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Please feel free to browse the articles and view the movies in this Sample Landscape Photography MasterClass. For more information about the MasterClass, click on the About The Better Photography MasterClasses under the MasterClass link at the top of the page. Remember, when you join the MasterClass, you have a lifetime subscription.

FINE ART: Pilbara Storm is a photograph of an amazing storm shot during the wet season in Australia's north-west. The movie shows a series of images taken in the area, then discusses how the landscape was finessed in Photoshop.

CRITIQUE: MasterClass members submit images to Peter Eastway and a selection of image is made each month to be critiqued. The feedback is anonymous. This movie provides 'real world' examples and shows how to deal with issues and think about landscapes in different ways.

KNOWLEDGE: What aperture is best for landscapes. Many people will suggest the smallest aperture gives the greatest depth-of-field, but does it produce the sharpest images?

POST-PRODUCTION: Lightening and darkening your images using a 50% grey layer in soft light mode with a brush has never been easier - once you set it up. This movie shows you one of the techniques Peter Eastway employs.

JOURNEY: An article discussing a location to consider for future landscape photography expeditions. This article covers central Italy.

ACUMEN: Everyone would like to sell a photo or two! If you do, you want to be sure your photograph is going to last, so what makes an archival photograph?

Click on any of the links below to sample the Landscape Photography MasterClass material.

KNOWLEDGE: Archival Landscape Prints [Article]

LANDSCAPE MASTERCLASS:11 | KNOWLEDGE

How long will your prints last? It might surprise you to know that many prints produced with conventional film and chemical processing had a relatively limited life, from 15 to 30 years. Even Ilfochrome (originally called Cibachrome) had a pretty short life (17 years according to some experts), despite advertising claiming the prints lasted 100 or even 200 years.

 
Yet Ilfochrome was once the paper of choice for landscape photographers. It allowed you to print directly from transparencies (a positive to positive process), it had a high gloss finish and it produced rich, luxurious colours and tones.
 
But it doesn't last a lifetime if it is hung in a home or office for all to see. It fades.
 
All prints fade and when inkjet printing first arrived, inkjet prints faded in as little as two months! However, the original inkjet prints were only designed to be used as 'proofs', not final artworks.
 
Inkjet printing matured along with digital photography and one unfair expectation placed on inkjet printing was for inkjet prints to last a lifetime, even though the existing chemical prints didn't. Today, inkjet prints made with high quality inks and paper can last one hundred to several hundred years. Digital photography and printing now eclipse film and chemical printing in every way. Even black and white prints which are touted as being 'archival' will last longer as inkjet prints.
 
Nevertheless, photographers continue to sell prints made on chemical prints (Ken Duncan and Peter Lik, for instance). The chemical paper chosen by most landscape photographers today appears to be Fujifilm which has an incredible gloss and great colour. It is also claimed to have a life of 60 to 80 years which, while not as good as an inkjet print, is more than enough for the people buying the print for a 'lifetime'.
 

Your Materials

 
There are three main elements to a print, assuming it is framed: the print itself, the matte behind which the print is presented, and the frame.
 
When producing the print, it's essential to use the best quality materials and processing. If having a chemical print made by a lab, you want to ensure it has been processed and washed properly with fresh solutions and sufficient water (depending on the process of course). For an inkjet printer, you should use pigment-based inks on archival quality paper.
 
Personally, I use the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 with Ultrachrome HDR pigment inks. I print on either Epson or Canson papers – including Epson Watercolor Radiant White and Canson Photographique.
 
Assuming you're selling the matte and frame as well, ensure you use acid-free materials. These will be more expensive, but it means you're less likely to have discolouring as the print gets older – the print can give off chemicals which can react with poor quality matte boards, and atmospheric pollutants and mould can also thrive.
 
Generally speaking, use a white or a black matte for a simple and elegant presentation. While coloured mattes can work, generally they don't!
 
Finally, you need a smart, good quality frame. Don't skimp on the frame because this is the packaging that can really give your print a lift. An ornate gold frame with floral corners isn't necessarily a good idea as you don’t want the frame to overpower the print either! However, rules are made to be broken and we'll leave the fine art of matching frames with prints for another time.
 

Display Conditions

 
Ken Duncan is keenly aware of the issues of longevity, some of which are quite surprising.
 
“Around ten years ago, a client returned a print that was 15 years old. It was a Cibachrome and it had a milky haze all over it. We were perplexed, so we sent the print off to Ciba Geigy and its lab did an analysis. The result? The milky haze was a combination of human skin, cooking oils, salt spray and carbon monoxide. We discovered that the print was hung in a house near a road by the sea – and not too far from the kitchen! The question was, how could this happen when the print was framed and taped behind glass!”
 
Explained Ken, a framed print creates convection currents inside. The largest cavity in a framed print is the space above the print and it is from here that air is ‘inhaled and exhaled’ – along with a myriad of airborne pollutants. People have been aware of mould and mildew growing on prints in humid conditions, but household factors are equally problematic.
 
“Surface deposits are the main cause of print degradation. Everyone talks about ‘archival’ life and how long a print will last before fading, but this is just one part of the problem.
 
“People don’t want to buy photographs that have to be stored in a safe and pulled out with white gloves to view. They want something they can enjoy and so this is why we came up with Archival Gold.”
 
Archival Gold is a mounting process developed by Ken, starting with a specially treated aluminium base which, along with the print, is enveloped in a special Mylar coating.
 
“The print is completely sealed and any surface deposits can be easily wiped off with a special cloth.”
 
Ken says the process is suitable for both conventional photographic prints and inkjet media. “You can’t leave inkjet prints unprotected because they are like giant blotters which, over time, can be destroyed by humidity and surface deposits.” The image itself might still be there, but to see it clearly you have to remove the surface deposits and this can’t be done without damaging the image itself, Ken added.
 
“I now offer Archival Gold as an option. When clients come in, we explain that this is the best we can produce with the technology available. The difference in pricing is probably a couple of hundred dollars, depending on size, but it’s not a lot when you’re spending $1000 for the print. It’s a way to future protect the investment.”
 
So, can you offer prints without this level of archival protection? “Of course. It’s up to the market to choose what it requires, but by offering options like this you’re showing a professional attitude to your art work.
 
“If you’re selling inkjet prints, at the very least I believe you should spray them”, said Ken, referring to a protective overcoat spray that can be applied to inket prints. “The spray needs to be applied in three directions to ensure proper protection, bonding the ink to the paper and preventing paper fibres from coming off.”
 
For framing, Ken offers a variety of moulds and colours, but instead of glass likes to use Shinkalite, a high quality optical acrylic. It’s not cheap, he says, but it’s light (so he can ship large prints all around the world and they will arrive in one piece) and it’s beautiful to look through.
 
“The good thing about acrylic is it has 95 percent UV protection, so added to Archival Gold, it’s doing the best job possible to ensure a print lasts. I want my prints to be around long after I’m gone.”
 
In terms of archival mounting, Ken thinks the idea of floating or hinging prints under a window matt is unsuitable for his type – and size – of work. “You simply can’t hinge mount large pictures because you’ll end up with big ripples in the surface which look revolting when hung on a wall. Hinge mounting might be suitable for small black and whites, but it doesn’t work for large prints.
 
“And hinge mounting doesn’t deal with the problem of surface deposits. Galleries ask for mounts that will survive in museum conditions, but this doesn’t mean they are suitable for real-world displays. It’s interesting to think the valuable Hockney prints made on RA4 paper will only last 20 years. This isn’t particularly archival and I think photographers need to tell the galleries what’s required."
 

KNOWLEDGE:- What Is The Best Aperture To Use? [Article]

LANDSCAPE MASTERCLASS:03 | KNOWLEDGE

Optimum Apertures

As we all know, not all lenses are made equally. There are some good and not so good lenses in most lens ranges, and some types and brands of lenses are generally better than others.

For instance, the 'large format' lenses made by Schneider and Rodenstock are generally considered to be the 'sharpest' lenses made. In terms of clarity and resolution from corner to corner, nothing comes close in the wide-angle range, but the competition is closer with telephoto lenses.

Next in clarity are the medium format lenses (the new digital designs), followed by a bevy of DSLR lenses. In fact, it's interesting to note some old 'German' names and lens designs being championed by some of the Japanese DSLR manufacturers. Certainly these lenses are extremely good, based on what I have seen.

At the bottom of the pack are the consumer and kit lenses, lenses which are manufactured to a price.

The Importance of Aperture

However, it is interesting that in some situations even an inexpensive kit lens can compete with an expensive professional model.

So what are those situations?

When we look at lens performance, there are many aspects to consider, including distortions, flare, colour and contrast. The latter has a lot to do with how 'sharp' we think the lens is, but of course sharpness also has to do with the lens's resolving power. When it comes to resolving power (the ability to create a clear, sharply focused image), there are two issues to consider.

First, is the image quality as good near the edges and in the corners as it is in the middle of the image?

Second, at what aperture is lens performance at its best? As well as controlling exposure and depth-of-field, apertures have an impact on the image quality produced by the lens.

So, in some situations a kit lens can possibly match a more expensive lens because at mid-apertures and in the centre of the image, it is relatively easy to produce a clear, sharp image. Problems arise, however, once you look at the edges of the image and when you use wider or narrower apertures.

When you use the maximum aperture available (such as f2.8), the image is being recorded by all the glass in the lens elements. When you use a smaller aperture, you're only using the middle area of the lens elements. It is easier, I am told, to make a small lens element optically perfect than a large lens element, and similarly, it is easier to get the middle area of each lens element perfect than it is the areas around the sides. Now you understand one of the reasons that lens quality suffers towards the edges of your frame.

However, modern lens design is pretty good and another reason the edges of your photos can appear blurred is field curvature. In a perfect world, the lens focuses the image in a flat plane, but the natural tendency of many optical designs is to focus to a slightly curved plane, which doesn't work so well with a perfectly flat sensor. It isn't such an issue with film because film had a somewhat three-dimensional quality (i.e. the thickness of the emulsion) which could hide some field curvature issues.

Depth-of-field (and depth-of-focus which is similar except it happens at the sensor plane) can also hide some of these issues, but depth-of-field itself doesn't really correct the focus. Simplistically speaking, depth-of-field means the human eye can't see the lack of focus for a given enlargement size.

So, every time you attach your lens and choose an aperture, there are a whole lot of issues swinging around that are going to affect the quality of your capture and, given we generally want the landscape to have has much detail as possible, it's important we know what to do.

Optimum Aperture

With a wide-open aperture, it is difficult to make a landscape appear in focus from foreground to background. It is also difficult for the lens designer to produce perfect image quality from centre to edge. So generally speaking, we don't use the widest aperture.

Some landscape photographers automatically go to the other end of the aperture scale, selecting f22 or f32 (or f45 or f64 with large format). This, they correctly believe, produces the greatest amount of depth-of-field. Unfortunately, when the aperture is really small, the light waves diffract around the iris blades as they pass through the aperture and you get a loss of clarity in the image. So while depth-of-field improves, image sharpness overall decreases.

Somewhere in the middle of your aperture range you are most likely to find the 'optimum' aperture, the point where the image is clearest and sharpest from one edge to the other. The aperture will be different for every lens, sometimes even within the same focal length and model.

I use a Mamiya 300mm f4.5 APO lens, but I only use it at f8. At any other aperture, it just isn't as sharp. Other lenses I can't tell the difference in quality between f5.6 up to f16, so I have a choice of apertures that I can use.

Does this mean I never shoot with my lenses at the other apertures? No. I'm talking about the ultimate in quality, so a photograph of horse jumping might not need the same level of quality as a classic landscape, especially for a smaller enlargement. We need to keep things in perspective.

However, as landscape photographers, we also need how to achieve the optimum image clarity when we need to, even if sometimes it is not possible to do so. Sometimes I know the 300mm needs to be set at f8, but I will shoot at f4.5 simply because I need a faster shutter speed to freeze the action (e.g. wind in the trees).

Testing Your Lens

The beauty of digital photography is that it is very easy to test your lenses. Pick a subject at a distance, with a strong pattern design. A city skyline or a row of houses is good. Set your camera up with a sturdy tripod, lock the mirror up and use a cable release to fire the shutter. If you don't have a mirror lock-up facility on your camera, make sure you're shooting in bright light so the shutter speeds are always 1/60 second or faster (because mirror bounce can impact the sharpness of your image even more than the aperture you select).

Shoot at each aperture, then open the files on your computer. If you process your raw files out, make sure you apply the same amount of sharpening to all of them. Now compare the images taken at different apertures at 100% on your screen. If you're struggling to see any difference, then you have a great lens (assuming the images are clear and sharp).

Now compare lens performance in the centre with the edges. To check this photograph a subject with it positioned in the middle of the viewfinder, and then again with it positioned at the edge of the viewfinder or in a corner. When you compare the two files (making sure they were taken at the same aperture this time), you will normally see the subject from the middle of the frame is much clearer. Again, if you don't see much difference, you have a very good lens. Repeat this exercise for each aperture and you will begin to understand your lens a lot better.

Keep a note of the best aperture or apertures. Now you know how to optimise image quality using the aperture.

FINE ART: Pilbara Storm [Movie]

LANDSCAPE MASTERCLASS: 06 | fine art GALLERY

 

The Pilbara lies in the north west of Australia and in summer it is hot and humid, perfect conditions for generating local thunderstorms. On our way to Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia, we skirted around an amazing storm - lightning, thunder and willy-willies. It produced an amazing image.

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.

JOURNEY: Favourite Places In Italy (Part I) [Article]

LANDSCAPE MASTERCLASS:04 | LOCATION SURVEY

Tuscany & Umbria

 

La Gataia Farmhouse, near Volterra


There's much to love about Italy. I think first and foremost is the food. Or is it the wine? The coffee? The atmosphere? The zest for life? The sense of history?

As an Australian whose country dates back just a little over two centuries, visiting countries in Europe whose towns and buildings go back thousands of years is an extraordinary thrill. The landscape cannot hide the marks of civilisation and I really enjoy including 'the mark of man' in my compositions. In some ways the landscape becomes an 'urban landscape', so the classical landscape composition with a mountain and sky is complimented by a building or a road.

It is interesting how we as 21st century people gravitate to the past, whether photographers or just tourists. We want to see the old, the authentic, but we still want the modern conveniences. Italy gives you this, as do other countries in Europe, but only as the Italians can.

Logisitics

I've travelled through Italy by train and by car, but for photography I think car is the only way (or perhaps a guided photography tour as long as you're guaranteed an understanding driver). There are so many small country roads that weave in and out of valleys, farms and hill towns that you risk missing out on most of the best destinations if you rely on the trains.

The vineyards around San Gimignano are a delight in the early morning mist.

There are plenty of hotels to stay in and this is probably the most sensible approach for a quick tour of Tuscany or Umbria. However, in summer you would be prudent to map out your trip before you leave and book the accommodation in advance. Out of season it's a different matter, assuming the hotels remain open (many close for winter).

The downside of tripping from one hotel to the next without a booking is that you can be looking for a bed when you should be out looking for the light. And because everything is so close, I find it good to stay in a hotel or apartment for several days and use it as a base. As long the area I want to shoot isn't more than an hour away, I find this easier than picking up stumps every morning. And if you’re there in winter, then sunrise and sunset are at very civilised hours. After all, many Italian restaurants don't get going until 10 pm at night, so there's plenty of time for driving back for dinner.

Sometimes there's only one or two power points in the room (they can be old hotels, after all), so a power board can be useful if you have a laptop and a battery charger to use.

Locations

North of Orvieto, south of Florence, east to Perugia, west to Pisa. Tuscany and Umbria are probably the most popular parts of Italy for photography, although not the only areas of course.

Twin farm houses near Villamagna, an hour's drive from San Gimignano.

I spent three weeks in San Gimignano, a walled hill-town with some serious towers which from which they poured boiling oil onto their attackers. While this is undoubtedly true, the town had dozens of these towers and it seemed to be more a matter of 'keeping up with the Joneses' with each family outdoing the last with a taller tower. Today fewer than a dozen towers remain but they give San Gimignano a distinctive character.

Immediately around San Gimignano are lots of narrow roads winding through vineyards and the town itself makes a great feature for landscapes. Early autumn mornings can be misty, late afternoon sunlight is wonderful.

Further a field small towns like Volterra punctuate the horizon, while further a field still you'll find Lucca, Sienna and Florence. Larger and not as quaint as San Gimignano, they are great for a visit but a challenge to include in the landscape. I find the roads to and from these places more interesting, where smaller towns, trees or even crypts make more interesting composition. Of course, when you visit Italy you'll probably photograph subjects other than landscapes as well.

South of San Gimignano towards Rome is Orvieto. If you're looking for a tax deductible reason to go to Italy, there's an annual photography convention held in a wonderful old palace. Add in lots of exhibitions and seminars for a great few days, and the town and surrounds are yet another sensational destination.

Early morning light on a trip to somewhere else. Val de Este.

I think part of my attraction to Orvieto and its surrounds is the architecture and many of my images were taken inside the walls as well as out.

On one trip to Italy, there were two photos that had really caught my attention. One was of a small shrine on a hillside, the other of a group of trees.

Cappella di Vitaleta

I found the shrine at Cappella di Vitaleta. I'd worked this much out from a guide book, so it was just a matter of driving around looking for it. Funnily enough I found the shrine before I realised it, tucked away on a little back road. The angle that I settled on was from a major highway that passed the shrine on the other side.

I returned to this shrine three times. It took me about an hour and a quarter driving each way to reach it, plus extra time because invariably I found something else to shoot as well. Unfortunately, on all three occasions the light was atrocious. To create the photo you see here, I was sitting in the back seat of the car with the window half down, my lens pointing towards the shrine. The wind was so strong it was hard enough to stand up straight, let alone set up a tripod. I sat in the car and when the wind relented a tad, fired the shutter and hoped for the best. Later a little Photoshop helped resurrect the wonderful colours that were there when the sun shone, if only it did!

The other photo was of a group of trees. This photo was everywhere in airports and tourist shops, on billboards and in calendars. The trees were surrounded by some wonderfully undulating hills, with nothing else behind. Simple and elegant, yet no one I asked really knew where the trees were.

I continued asking around and after about three weeks I found someone who gave me a clue. It took me half a day to drive there and when I did, I found the trees on one side of a four lane highway cutting through the undulating hills and the photography vantage point on the other side. I was so disappointed I didn't even take a photo – to have done so wouldn’t have been re-interpreting something, rather just copying the only angle that was really there.

The funny thing is that ever since chasing these trees, I have been on the lookout for a similar clump wherever I travel in the world – from Australia and New Zealand to America and Europe. I'm still looking.

One of the trees I did like on the way to Cappella di Vitaleta. Nothing like the clump of trees I was searching for, however.

This trip to Italy was also the first time I shot digitally for travel. Using Canon's EOS 1Ds with its 11-megapixel sensor, I would return each evening to review my work, and sometimes I would go out again the next day to improve on what I had achieved. A brand new 6x9cm Arca Swiss outfit was used but twice in three months, so smitten was I with the digital experience.

I guess I have had a lot of fun in Italy, especially Tuscany and Umbria. And now I've been looking through my files, I must talk a bit more about the north of Italy – but that will have to wait for another MasterClass.

A popular landscape image. It could almost be anywhere in Tuscany - San Gimignano afternoon.
 

POST-PRODUCTION: Darkening And Lighting With Soft Light [Movie]

LANDSCAPE MASTERCLASS: 02 | dARKENING AND LIGHTENING WITH SOFT LIGHT LAYERS

In the feature Fine Art Gallery movie on Mount Nemrut, included with this Masterclass, reference is made to a '50% grey layer' using the soft light blending mode. It's one of many ways of lightening and darkening your images in a non-destructive way. It's not the only way, nor necessarily the best way, but it's a very useful technique to have, especially for subtle adjustments to shadows and highlights.

 

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