Some helpful hints on landscape photography (1910)
“Anyone can take landscapes,” is a remark that is often heard among people who have had only a slight knowledge of photography — and often also among those of more extended knowledge.
It is also true that anyone can take them after a fashion, but it is also true that the perfect landscape only comes once in a great while, and this is when and only when the light conditions, exposure and composition are just right.
Who is there that in looking over a large stock of negatives has not often come across a perfect beauty in that line, but alas, it is only one out of perhaps some hundreds — and it is often a puzzle to the novice why he does not get a larger percentage of these good ones.
There are many landscapes that are nearly always unsatisfactory no matter how or when they are taken, and the serious worker had better avoid them entirely, as unless he is satisfied with mere matter-of-fact photography — and a real artist seldom is — he will derive no pleasure from them.
To get the best out of any landscape, and do it constantly, not only requires thought and care and a good knowledge of composition, light and shade, etc., but careful thought in using his instrument and in making the exposure.
As a rule, an under-exposed negative is absolutely worthless, and it is better to over-expose rather than under. In working in glens or ravines, always expose for the deepest shadows and never mind the highlights. Such views, however, should never be attempted with a brilliant sun streaming through the leaves of the trees. A partly cloudy day should always be chosen if possible, and a time exposure given with the lens partially stopped down.
The use of the diaphragm in landscape work is one of the most important points to understand thoroughly in order to get the best results, and the use to which the resulting picture is to be put will largely determine this. If the negative is to be used for lantern slide or stereoscopic work, a negative that is absolutely sharp is preferable to any other; but if the camera is a large one, and used for direct views only, a much more artistic effect can be had by having only the foreground or principal subject sharp, and allowing the view to gradually fade off in the distance.
In making pictures of clouds (or of landscapes in which they occur) very fine effects can often be had by taking them against the light, but the sun, of course, should be under a cloud or obscured so that it will not shine into the lens. There are many excellent books and papers on landscape photography, but the above hints may be of more value to the worker or beginner than would a long essay on the subject.