Photography Masterclass - Peter Fenech

PUBLISHED: 22:30 07 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Evening in Saddler Street, Durham

Evening in Saddler Street, Durham

Photographer Peter Fenech helps you get the most out of landscape pictures around the North East

Born and bred in Chester-le-Street, Peter Fenech is 20-years-old and is currently studying Biology at Newcastle University.

His first camera was a working model from the Early Learning Centre at age five but he became hooked on photography after work experience in a photographers studio while he was at school. He particularly enjoys landscape and macro imagery.

Weve got everything you need for great landscape photography in the North East rolling countryside, majestic hills and stunning coastlines, so why travel elsewhere? Digital cameras have made photography accessible to everyone but anyone can point and shoot, so here are some tips to help you capture photos that stand out from the crowd.

Pick up any book on composition and youll find the concepts of Leading lines and the Rule of Thirds. The first refers to any element in a scene that can be used to lead your viewers eye to your intended subject, so look for dry stone walls, pavements, tractor lines in fields or anything that will draw someone into the picture and more importantly hold their attention.

The Rule of Thirds is simple to follow; imagine a Noughts and Crosses grid over your image and then place the main element at the spots where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect, or put your horizon along one of the horizontal lines so it doesnt cut the picture in half. It feels odd at first but avoid putting whatever youre shooting dead-centre for a more compelling composition.

Most cameras have a grid-overlay function to help you with this. Another common mistake is to include an empty and uninteresting foreground look for things to place between you and the subject, so in a coastal scene this could be rocks or rushing waves. Frame your shot so it has a definite fore, middle and background for a layered picture.

The issue I have with the rules in photography is that its easy to get hung up on them and follow them religiously no matter what, which wont do your images any favours. What happens if there arent any leading lines? Do you give up and go home? No, the answer to this is to try something different and original.

Vary your focal length by zooming all the way in and then all the way out to see what effects you get cropping in tight compresses perspective and makes elements look closer to each other, which is great for shooting hills. Try shooting from ground level instead of the standing position for an unusual view or do the opposite and find a high vantage point. Walk around and explore. Remember, something about that scene made you stop and want to take a picture, all you have to do is find it.

The best times for shooting landscapes are at sunrise and sunset because the sun is low in the sky and the light brings out texture in surfaces. Colours are also far warmer which is pleasing on the eye and because wind speeds tend to be lower in the morning, dawn is the perfect time to shoot glassy reflections in rivers and lakes.

For even warmer colours, head to the White Balance control on your camera and use the Cloudy or Shade settings or try Tungsten to exaggerate cool winter hues. Even basic cameras give you this control so check out your manual. Also, for dramatic light beams and bold colour, shoot right before or after a storm. Since light levels will be low at these times of day, long exposures are necessary so a tripod is recommended to ensure sharp images.

Most cameras have an Exposure Compensation function to control brightness, but for moving water shots try increasing the exposure to reduce a stream or waves to a creative blur. Likewise, misty scenes can confuse cameras into underexposing so manually increase exposure to compensate.

Have a go at creating a silhouette of a famous landmark all you have to do is dial in negative compensation until said landmark turns solid black with a nice dramatic sky behind. Often in landscape photography youll find skies will turn solid white and be overly bright or your ground will be too dark because different exposure times are needed for each part of the scene. Buy an ND Graduated filter which can be held in front of your lens to reduce contrast and even out your exposure. These can be found quite cheaply online.

All digital photos require slight software enhancement to get them looking their best, but you neednt spend a fortune. Try downloading Gimp which is totally free and impressively powerful or alternatively Photoshop Elements can be bought for around 50. Use these to subtly alter brightness, remove unwanted colour casts and sharpen your shots. You can even blend numerous exposures together instead of buying the ND filter. Whatever you do, make it subtle you want your shots to look natural, not edited.

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