FINE ART ATELIER: 12 |Camel Rock

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Many of the best landscape photographs take time. Rather than being lucky to be in the right place at the right time, successful landscape photographers tend to wait around, watching the weather or planning when things will look their best. And when on location, the time spent observing, waiting and shooting can be very worthwhile. In this photo of Camel Rock, three exposures taken during a one hour shoot with the camera locked off on a tripod were combined to create the finished result you see here.


FINE ART ATELIER: 12 | Great Barrier Reef

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For eight years, David Oliver and I ran a workshop with Bruce Pottinger up at Hamilton Island. And some years, weather permitting, we took a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, around two hours away by boat. Out at the reef we are met by a helicopter and the group gets to take a spin over the reef, looking down through the shallow waters at the amazing colours and patterns. 

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. Two quite separate processes are involved: that of pre-visualising the image, and that of rendering it in Photoshop.


KNOWLEDGE: 12 | How To Shoot Aerial Landscapes

Whether you're on a landscape shoot, a holiday or a tour, one great way to really get a feel for your surroundings is to take to the air. Many locations have small airports, and small airports usually mean light planes and even helicopters.

Of course, this doesn't always hold true. On a job in Kokopo, PNG, I was thinking the local airport could get me aloft for a shoot of the nearby volcano, but what I didn't realise was I'd also have to pay for the helicopter to first fly all the way from Port Moresby, several hours away! If the airport is too small, your options can be limited. The Kokopo quote of $6000 was gently declined.

And I guess this is the main problem with aerial photography – the expense. It can cost from $100 to $2000 to get aloft, and generally the cost will indicate what your opportunities will be.

Often a cheap flight will get you airborne, but you might not have a window seat and even if you do, the window might not be open and could be dirty or scratched. Not ideal shooting conditions and not worth the money for photography (but you could enjoy the flight anyway).

If shooting professionally, you always shoot out a window or take the door off, never through glass. Obviously there are exceptions, but you don't want the reflections off the glass or the dirt and scratches on the outside to degrade image quality. Even worse can be the glass tinting.

Pilots don’t always offer to take the door off. There are many reasons. Sometimes the door is genuinely difficult to remove and re-attach. Sometimes the pilots are just lazy. Negotiate the door removal before committing yourself to a flight as it can be harder to do so just when you're taking off. And if flying with a number of people, negotiate who will sit where.


Helicopters are probably the best platforms for aerial photography because they are so easy to position and you can stay in the one spot for as long as needed (or as long as your budget allows).

With the door off, you'll be strapped in and quite safe. Remove all loose items that can flap around or be blown off (your pilot will check you over anyway), and ensure you have a camera strap. The strap should be either around your neck or (more tightly) around your wrist.

For shorter flights, it's best to have the camera or cameras with you ready with the right lenses already attached. You don’t want to spend time changing lenses (apart from the problem of dust entering the camera), and nor do you want to be ratting around in your gadget bag looking for something.

Ensure you have fully charged batteries and empty memory cards. Lenses from ultra wide-angles to moderate telephotos (up to 200mm) are great, but will give you quite different perspectives. There is no right or wrong lens, but a standard zoom is just fine.

When shooting from a chopper, the naked eye might not see the rotors, but when the photos come back, they will be easy to see in the top of your frame. Sometimes the solution is to crop during post-production, but if you keep this in mind, you can compose your images better by keeping the camera pointed down a little. And if you do need a view which includes the sky where the rotors are, the pilot can tilt the aircraft to the side so you can shoot unimpeded. This is where the headphones will come in useful, allowing you to communicate with your pilot.

Don't assume your pilot knows what you want to photograph, but many pilots seem quite experienced when it comes to getting photographers into position. And don't be afraid to ask them for their advice – they could have been trained by very experienced professional photographers.


There are lots of light planes that will get you aloft and they are generally much less expensive than helicopters. However, planes travel more quickly and are less manoeuvrable. You need to look ahead and plan where you want to take the photograph. If you miss the shot, it can take a long time for the plane to circle around and do it again. This isn't impossible, it's just it takes a little more experience and practice.

Once again, it's important to keep your camera inside the plane so the outside wind doesn’t buffet and shake you. Similarly, leaning against the plane for support may transmit vibrations.

Planes come in many configurations. As photographers, you want to be sure that your view from your seat is unimpeded, so this generally means an 'over wing' plane, where the wings are above you. If the wings are below you the pilot can tilt the aircraft, but it isn't at all optimum (and may actually be useless).

Generally you're photographing looking forwards, but not always. Some planes have oddly positioned windows and you find yourself shooting backwards. Take a look at what you're photographing and see where the light is coming from because this might change the direction of your flight (clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, for example).


Balloons are excellent platforms for photography. They are stable, you're ensured of a front row seat (standing position) and you have plenty of time to take photographs as you drift by.

However, balloons are not as manoeuvrable as other craft and you can be at the mercy of the wind. On a flight over Cappadocia in Turkey, the wind at take-off had us heading in the right direction, but changed shortly after lift-off and so we didn't get to see the landscape we had hoped for. However, what we saw was interesting in other ways – it's hard to go wrong when you're taking a flight.

One advantage of shooting from a balloon is that you're almost always lifting off in the early morning, well before sunrise. The light can be absolutely magical at this time of day.

Camera Settings

Even from a balloon, it's important to keep your shutter speeds up. From a balloon, a speed of at least 1/250 second seems to be necessary as your speed can be deceptively quick. From a plane or a helicopter, you need at least 1/1500 second, but I prefer to shoot at 1/2000 or even 1/4000 if possible.

From the air you don't need great depth-of-field as your subject is invariably a long way down, so any aperture will work. (Refer to the article on apertures in MasterClass 3.)

And with modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras, you can shoot at ISO 400, 800 and even 1600 without a care in the world. I shoot in aperture priority mode, set my aperture generally one stop down from widest, and then adjust my ISO until my shutter speeds are fast enough.

Shooting Through Glass

If you do have to shoot through glass, or you're on a commercial flight and just want to shoot out the window, what can you do? Try to pick a clean window if you can. This is rarely possible.

Turn off the lights around you as much as possible, so the reflections of you and your camera are minimised. Wear dark, preferably black clothing to minimise reflections, but a balaclava is probably unnecessary! If you have a lens hood, put it on as this will limit reflections on the area of glass through which you will shoot.

Depending on the plane, don't let the lens hood (or your lens if you don't have a lens hood on) touch the window. Some of the large planes may be vibration free (rarely so), but smaller craft will invariably transmit lots of vibrations which in turn create camera shake and blurred images. Sometimes you can wedge your fingers between the glass and the lens hood and this can provide sufficient padding to eliminate vibration.


If shooting over water (the sea, harbours, lakes), you can get unwanted reflections, so a polarising filter can be helpful. The polariser will reduce your exposure by one to two stops (EV) and although your camera will automatically adjust the exposure for you, what you'll find is that your shutter speeds can be slower. It's probably not the ideal filter for the pre-dawn balloon ride, but can be great for a midday flight over the Great Barrier Reef.


POST PRODUCTION: 12 | Making Selections in Photoshop

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How do you make a selection? If you wanted to change the colour of the sky, how would you cut out the monument? The top part is pretty easy, but what about down the bottom around all the rubble? There are few short cuts for perfect selections and masks, but there are some ways to speed it up!



LOCATION SURVEY: 12 | Ani, Eastern Turkey

Tucked away in the east of Turkey, right on the Armenian border, lies the ruined city of Ani. Positioned on a peninsula of land with deep gorges on three sides, strongly reinforced city walls bar entrance to an area of land a couple of square kilometres inside.

In its prime, Ani was home to thousands of people, so many that there were around a dozen churches and buildings of worship to service them. Today, all that is left are the skeletons of these churches and the foundations of the commoners' dwellings. Long grasses cover most of the site, cows graze contentedly, and access is only during official hours for tourists.

We arrived around 8.00 a.m., not early enough for the perfect sunrise light. Our guide Mehmet had arranged earlier access than normal, but it's hard to get the site staff out of bed! So my first photos were probably the best in terms of lighting, the enigmatic Church of the Redeemer, originally built in 1036. Only half of it remains, the other half a pile of rubble, yet even today the workmanship and craft in the architecture is breathtaking.

In the distance we could see several other ruins, perhaps a kilometre away, but Mehmet had suggested looking for another church down on the side of the gorge that you might otherwise miss.

As usual, Mehmet was on the money, even if the light had become increasingly harsh. The bald blue skies were just what the travel brochures ordered, but I couldn't help feeling that some dark stormy skies would be much more appropriate backdrops.

The Turkey photography tour I was leading had excellent weather for most of the three weeks, even if it was a little on the hot side. As the sun rose, I found myself seeking the cool interiors of the churches. It's quite amazing how much access you have to these monuments. You can walk right up to frescoes that are over 1000 years old, although to be fair, most buildings are also covered in a range of Turkish, Armenian and Russian graffiti. This part of Turkey has been greatly contested over the past 2,000 years.

From down the path looking back, the church was amazing, if only the light were better. I wandered past the church and down the hill a little further, to see what it was like looking back. The photos shown here are all in colour, but I am thinking a contrasty black and white treatment, perhaps with a colour tone will work better.

I wandered further, past the largest edifice, the Cathedral of Ani. I really liked the shape of this simple building, so again realising the limitations of the light, I walked around the building until I could put one of the facades into shadow. I think it will work.

A little further along is the Menucehr Mosque with its wonderful arches looking out over the gorge and up to the Maidens Castle. It was hardly visible in the harsh light and I wondered if I could get around to shoot it a little closer and from a different angle.

The paths around the site are well sign-posted, so I set off for the Maidens Castle. A sign at a fork in the path indicated the way I should go, but around 50 metres later there was another sign saying I was entering a sensitive military zone and should go no further.

I stopped and looked at the sign. It looked really old and I wondered if it was part of the 'relics' left when the Russians were here. I looked around and I could see more general signs further along, pointing out what the particular sites were, and below me a long stone and metal fence at the bottom of the gorge indicated that the entire site was fenced in. So, on this basis, I continued on and after passing a few more general signs, satisfied myself that access wasn’t prohibited. I mean, if you weren't allow out here, why would there be all these signs?

The path became a little unclear, but I wound my way around the mound of the Citadel and along the far edge. In front of me, the peninsula thinned and lead out to an isthmus of land on which the Maiden's Castle stood. It was too far to walk and I couldn't see a path, but my vantage point was perfect for a few photos.

Tripods are not allowed in many Turkish sites, or should I say, they are not allowed unless you pay a significant fee. There was nothing around on which to rest my camera, so I sat down among the cow dung and thistles and supported my 300mm lens on my knee. I took lots of insurance shots, hoping at least a few of them would be tack sharp.

However, I needn't have bothered because around 100 metres down the hill, there was a small shrine and inside a few stones on which I could rest my camera and get the angle I needed.

I'm not sure how long I stayed out on the promontory, maybe half an hour of more, but the detour probably took around an hour by the time I walked back via the top of the Citadel. From here I could see the city walls and the whole site laid out – not particularly photogenic, but interesting to put the site into perspective.

It was pretty hot and by the time I returned, most of the group was sitting in the shade of the walls, having a Turkish tea. Mehmet had befriended the site security and arranged for a quick trip to the top of the city wall, another place I'd like to return when the light is better.

When I explained where I had been, Mehmet asked if I had seen the signs warning that the Citadel and beyond was out of bounds? I said I didn't hear anyone shooting at me, so I figured I was okay!

Ani is an amazing location. It's not straightforward to visit because from Istanbul it's at least a flight and a car or bus ride. The closest decent accommodation is in Kars (we stayed in an old Russian military headquarters that had been converted into a boutique hotel – just great!).

Suffice to say, I'm looking forward to working further on these images – and to returning in a few years to photograph it again, hopefully with stormy skies, or perhaps snow on the ground!


PHOTO ADVICE: 12 | Critique Session

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During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 12 | The Landscape Photographers's Paperwork

The Paperwork

Depending on what section of the market you're appealing to, there's some paperwork you need to consider when selling landscape prints: print labels, certificates of authenticity, artist statements and a print register.

On Display

When you exhibit photographs, people like to know what the photographs are about. It's a bit like looking through a book of photographs. Without captions explaining who, where, when or what the photograph is about, the experience can be less involving.

Providing a brief description or story with your prints can help the people viewing them better relate to the images.

In many galleries you'll find small print cards below the print. You'll definitely have seen them in public art galleries and museums. The cards don't need to be lavish affairs, but they should be nicely designed and well presented. Often you can mount them on backing board and then Bluetac them below the frame.

In Peter Lik's galleries a few years ago (but he has since redesigned this aspect), each print had a hand-written caption and I can remember some prints had information like the shutter speed and aperture used. Often photographers in the USA (like Peter Lik and Rodney Lough Jr) use the camera equipment they use as part of the marketing. Rodney Lough Jr even has an 8x10 wooden camera on display, ostensibly the one he uses in the field (although more likely to be a similar model dressed up for display purposes). Of course these days, the camera to push is the 150MP Phase One.

To see a sample set of print cards, click here.

Print Register

If you're selling limited edition prints, how are you going to keep track of your sales? The answer is a print register.

A print register doesn't need to be sexy and it doesn't need to be viewed by the public. However, you do need to keep one in which all the relevant information is stored. It can be an accounts-style book with lots of columns, a series of printed pages with holes punched for a binder, or a computer database.

The minimum information you'll require for each print edition is:

  • Register number or code (e.g. A123)
  • Print Title (e.g. Kinloch Mooring, New Zealand)
  • (Optional) Date photograph taken
  • Number of Prints in Edition (e.g. 100)
  • (Optional) Print description or caption
  • (Optional) Technical information
  • (Optional) Printing instructions, storage details etc

This information might sit on the top of the page. Then below you can have a series of lines or boxes where you can record your sales with the following information.

  • Print Number in Edition (e.g. No. 5 of 100)
  • Print Registration Number (optional – e.g. A123-005)
  • Date Sold
  • Name of Purchaser
  • Address of Purchaser
  • Email address of Purchaser
  • (Optional) Size of Print
  • (Optional) Print media (e.g. pigment ink on cotton rag)
  • (Optional) Framed or unframed
  • (Optional) Price paid

The design of your print register will depend on how you sell your prints. If your edition is of only one size, then the size and print media information might appear in the heading section as there's not much point repeating it every time a sale is made. On the other hand, if your editions include a choice of sizes, keeping a record of the size is important so you know what has been sold.

Photographers like Peter Lik and Ken Duncan have a registered number or code for each print sold. It could be a combination of the print code and the number in the edition. This number is also recorded on the certificate of authenticity.

Order Form

Assuming you have made a sale, you'll need an order form, which can double as a record of the sale. Sometimes you will need to make up the print (if the sale is of a print already sold to someone else or off the internet). The information on the order form can also be transferred to the print register (discussed above).

The information on the order form is relatively straightforward as well, but includes

  • Your name, address and contact details
  • Your business registration details if applicable (an ABN in Australia)
  • Date of sale
  • What was sold
  • Who it was sold to
  • Their contact details
  • Payment details – you may need to collect credit card information as well
  • Delivery details – this might say the print was taken at the time of purchase
  • Other details.

Larger businesses might have an order form which the salesperson writes out, a production form which is given to the framer or printer to make the product, and a receipt which is given to the client. In the end, the paperwork is up to you and your accountant.

To see a sample order form for a small scale business, click here.

Certificate of Authenticity

When the client takes the print away, how do they know they have an original print? The obvious answer is to sign, date, title and number every print. We should be doing this on the front of the print, or possibly on the back, but not on the matte which goes over the print as this could be separated from the print in the future.

We must always sign the print - this is what our clients are paying for!

An additional option is to provide a certificate of authenticity. The certificate really doesn't do anything more than the signed print, but it adds a degree of 'officialdom' to the transaction.

To view a sample certificate of authenticity, click here.

As you can see, the certificate is relatively simple in its nature, stating that the print is an original, its title, its edition number and the total number in the edition. You can also provide details about how the edition works and even some advice on storage of the print.

Some photographers add an embossed stamp or even a hologram to make their certificates look really smart and official. A certificate of authenticity is an easy way to add to the perceived value of the transaction and it works very well in a retail environment, but it might not be needed (and indeed could be shunned) in some high end art markets.

No doubt this is one of the most riveting articles you have read in the Landscape Photography MasterClass, but if you're doing photography professionally, that's the reality!