Behind The Scenes of Three of My Most Popular Landscape Photos

Behind The Scenes of Three of My Most Popular Landscape Photos


In the following post I’m not going to remind you again that you need to bring your tripod with you. I’m not here to warn you that weather is unpredictable and you should check the latest forecast before heading out the door.

Nope this post won’t cover the fact that you should bring a flashlight and a few other miscellaneous tools just in case something goes wrong. And of course I won’t be telling you that you should tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back incase you do get lost, hurt or otherwise incapacitated and need help getting home.

Instead of rehashing the basics or providing some motivational tips to get you off the couch I’m going to show you three ‘behind the camera’ photographs that I took with my iPhone, share the final shot, and talk a bit about how I made each image.

Sound good? Okay let’s start!

First Up – A Small Cascade Near Trap Falls in Ashby MA


As you can see the camera was positioned as close to the water as I could comfortably get it – one wrong move and it’s all over for me and my love of photography.

So does the fear of putting my camera in the drink stop me from attempting to grab a photograph? Not in the least!


This shot was something I saw from 100 yards up the bank of the river. I noticed the cascade and knew that it’d be the perfect place to set up my D7000 and Tokina 11-16mm, but how was I going to get into the middle of the river?

As I got closer to the scene I noticed that there were a few wet stones no larger than an iPad leading out into the middle of the river – right where I wanted to be. All I needed was a little balance and some luck and both my camera and I would make it back to the shore dry and one ‘keeper’ richer.

Standing on a rock in the middle of the river the size of an iPad is no easy task and trying to fiddle with camera settings and frame a shot doesn’t make it any easier. I used the Manfrotto’s center-column design, which allows you to swing the center column out so that it is parallel to the ground, to get as close to the water as I could, and I used the live view feature on my DSLR to frame the shot and achieve perfect focus.

After taking a few test shots and fine tuning my exposure I settled on the following settings for the shot: ISO 100, 11mm, f/14, 13.0 seconds. (Note: There is also an ND filter in play here which allows for the longer exposure time).

Next Up – A Stunning Sunset at Stony Brook in Norfolk MA


Okay so this photograph probably isn’t even close to as dramatic as the one above, but it is still able to show you a bit about my thought process when capturing photographs. I could have photographed this scene further back from a nice easily accessible lookout, but I clambered over rocks and got as close to the shore as I could.

By positioning the camera on the tripod I was freely able to adjust the settings and fine tune the exposure and composition of the shot. The settings I used here were: ISO 100, 36mm, f/10, 1/160.

sunset at stony brook

Finally – Capturing Lightning Out Of My Window

Here in south eastern New England we don’t get all that many storms and due to the tall trees and densely populated urban areas it’s not easy to get a clear view of the sky when they do occur.

After hearing my phone alert me to a sever thunderstorm watch that was in effect until well after dark and a quick look at the radar confirmed that it looked like it would pan out. I quickly decided to get a plan together to capture my first lightning bolts as a photographer.


With a couple hours of notice I was able to get really creative with my set up. I found a piece of cardboard and some duct tape to make a makeshift shelter for my room and the rest of my camera. I knew I wanted to open the window and the screen to get as clear a sight line as possible, but I didn’t want the rain or mosquitos to get into the house. (If you’re curious I finished sealing the cardboard after I took this photo).

I made sure to set my focus while I still had daylight to work with as it would get difficult to do so when darkness hit. I used my ND filter to lengthen the shutter speed which would hopefully allow me better chances to capture bolts of lightning and locked down my settings as follows: ISO 100, 13mm, f/9.0, 20.0 seconds.

Once everything was set up all that was left to do was wait for the storm to get close. As soon as I heard the first crack of thunder I set the Nikon’s intervolometer to capture an image every 25 seconds for about an hour or so, turned out all the lights in my house, and went to bed.

A few hours later, after the storm had long passed, I woke up curious to see if my trap had worked. The end result was a handful of lightning bolts frozen in time – this is one of my favorites.

lightning photo

Do you have any behind the scenes stories to share?

Tell us about how you captured one of your favorite shots in the comments below!


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John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today! John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Tony September 27, 2013 10:02 am

    Attached is my first attempt with lightening. I noticed an incredible cloud approach my house (see preceding pics) so I set up on my front porch. I used Bulb mode and held the remote in for 20 seconds and repeated for about an hour. If lightening struck I let go as to not blow out the picture. I believe it was set at ISO 100, f/8.

  • William Beardsley September 27, 2013 08:01 am

    Whenever I use my ND filter to try and blur the water it casts a pink tint to the photo. Someone told me I can only use it shooting in RAW but I was in j-peg. Any thoughts?

  • George Johnson September 27, 2013 12:41 am

    Shooting St Mary's Lighthouse on the north eastern coast of England. I said I wanted to shoot by the beach so the clan came with me. I sat on the rocks for close on 5 hours watching the thick grey cloud, my family showing amazing patience sat in the car out of the cold! Then about 30 minutes before sunset was due the wind blew away almost all the cloud and left me with a stunning sunset!

    Shooting a church at Brentor in Devon, UK. Got into location about 4 hours before sunset, perfect place, cloud was pefect, sunset was going to be great. About an hour before sunset the cloud moves to the horizon and I'm standing dull grey. boring light! I wait it out and about 5 minutes before sunset would have been due a tiny crack appears on the horizon and for just 15 seconds I get the most perfect orange light hitting my subject, I get just 2 shots in the bag and then the light just dies completely and I'm left in the dull grey again.

    With landscape photography, patience isn't just a virtue it's mandatory along with your tripod!

  • Mridula September 27, 2013 12:28 am

    The idea behind the last shot! Simply genius.

  • Gwen Rea September 27, 2013 12:25 am

    What on earth is an intervolometer and where do I find the settings on my Nikon D7000. Thanks again for your super sharing. Gwen

  • John Davenport September 26, 2013 08:54 pm

    @Thomas - Thanks! Interesting read over on your blog as well - very nice shots of that Apple!

    @josh - Thanks a bunch - I've never had to endure temperatures that cold, but I did get up and out of my house well before sunrise when it was well below freezing to grab a sunrise shot after a snow storm last year - - I did the same exact thing when I got home, back under the covers to warm up and get some rest.

    @Joey - The cardboard helped shield the camera (I closed off all the wholes in that image as it got closer to the storm with more duct tape and plastic bags. I was also helped out by the wind from the storm blowing away from the window so very little rain ended up falling on the exposed lens.

    @Jedna - Thanks! :)

  • Jedna Chwila September 26, 2013 07:41 pm

    Like this post! Really nice! Thank you!

  • Joey September 26, 2013 07:08 am

    In the last shot, how did you protect the camera from the rain?

  • Josh September 26, 2013 03:22 am

    Great read! I've tried my own lightning shots but always get scared off because it's too late or threatening to get my gear wet. I love the idea of sealing off a window and going to bed! Well done! Great shots!

    This past February, I was in search of a great shot and was willing to work for it. I got up at some outrageous hour of the morning to catch the sunrise. Being in the Northern hemisphere, it's quite cold in February but I didn't expect to have to endure -22 F. After putting on every layer of clothing I had, I climbed my way down to Lake Superior's North Shore and laid down on the ice covered rocks with my tripod precariously balanced on a thin sheet of ice as low as I could get. An hour and a half later, the sun had finally begun showing itself from behind the fog that was present over the lake. Several dozen shots with various compositions led to one of my favorite captures. There are a few other shots from that morning in the set.

    Feeling satisfied with the results, I went back to bed to rest and warm up.

  • Thomas Schmidt September 26, 2013 02:59 am

    John, this is a very interesting post. Articles about how a photo was taken are the best way for me to learn taking photos. In my blog I described in detail, how I took a photo of a juicy red apple in my kitchen: