Getting the shot: landscapes

2015 New Year Eve Firework by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“2015 New Year Eve Firework by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Hello! My name is Wilson Lam, and I work on keeping the Pandas away from Flickr. I am also a part-time landscape photographer.

I initially started shooting street photography, bringing my camera to work and taking a stroll around San Francisco during lunch and capturing the world around me. Eventually I migrated over to event photography, then engagements and weddings. All fun types of photography, but in the past few years, I found that shooting landscapes is what I love to do the most. It’s easy to pick up, but difficult to master.

Why landscape photography?

We are all surrounded by it. From the small hills in the countryside, to the big cities with well-known landmarks, landscape photography is everywhere we are. The great thing about shooting landscapes is that they are very accessible and require no appointments, make up artists, or special arrangement. You go to a place, take pictures, and then enjoy it. Simple right?

Long Exposure Sunrise over Golden Gate Bridge by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“Long Exposure Sunrise over Golden Gate Bridge by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

What does it take to make a great landscape shot?

Half of the battle of getting a great landscape shot comes from being prepared. You need the gear, but you also need to do your research on the location. Some places are better at night than during the day; some places are only open during the day. Some places are better at low tide than high tide. Some places are better in the winter than spring. How do you know what places are better? Research!

All is Quiet by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“All is Quiet by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Why don’t I see this stuff every day?

A lot of landscape photography’s joy is to being in places that few people go to and at odd hours of the day or night. I cannot count the number of times I’ve gone to a location an hour or two before a sunset waiting for the clouds in the sky to change to a fantastic vibrant color, thus missing dinner. There is a huge world around us that we dont see everyday because we are so involved in our daily activities. Try going off the beaten path, look up, down, left, and right, and find things you may have never noticed or appreciated. Check out pinned locations from other Flickr members for photos you may have overlooked and get inspired:

Light changes everything

Some landscape photographers love to shoot at different times of the day because the light, colors, and environment around a place are drastically different.

Dawn, which starts an hour before the actual sunrises, gives you some cool blueish tones. And then there is the “Golden Hour,” which happens an hour before sunset and exhibits a warm tone. And then dusk, which lasts up to an hour after sunset.

A Calm Morning by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“A Calm Morning by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Before heading out the door


Okay, lets talk about gear. Who doesn’t like camera gear? This is a small sample of what things you need to get a great shot:

  • Physical Gear
    • Camera
      • DSLR or Micro 4/3 camera or whatever you have – I’m not going to argue what camera body style or manufacturer is better. Since you probably already have a camera, stick with what you have.
      • Wide angle lens – If you have an 18mm lens, that’s a good lens to start with. Ultimately, you may want to invest in a wide angle lens like a 12-24mm. 8mm lens are a little too distorted for my taste.
      • Remote/line-in trigger or self-timer – Most cameras have a built in self-timer so you can get away with setting the timer for 5 seconds and have a good clean shot. One step better would be to get a remote trigger or line-in trigger that allows you to not shake the camera while triggering.
      • Filters – circular polarizer filters will help cut through the haze and reflection that the sky brings. A neutral density filter will give you the flexibility of masking certain bright portions of the frame and allow you take just one photo without much post-processing later on.
      • Lens cloth – you never know when you need this to wipe dust, mist, etc. from your lens. It’s always good to have a clean lens cloth handy  in case of emergency situations.
      • Bubble level – so you can be sure you are level with the horizon.
    • A sturdy tripod – This is my bread and butter when it comes to getting a great shot. Especially at night, or if you want to your pictures to stay as sharp as possible, invest in a good tripod that will support you camera and that won’t blow away or fall over in the wind. I have a heavy tripod that weighs about five pounds, and I don’t mind the added weight, as it provides me a sense of assurance.
    • Clothes
      • It goes without saying that if you are going to be outside for a few hours, you should dress appropriately. Here are some things to keep in consider
        • Layered clothing
        • Windbreaker jacket
        • Hood/hat/ski cap
        • Comfortable shoes and socks
        • Headlamp when it gets dark 
Soul Good by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“Soul Good by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Software programs to consider before you step out the door


  • Flickr Mobile App –  Don’t leave home without it!
    • Protip: I use Flickr to fave the photos and locations that I want to shoot. Then when I get  to the area, I look at my flickr faves and read the description of how the photographer shot the picture.
  • Flickr Map search
    • Great way to find some cool photo spots that other Flickr members have noted.
  • Yahoo! Maps street view
    • Gives you a handy way to virtually ‘drive’ through streets and scout locations without leaving home.
  • Flickr Groups
    • Connect with like-minded Flickr members who share similar interests.


  • The Photographer’s Ephemeris, aka TPE, (desktop app free – iOS or Android device paid).
    • A fantastic app that allows you to pinpoint where you are located and determine where the moon and sun rise and set.
Among the Starts by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“Among the Stars by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Some tips when you arrive at the location

  • Have an objective for what you are going to shoot and do your research ahead of time.
  • Look around at the scene and take in the view. Don’t quickly unpack without enjoying a few moments for yourself.
  • Don’t forget to use your bubble level. A horizon that is not straight looks strange.
  • When starting off, shoot in aperture priority. Because you are shooting on a tripod and using a remote trigger, you don’t need to worry about blurry pictures. Shoot with a high aperture like f/16 to get the most objects in focus. Also start with ISO 100 and adjust accordingly since most cameras have little to no noise at that range.
  • Use the rule of thirds for composing your image. Place the horizon and structures to make them look more visually appealing.
  • Don’t think that everything can be corrected in post production. It’s easier and way more satisfying to get the shot right in-camera than spending hours correcting it in Photoshop.
Harvest Moon Part 2 by Wilson Lam on Flickr
Wilson Lam
“Harvest Moon Part 2 by Wilson Lam on Flickr”

Post production tips

  • Shoot in RAW. This allows you to take advantage of a DSLR’s high dynamic range. JPEG compresses the image at the camera level and makes the file size smaller at the expense of losing detail and color.
  • I process in a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom. I make minor corrections for color, highlights, and shadows in Lightroom and take the majority of the work to Photoshop, since it’s my preference.
  • Make sure you clean your lens glass, recharge your batteries, clear out your memory cards, etc, so you can go on your next adventure.

I hope these tips inspire you to go out there and capture the world around you. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment that you are shooting and keep on practicing. The more you practice with your camera, the more you can focus on the scenery and making the best photos that you ever shot.

Happy shooting!

Posted By
Wilson Lam

Wilson enjoys taking pictures of landscapes and cityscapes, loves sushi and keeps the bad pandas away from Flickr.