For any landscape photographer, Castañeda said there are five basic tenets to consider. Location is just knowing in advance where to go that has a great composition, be it a lake with a perfect reflection or a spot that has great light. Second is timing — understanding that a lot of landscape scenes are “right place, right time” situations, you need to allocate enough time to get there.
Weather and patience come next. “As photographers, we’re not just going to shoot when the skies are clear and the sun is out,” Castañeda said. There are benefits to shooting when the weather’s not great. Clouds will give you a better chance of getting beautiful long sun rays, and rain is going to make the foliage shine brighter. A lot of great landscape shots were taken right after or before storms. And if you want a certain type of weather — be prepared to wait. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ll set up my camera and just wait. You’re waiting for the clouds to move, to have that light come through perfectly, or you’re waiting for a sunset.”
Last is gear. You’ll need to grab a pro-grade camera system (Castañeda uses a Sony A7S and A7R) and a sturdy tripod. Castañeda suggested using a heavy metal one, instead of lightweight carbon fiber model, because it’ll stay still when shooting longer exposures in wind or other precarious conditions (e.g., shooting in the middle of a stream).
Neutral density filters and a circular polarizer are also vital, Castañeda said. A circular polarizer cuts down the glare and reflections (like polarized sunglasses). The ND filter stops down your camera’s acting exposure: “Let’s say I’m shooting a waterfall and the sun is at high noon,” said Castañeda. “If I didn’t have this ND filter, my shot would be completely blown out because the sun is shining on the waterfall. Now, if I take the ND filter, which is going to darken the image, and I shoot at a 30-second exposure, it will actually expose the image properly.” Paired with that tripod, this gear will enable you to photograph sharp landscapes, motion blur and much more.