How do I pick a good site for a captivating landscape photo? How do I pick the right spot? Time of day? Subject matter? We all have different ways of approaching these questions and getting to the answers that ultimately result in our prized images. I’ll step you through mine.

Deciding on a location

Coming from an environmental science background, something I’ve learned is that ALL environments, no matter how dull they may seem at first glance, have a great deal of beauty. I’ve found the main trick with photography is identifying that beauty and emphasising it in an image. So really, the main thing I’m looking for when scoping out a location for a landscape photography session, is the particular beauty of that location and if it’s possible to convey it in a compelling image. I don’t plan on taking ‘the’ shot the first time I visit a location; I take some test shots, look for angles, features and details that I want to capture. If the right conditions present themselves, great! If not, I try visualise what would make the image and come back when the conditions are right. Below are some photos I took on a ‘scouting visit’ for a new location….I found the beautiful casings of dragonfly nymphs under a log and noted some great landscape ‘features’ around the edge of the lake. Logs that gave a leading line into a scene, a lone tree in the water, a symmetrical inlet. I noted where they were; but the light wasn’t what I was after. I knew that the right sunset would convey the the feeling of calm that the lake gave me.

Oh, if an image doesn’t have everything you want, don’t delete it in the field! It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of post processing to bring an image alive.

Bring the right equipment

As illustrated above, sometimes you find that ‘details’ are what the landscape is giving you. Make sure to bring a range of lenses able to capture whatever the landscape is going to throw at you. I find a good wide angle lens, a macro and a telephoto normally have you covered.

From my first visit to this spot, I knew that I was login to want to smooth out the water surface, so I was sure to bring along a ND filter. I’d always have one in your bag just in case you decide that long exposure is what’s needed.

Tripod! As above.

Be patient – the right moment will come – be a ready for it

I was lucky with this spot. I got the conditions I knew would work well a few days after my first visit to the location. I checked the weather, saw what the clouds were doing and headed down to the lake that evening.

Because I’d already scoped the site, I knew exactly where I was going to set up. There was an area of lake front with great trees and logs that would make interesting foreground and mid image features.

I headed there and waited until the light and clouds lined up how I wanted them. Viola. I had the images I had imagined the first day I had visited the site!

Stop for that ‘one last photo’!

How many times has this happened to us all? Just one last photo….I always do it. It’s a few minutes, but you never know what you may get. For a sunset landscape session, I’ll typically keep shooting right up to nightfall. The light is subtly changing every moment….

Here is my ‘one last photo’….it’s one of my favourites. The calm and beauty of the lake captured in the final moments of the day.

Tips by Leigh Mitchell

Be on the lookout for beauty folks. You may not find it everywhere, but the more you look, the more you’ll find it. When you do, figure out how you’re going to tell the world about it through an image. Even if you don’t get that perfect image, you’ve probably experienced something profound that will make you all the happier.

If you’re interested in seeing more of my work, visit my website at: – thanks for reading!'

Posted by Leigh Mitchell

Environmental Scientist turned professional photographer. Once you open your eyes to the little things in life, it's hard to stay anything but in awe.

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