to helicopter them out of the park.  Be sure to check the bottom of this post, I share some essentials that Kevin and I have with us that may help you.

zion in the snow

Zion in the Snow – 1/750 @ f4.0 ISO 400 – HDR 2 images.


Look for leading lines and talk to locals.

The rock in the foreground takes your eyes to the sun.  Leading lines are powerful and help the viewers’ eyes go to the place in your work that you want them to be.

This India Ruin was a hidden secret.  We met an amazing hiker, over 80 years old btw, that told us about this Ruin.  It was so hard to find!  No way would we have seen this location on our own.  It was a perfect place for the Indians that once lived there thousands of years ago.

Once we got to the ruin, you could see the valley.  PLUS, this was a perfect time for me to photograph during the day!  Yes, the middle of the day! Most Landscape photographers would never think of photographing with the harsh light of midday…but I did and so can you.  🙂

An old Indian ruin that we found from locals in southern Arizona. HDR Pano Stack


Don’t leave after the Sunsets and “What are they looking at?”

The best light is about 30 minutes before the sun rises and 30 minutes after the sun sets, give or take a minute or two.  Scout your location during the day for compositions and set up before the golden hour (one hour before sunset/sunrise).

Kevin and I hiked Watson Lake during the day and because we were new to the place, I paid attention to where other photographers were hanging out.

As the sun was setting, people were taking a bunch of pictures around the location below and when they left, I was like “SCORE”!  I rushed to the site to see what the excitement was all about and I noticed the amazing compositions all around me.  I knew I only had moments to set up. As the sun went down, the sky blew up behind me and bam, happy Janice couldn’t stop taking HDR shots.

Be patient…it’s worth it for you to experience the beauty after the sunsets.

Watson Lake – HDR

Symmetrical Balanced landscapes are beautiful. The Watson Lake image above is a great example of symmetry.

Research where you plan to photograph.  Check out its history… you’ll feel the place and take better shots for sure.

This is where they made the famous movie Gunga Din.  It was so much fun photographing historical movie locations for the day.

gunga din, desert, western movie area

Lone Pine California

No more eye-level shots.

Take us on a new journey.  We all see landscapes at eye level.   Shoot over or under your main focal point and you’ll have some punch to the story.

sunset, tree, watson lake

I shot this below the tree. The sky popped and the tree seems larger than what it really was.


Look Out For Stories and Perspectives

I call this, “Ouch”!  In Joshua Tree, there are many rock climbers.  I noticed a bunch of them on a clump of rocks, so I set up my tripod and camera while paying attention to the foreground.  Sure enough, this rock climber bent down.  I was laughing because the perspective was perfect.  You see people holding the Sun all the time in pictures.  Play with people in your landscapes…it gives perspective and fun stories.

joshua tree, janice sullivan, sullivanjphotography, rock climer,



Get out of your Car

Almost didn’t get this shot!

We had a full day of hiking and I had done some sunset shots in a different location, but I wasn’t happy that there were no clouds.  As we were driving, the sky turned this beautiful yellow and the excitement that we (photographers) have when you know it’s good to pull out the camera came over me…but I almost didn’t.  The inner self-wasn’t happy not having clouds in the landscape and the sky wasn’t pink and purple like desert sunsets can be, so I almost didn’t stop and take the shot….last second before the turnoff, I changed my mind. I’m so happy I did.  I love this image!  I can feel the beauty of the desert.


Get Crazy and Play

green lake, sun, landscape

1/2000 @f16 28mm ISO160

One last tip…I’d like you to step out of the box and play with some of your landscapes in post-production.  It’s fun to go over the top sometimes and help you be creative even if you never show anyone what you’ve done.  I had fun with these pieces and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it 🙂  And…they are perfect images for Interior Designers, who were my clients at the time.


Now let’s talk a little about gear.

You don’t need much, but you should have at least a couple of goodies in your equipment bag.

  • Tripod – Sturdy your camera
  • Camera (that’s a give me)
  • Graduated Filters if you don’t like to photograph HDR.
  • Your favorite lens  – Wide – 50mm – Telephoto
  • Polarizer filter – remove the glare on water and saturate color a tad
  • Shutter remote – To grab that sharp image (remove camera shake)
  • Variable Neutral Density Filter – Slow your shutter speed for soft water shots.

Here are more essentials for when you’re outdoors photographing.  You may think this is overkill, but we’ve actually needed most of the goodies during our various adventures.

  • Flashlight
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Map and compass (phone reception doesn’t always work)
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Firestarters
  • Water
  • Bug repellant
  • First Aid kit
  • Knife
  • Blanket – Extra clothing
  • Trash Bags

99% of my work in High Dynamic Range (HDR) if you would like to learn more about HDR plus much more…

Would you like guidance from me so you can create work from your heart… then click here and start to tell your story asap!


Janice Sullivan


finding your artistic photography voice

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Ian Leck says:

    Janice, do you have a video tutorial using Zerene Stacker for Landscapes please?

  • Hi Ian, I’m sorry I don’t. I have used it before but just to play… Most of the time I only have 3 – 4 stacks and On1 or Photoshop works fine with small stacks.

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