Summer is a welcome period for landscape photography, as it offers fully-leafed vegetation, the prospect of warm, sunny days, fields carpeted with flowers, and the opportunity to capture dramatic images of our natural environment.
But how can you create beautiful summer landscape photos? That’s what this article is all about; in it, you’ll find plenty of tips, tricks, and secrets for amazing results.
So whether you’re new to landscape photography and are looking to do some fun summer shooting, or you’re an enthusiast aiming to improve your images, here are some tips and ideas to help you on your way!
1. Start with an idea or a theme
To capture successful images of summer, start by thinking about the types of themes and subjects you want to photograph. Ask yourself: What subjects interest me most?
Of course, what you shoot largely depends on what is around you; for example, in the UK, summer is a brilliant time to see wildflowers in bloom. There is always an explosion of reds and pinks, as fields are often carpeted in poppies. There are also bursts of purple as lavender fields flourish, and this can also make great subjects for summer landscape photography.
Summer also provides a great opportunity to capture fully leafed vegetation such as trees and hedgerows, as well as gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, plenty of joy, and beautifully dramatic weather.
2. Think both wide and abstract
Water – such as lakes, rivers, and streams – as well as dramatic weather, make great subjects for wide-angle summer landscape photography.
But in addition to capturing the sweeping vistas of gorgeous landscape scenes, don’t forget to look for the finer details. You may find stunning gems, such as insects or animals hidden in the landscape, or intimate aspects of wider scene, such as individual flowers emerging from the soil.
3. Don’t forget to location scout, if possible
A great way to identify good places to shoot? Do some location scouting!
Of course, you may already know places in your local area that are great for photography, but make sure to look at them with a photographer’s eye; consider where the sun will be at different times of the day, how the location will be affected by the weather, etc.
In addition to relying on locations you already know, do some research. You can simply walk around and explore – you never know when you’ll stumble across a great scene! – or you can do a bit of Googling. Look for places other photographers have shot, recommendations from locals, and lists of the best landscape photography spots near you.
Then, the next time you’re ready to head out with you’re camera, you know exactly where to go.
4. Check the weather (in advance)
When undertaking summer landscape photography, be sure to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Although the weather can be more stable in summer, there are often periods of heavy rain and dramatic conditions that can severely impact the outcome of your images.
Aim to shoot on the days when the weather suits what you would like to achieve. For example, if bright landscapes are your preferred shooting subject, go out on sunny days. Alternatively, if dark, brooding skies or rain is your thing, then look for overcast, gloomy, stormy days to capture the shots you’re after.
5. Consider the time of day
Days are longest and nights are shortest during the summer, with the day length decreasing after the summer solstice. There is therefore a longer period between first and last light compared with the spring or autumn.
Consequently, the sun will stay higher for longer during the summer, which means you will have more daylight time to do summer landscape photography. On the other hand, it makes night photography difficult, plus it pushes the golden hours (see the next tip!) into the early morning and late evening.
So make sure you always think about the changing light before heading out, and always check a sunrise and sunset calendar; that way, you can maximize your shooting time and get the type of shots you’re after.
6. Shoot when the light is best
Consider the light you like best for summer landscape photography. Do you prefer harsh light? Soft light? Dramatic light? Make sure you get out to shoot when the light fits your interests.
Generally speaking, the best light is at the start and end of the day – because as the sun rises and sets, the light offers golden hues and magical contrast. The vibrant colors at this time are amazing for summer landscape photography, so aim to set your alarm early and stay out late to maximize the best of the summer light.
In contrast, the light at midday is usually a lot harsher, especially when you have direct sunlight. So make sure to take this into consideration when photographing the landscape.
If you are out doing summer landscape photography in the middle of the day, be aware that the midday heat brings haze, which can make images look flat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to be aware of the effect so you can use it – or avoid it – in your photos.
7. Make the most out of the conditions
Often, you have limited time at your chosen location to do summer landscape photography, so make sure you get the most out of the conditions you are presented with. Whether you’re dealing with rain or bright sunlight, you’ll have ample opportunities to capture the landscape at its best.
For instance, you can use overcast skies and rain to your advantage. There are still subjects that you can photograph; woodlands are great areas to shoot under cloudy skies, as are waterfalls. The rain can increase waterfall fullness, and both waterfalls and woodlands tend to look more photogenic in overcast light.
8. Use leading lines
One thing you can utilize in your landscape images during summer is leading lines. It’s a pretty popular technique because they’re a great way to lead the viewer’s eye into the frame.
In summer, there are specific things you can find in the landscape that you can use to lead the eye, such as roads, walkways, hedgerows, lines of flowers and vegetation, coastal paths, and trees.
9. Keep your gear protected
If you like to capture dramatic weather, make sure you keep your camera protected at all times. Always bring a rain cover and look to capture your summer landscape images in the period just after a storm has passed. You may even get lucky and see a rainbow.
10. Select your settings carefully
I am often asked about the best camera settings for summer landscape photography, but in truth, it really depends on what you are trying to achieve and what you want to emphasize in your scene.
As a general rule, an aperture of around f/8 to f/16 will help create more depth in an image and keep your entire scene sharp. If you want to keep parts of the frame out of focus, an aperture of, say, f/4-f/5.6 is the way to go. And a low ISO will give a sharper image (such as ISO 100-400).
As for the shutter speed: If you’re shooting handheld, stick to 1/50s or above. Of course, a sturdy tripod will let you go much lower, and you can create all sorts of interesting artistic effects, such as motion blur in waterfalls.
Summer landscape photography tips: final words
Although the high sun can be harsh during the summer, wildflowers such as poppies and lavender can bring color and freshness, plus you have other subjects such as hedges, trees, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and woodlands to add interest to your scenes.
It’s important to remember that landscape shooting should be enjoyed, so have fun with your summer landscape photography and appreciate being out in nature.
With these tips in mind, go and explore the landscape near you. See what you can capture!
Now over to you:
Do you have any tips for beautiful summer landscape photos? Do you have any summer images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!