Hello friends! As many of you already know, the aim of this website is to give ordinary people the resources to add extraordinary adventure to their lives. For many, with outdoor adventure comes outdoor adventure and landscape photography. Wouldn’t we all like to level up our Instagram game or wow our friends and family back home?
I’ve turned to Glenn Lee Robinson, professional landscape extraordinaire, for some real and practical tips to make your outdoor photography come to life.
So who is Glenn Lee Robinson?
First and foremost, Glenn Lee Robinson is a landscape photographer with a special knack for capturing Northern California in magnificent colour. See exhibit A below:
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Incredible, right? How does he do it? What are his secrets? (Read below to find out!) I should add that in addition to landscape photography, he also does commercial work for outdoor brands, tourism agencies and more, but that’s not what we’re interested in today. No, today we’re diving into Glenn’s approach to landscape photography and some tips that will help us improve our own outdoor photography shots.
You need expensive camera gear, right? Wrong.
Glenn actually admits that his camera equipment is quite outdated for a professional photographer. He uses a 2012 Canon 5D Mark III, which is a mid-tier full-frame camera. (If you, like me, aren’t familiar with what “full-frame” means, check out this article for an explanation.)
One thing Glenn notes is that you have to remember if you’re “doing this for fun, or looking to make a business out of it. That will guide you.”
Rightfully so! What professional photographers consider mid-tier, most of us would find jaw-droppingly expensive. The Canon 5D Mark III retails for $4000+ (however, it looks like you can get it used from Canon for $2500). Still, that’s a hefty investment and Glenn wouldn’t recommend getting such a fancy camera when you’re starting out.
“Get a more basic camera and get really comfortable with all the settings and how to use it. Practice with composition, lighting, anything you can.”
“Really knowing how to use your camera is more important than having the best camera.” So it turns out the best camera for landscape photography is the one you’ve got (and are comfortable using). Beyond the camera body, what’s the best lens for landscape photography?
Glenn spoke highly of two lenses in particular. First, he loves the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, a telephoto lens that creates “a photo that is super sharp and super crisp. You have the opportunity to capture a lot of different types of shots all with one lens.”
Second, he found shooting with the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 to be “incredible, I couldn’t believe the dramatic scale it brought to landscape scenes.” I have to use the past tense because Glenn had to retire the Rokinon after an unfortunate drop. However, this does make for an excellent transition to my second question…
How do you keep your camera gear safe in the wild?
Despite the unfortunate drop, Glenn reassured me that he does take good care of his equipment, and he has a few strategies to pass along to us. “A backpack with a rain shell is a must. And I have a wrist strap made from paracord that I keep on whenever I’m carrying my camera.” He also carries a hand towel with him so he can shield his camera when it’s raining.
What are your top tips for taking landscape photos?
“The most fundamental aspect would be lighting and time of day. Shooting during Golden and Blue Hour is great for beginners. You get this special light through the atmosphere that really makes for great photos.”
Golden Hour, for those not familiar, is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset where the sun casts a soft, golden light on everything. Blue Hour, in contrast, is the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. Both are ideal times for photography.
A word of caution: “you want to be set up ahead of time because during Golden and Blue Hour, the lighting goes very quickly.”
Outside of those times, is it best to go hiking for landscape shots on a gorgeous, sunny day? Apparently not! “Sunny days are the most challenging days. It creates overexposure, everything is too bright and too harsh for the image.”
“When it’s completely overcast, the lighting is perfect. Or after it’s rained, when everything is saturated from the moisture. The colours, the image, everything is richer.” So the next time it rains, grab your camera and start playing around!
I next asked Glenn if he had any tips for photo composition. “I encourage people to use the rule of thirds. If the landscape is interesting, keep the horizon at the top third of the image. If your sky is interesting, move the horizon down to the bottom third. Experiment with what kinds of images that creates.”
Finally, Glenn explained that the most important component of landscape photography was, to my surprise, having a subject. “You rarely want to walk into a forest and just take a picture. You want to walk into the forest and take a photo of a sole, majestic-looking tree. Or a river winding through the forest. Or a person. Whatever it is, you need to have a subject.”
If the photographer can focus on capturing a subject, “that will revolutionize their landscape photos.”
What about bringing your photos to life on Instagram?
One thing you’ll notice when on Glenn’s Instagram is the sheer beauty of the feed itself. His feed is like a jigsaw puzzle where every photo fits perfectly in place. Obviously, I had to ask him how he achieves this.
“I decided a long time ago that I needed to have a theme. People want to know what they’re getting when they show up at your feed.” “Landscape”, it turns out, is not specific enough to be a theme itself. As Glenn puts it: “that’s like a restaurant having food as its theme. You don’t go to Chick-Fil-A for a hamburger or In-N-Out for a chicken sandwich. You go to Chick-Fil-A for chicken and In-N-Out for burgers. That’s what makes places like that wildly successful. They have a theme and they stick to it.”
Glenn explained how there are lots of different themes within “landscape” (for example, the dark and stormy Pacific Northwest feel, versus the beachy bright Malibu vibe, and many others). “Decide on what your message is, what you want your narrative to be. Then, be consistent with your editing. It needs to be complimentary. There are lots of different landscape styles out there, but you need to stick to yours.”
- You don’t need a super fancy camera to get started
- Get a rain cover and wrist strap if you’re taking your camera into the wild
- Shoot at Golden Hour, Blue Hour, overcast and after it’s been raining, NOT when it’s bright and sunny
- Consider the rule of thirds and always have a subject in your photo
- Choose a theme for Instagram, and let your editing compliment it. Stick with your theme!
If only everything could be as easy! What do you think? Let me know where you still have questions and we’ll try to fill in the gaps. And if you use any of these tips, let me know or share your photos with me. I’m super excited to try them out myself, so I’d love to hear if any of you have. All photos in this post were taken by Glenn. You can check out more of his work on his website and his Instagram page.