How to Take Amazing Landscape Photos When You Live in a “Boring” Landscape
Landscape photography is fun and exciting when the landscape in front of you is grand and epic, but what do you do when the landscape is flat and boring?
I have spent the better part of my landscape photography career photographing some of the most epic and “popular” locations in the western U.S., Iceland, The Faroe Islands, Lofoten, and some of the most iconic places in Europe. I have enjoyed it all and I still absolutely love to photograph the icons. However, at some point, the epic and iconic landscapes also become a bit repetitive to photograph and you may need a new injection of inspiration. A huge side benefit of traveling so much is you get to see your own country in a new light. You learn what is unique to your local area and what you once thought was lame and boring might now be special. On top of that, having traveled so much I have also honed my skills as a landscape photographer and I can use those same skills in my own country.
I live in Denmark and if you have never seen any landscape photography from here, I do not blame you. Denmark is not a trending country for landscape photography. We have epic Norway a few hours to the north and the Alps a day’s drive to the south. Why even bother photographing a flat country with long rolling hills, relatively young forests, and endless beaches?
Find a Focal Point
I love the Danish landscape, I find it very pretty, and I have obvious nostalgic feelings about it but for a long time, I did not really find it photogenic. I always missed a big triangular mountain in the background to work as the focal point.
However, after one successful session at a lighthouse in early 2019 my perspective for what is possible in Denmark completely changed. It was one of those “epiphany moments.” Obviously, I could not keep photographing the same lighthouse so I started to explore Denmark for something worth pointing my camera at. Almost anything goes: fishing boats, churches, old windmills, lighthouses, castles, bridges, ancient monuments, and trees. To my surprise, Denmark has many old and characteristic trees – something that Iceland, The Faroes, and big parts of Norway lack! We also have a good amount of ancient monuments you can incorporate into a composition. I found all this by exploring and looking into what Denmark has to offer. I bet your country has something too. A good focal point does not have to be a mountain, waterfall, or glacier. It is all up to you.
The Right Conditions
What all landscape photography has in common is the influence of and dependence on the weather. Follow the weather forecast and use the apps to your benefit. Windy, Yr, and Clear Outside are my preferred weather apps. They can help you predict clear skies, fog, high humidity, low clouds, etc. Everything to your heart’s content. In the examples above and below the fog plays a huge role in making the individual photos work.
In the photo below here, it is not fog but just the sun peeking through the trees at the right moment that makes this scene work.
And of course, do not be afraid of stormy weather. It actually has a tendency to improve and make your photos more interesting.
Keep It Simple
Keeping your frames simple and clean is luckily one of the easier things to do in a flat landscape. It is arguably the most obvious thing to do. The hard part is to embrace a minimalist approach to landscape photography when most of the photos we are exposed to are these grand epic vistas with loads of depth and color.
I briefly mentioned the lone trees and they are great for minimalist yet impactful photography. Just see the photo below here.
This photo is another great example where we have the largest bridge in Denmark and the crescent moon. The negative space calms the photo down.
The wide-angle lens is typical for contemporary landscape photography. It is used to include the scene and create a strong depth with a strong foreground. However, this approach also requires some specific kind of landscapes and conditions. It works occasionally for my photography in Denmark, but for the most part, I use my standard and telephoto zoom lenses. With wide-open vistas, the longer focal lengths work really well to create the effect of perspective compression. You achieve this effect by increasing the distance to the subjects of your scene while zooming further in. In this way, you can both fill the frame with what you want to photograph, make distant objects seem larger, and create a sense of scale. The photo below from the same bridge as above is a great example of this.
And here is another example with comet NEOWISE.
Get a Drone
I know this last tip can be expensive, but using a drone can literally change your perspective. Yes, of course, you have to abide by the laws of your country, but even then, it is a completely new world that opens up. 56% of Denmark is rural landscape and is thereby the most cultivated country in Europe. It can seem a bit frustrating exploring a country and you will “just” see field after field after field. However, with a drone, you can capture the shapes of the fields and reach areas you were not able to on foot.
By implementing the above tips, I have grown very fond of photographing in Denmark. It is a country like many others with a rich history and many unique and special locations. You just need to find them and that is on you as a landscape photographer.
Be sure to check out the video above to see how I got some of the photos I have shown in this article and how I approached photographing a foggy morning in a hilly landscape in Denmark. Do you have more tips about what to do if you live in a “boring” country? Be sure to share them in the comments below.
Video of Telephoto Minimalist Sunrise Photography