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  • Rach Stewart


Mackenzie sunrise, Twizel, New Zealand

When I first started out in photography, I had only ever used a point and shoot camera, or taken a few snaps on my iphone. I had always loved taking photos on my travels, but never really knew anything more than pushing the button and documenting a moment that meant something to me. Music was my main first love, followed closely by art and of course surfing (I've grown up by the ocean)!

West Coast, New Zealand

I had never dreamed of becoming a photographer, I didn't really know it was in me. It was only when I started using my iphone while walking down the beach at sunset that I realised how much I loved this world and wanted to showcase how incredibly beautiful it is. It has been a steep learning curve, but one I have enjoyed every step of the way.

Roys Peak Sunrise, New Zealand

So I thought I would share some of tips that helped me on my journey, and 'rules' I still live by today whenever taking a photo. Hope you enjoy, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

The Road to Mount Cook, New Zealand

Tip 1: Composition Research

We have all seen those amazing shots that have the perfect composition, the perfect angle .. the ones that make us want to go to that exact same place and have a go at it ourselves. I think it is also important to try to go to these places with the intention of composing something ‘new’ also. Depending on where you are going, try to do a bit of research on what the place looks like, what compositions are available. A lot of this can be done through google earth, searching images on line. All to often it can look different when you arrive, and conditions play a big part in that. But .. always better to be a bit prepared and know what possibilities there could be! If you don't get it the first time, come back and try again :)

Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Tip 2: Focal Point

Most of the time landscape shots have a main focal point or subject that stands out in the image. It could be a mountain, boulder, person, tree .. It is important to have somewhere in your shot where the viewer can stop and look. When composing a shot, bear this in mind and start from that point. The rest of the image will come together after that point.

Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Tip 3: Foreground

Detailed foreground in a landscape image can make all the difference. It gives the viewer a starting point, and draws them into the image. I try to search for foreground when shooting a landscape image wherever possible. Sometimes it doesnt always work, but if you can make it work in an image it's always a bonus.

Good foreground could be some nice boulders, flowers, grass, dead trees, logs, tussocks, anything that you think looks appropriate in the frame and has some nice detail.

Twizel Hoar Frost, New Zealand

Tip 4: Focus and Depth of Field

With landscape photography it is super important to make sure you focus your lens and choose a depth of field that is going to ensure the whole shot is clear and in focus. Choosing a smaller aperture will give you a greater depth of field. You can do some research online to see what aperture your lens is at its sharpest point, but experimenting is always a good thing too!

Lake Kirkpatrick, New Zealand

Tip 5: Rule of Thirds

This is the most common rule that I think you will find most photographers use at some point (or all the time). Using the rule of thirds method can help in the creation of an awesome landscape image. Imagine the frame is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, creating four points where the lines meet. Aligning your focal point or main subject on these intersections creates a well balanced image.

Lake Kirkpatrict, New Zealand

Tip 6: Histogram

This tip is probably known to most or all photographers, but I think it is one of the most important. I typically use the histogram graph to help with exposure and tonal information in a picture. It is the most honest tool you can use to try and get the best shot you want right from the beginning.

Lake Hayes sunset, New Zealand

When you are out in the field, always try and take a test shot, and always check your histogram.

If it is spiking to the left, it means your shot is possibly under exposed. If it is spiking to the right, your shot may be over exposed.

An evenly distributed histogram with no spikes on either end is what you really want to see.

Tip 7: Golden Hour

To me, golden and blue hours can be some of the best times to shoot a landscape. The light is always a lot softer and less harsh during golden hour, and can create some stunning patterns on mountains, water, trees. During blue hour, lingering colour from a sunset or sunrise can create beautiful hues throughout an image and really bring out the scene.

Mount Taranaki, New Zealand

Do some research as to which golden hour is the best for a certain spot eg. sunrise or sunset. The light will be different depending on where the sun is rising and setting.

These are my favourite times to shoot and I rarely take photos outside of these times.

Tip 8: Gear

Using a tripod and filters to capture movement:

Muriwai Gannet Colony, New Zealand

When shooting landscapes, a lot of the time you will be shooting in golden hour and in those times just before and after, meaning a lot of low light and slower shutter speeds. A tripod is essential to avoid blurring your image with movement and/or camera shake.

The use of an ND filter to capture cloud and water movement can dramatically enhance a landscape shot, and if this is something you are considering using, a tripod is mandatory. Neutral Density (ND) filters are pieces of glass/resin that either screw or slide over your lens to reduce the amount of light coming in, allowing for a longer exposure time.

Lake Tarawera sunrise, New Zealand

I am an authorised seller of Nisi Filters Australia and I am more than happy to help you with any information and/or filter requirements. Just drop me an email or visit my Nisi store here

Tip 9: Weather Research

The weather .. the one thing we just can not control. We can plan photo trips and excursions well in advance, but if the weather isn’t going to play ball there is not much we can do about it. It does pay to be prepared though and to make sure you know what the weather is doing before heading to a location.

Mount Cook, New Zealand

A few of the sites I use and rely most of my photo adventures on are: (for New Zealand)

Tip 10: Does this make a good photo?

Just a bit of advice I once read: 'Not every scene makes a good photo'. I don't know why, but it's something that I ask myself every time I am taking photos. I read this right at the beginning of my photography journey, and its something I live by.

The Pinnacles, Coromandel, New Zealand

Thanks everyone for reading! Would love to hear your thoughts if you have any.

Photography Workshops

I have teamed up with two of New Zealand's most amazing landscape photographers, Daniel Murray and Lee Cook, to form | New Zealand Photography Tours and Adventures.

Please check out our website! We are about to release our two Autumn Tours for 2018 and have plans for more throughout the year.

Our Spring 2017 tour sold out within 2 hours so make sure to register your interest for any future tours to receive advanced warning of bookings going live.

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