Sergio Lanza is a landscape, nature and travel photographer from Santander, a city in northern Spain. After 8 years of casual shooting, he finally decided to take the leap to full time last year. After seeing his portfolio, we think he made the right choice! His passion for traveling all over the world in pursuit of photographing some of the most stunning sceneries on Earth has made him an expert on shooting nature and landscapes. Sergio shares some tips below on how he get’s his amazing shots and talks about one of his favorite locations to shoot: the Canadian Rockies.
What’s your favorite thing about shooting landscapes?
What I really try to capture when shooting landscapes is the feeling and soul of the scene with my camera. My main goal is to share with others the amazing sceneries and moments that I have had the pleasure to enjoy. My favorite thing about shooting landscapes is the feeling of peace and freedom when I’m in front of an impressive scene. I also get great satisfaction from the reward you get when you capture a beautiful image, especially after all the planning and logistics of getting to the location which can sometimes be thousands of miles away from your hometown.
What are 4 tips to getting a killer landscape shot?
Plan your sessions carefully. Search for the best moments of light, study sun position, weather, kind of light, season of the year, etc. Be patient. Many times, you have to go to a location several times in different days in order to get the desired light conditions, so if you don’t keep trying, you probably won’t succeed.
Be creative. Don’t just go for the perfect shot; instead, try to get the best from each location. Use different focal lengths and lenses, try short and long exposures, photograph your subjects in both vertical and landscape orientation. No matter how many extraordinary images from that scene you have seen on the internet, always try to add your personal touch and try to create something new. Reflect your style and your soul in your images.
Bring the right gear. For landscape shooting, I always bring a full frame camera with a wide angle lens. I’d recommend to bring a wide angle lens such as a 16-35 mm, 14-24 mm, or similar, as well as a normal zoom in the 24-70 mm range. Tele zooms can also give you amazing landscape images, so a 70-200 mm lens can also be useful for getting killer shots. I always use my neutral density and graduated neutral density filters, which allow you to make really long exposures to get amazing effects in your photographs. And always use a sturdy tripod.
Remember to enjoy what you are doing. It’s great to take your photography seriously, but I know some people that are so worried about all the technical, theoretical and gear related things, that they don’t get to enjoy the actual shooting process as much as they should. Photography is about you, enjoying yourself, and feeling happy and free with what you are doing. It’s fabulous if you are also able to transmit those feelings to others with your images. Enjoy the moment as much as possible, become a part of the scene and the places you are visiting, immerse yourself in the location, and just have fun.
When are the best times of the day to shoot landscapes?
Sunrises and sunsets are the best moments to shoot landscapes, since light is often very special at those times of the day. I recommend to get up early so you can get to the location at least half an hour before sunrise (ideally an hour) and also staying half an hour or more after sunset. By doing so, you can get those special moments known as “golden hour” in which the light comes from a low sun and give your subjects a really unique color.
Cloudy days can also be great for landscape photography. You can get stunning skies capturing long exposure images with the help of neutral density filters. Cloudy days are also perfect to photograph scenes such as waterfalls, creeks or canyons since you won’t have to fight against contrasty areas due to the sun. Stormy days usually gives you marvelous opportunities to capture extreme landscapes.
What are some important things to keep in mind when scouting for locations to shoot in?
I use several tools when planning my landscape shoots. First, I use Google Earth and Google Maps to search for locations around a point or area I am planning to visit. I study all its possibilities and also look for images other photographers took on websites like 500px or Flickr.
Then, I carefully study the possibilities of the area for a concrete day or period of time when I wish to photograph it, trying to learn as much as possible about the sun position (especially for sunrises and sunsets). Sometimes, I decide when to visit a location depending on where the sun rises or sets in a particular season of the year. Some of the tools I use for planning my shoots are “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” (Android, iPhone and web app versions) or “Photopills” (just for iPhone at this moment, but soon available for Android users too).
It’s also very important to study the weather conditions for your desired destination as much as possible. You also have to study the tides when shooting seascapes, since some locations are best at high tide while others are only accessible with low tides. You always have to think about your safety as no photo is more important than your own security.
What do you use to edit and retouch your images with?
I mostly use only Lightroom to process my photographs. I always capture images in RAW and then use Adobe programs to work on them. I also use some filters such as Nik or Topaz collections. I hardly ever use Photoshop to work on my images. When I’m shooting, I always try to reflect the reality of what I am seeing, as well as the feelings I felt when capturing the scene. I try to get my images as similar to reality when photographing.
What inspires you about the Canadian Rockies?
The main thing I love about the Canadian Rocky Mountains is it’s incredibly beautiful landscapes and all the magical sceneries that surround you in every direction you look. In Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks, you’ll be able to photograph hundreds of pristine lakes, wild peaks, mountain ranges, glaciers, waterfalls, and creeks. Each scene is different and unique from the others. There are also areas outside these Parks that are worth visiting such as the Kananaskis Country area, or the Mount Robson Provincial Park.
If you visit there in the summer, you will have more hours of sunlight, but the area would be very crowded. If you prefer visiting in autumn or winter, you’ll have very cold weather but incredible snowy landscapes, and if lucky, the magical Northern Lights.
It’s also a perfect destination for nature photography, because of the extraordinary opportunities to spot and photograph wildlife. Grizzlies, black bears, elks, moose, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and even wolves are just some of the animals you can see and photograph in the Rockies. Good planning will help you to increase the chances of spotting these magnificent creatures.
Looking for more tips? Check out our Photography Basics Series.