Planning for the Landscape

A short guide to planning a landscape photography trip.

Planning a Landscape photography trip for a single day or a week long adventure can be a lot of fun. Planning carefully can dramatically increase your chances of success. Turning up to a location unprepared can result in frustration and disappointment. Planning well can also be vital to maintaining your safety.

I follow the same steps when preparing for any trip, even if it’s a location that is familiar to me. Have a read of the following and hopefully it will help you avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made and increase your chances of coming away with good images.

Determine how much time you have and don't rush!

Managing your time is going to be essential when choosing a location. Especially during the winter months when the days are a lot shorter.

Choose a location that you can shoot comfortably within your time limits. Don’t rush!

Planning to travel a long distance and then only allowing yourself an hour on location is a bad idea. You will end up getting flustered and darting around to different spots trying to find a composition that works. I have missed many good shots because I couldn’t find a good composition and when I finally did I had missed the best light.

Not allowing yourself enough time is when mistakes are made or shots missed. Not getting the result you wanted due to an avoidable mistake or by running out of time is very frustrating. If you have a limited amount of time, choose a location closer to home and leave yourself as much time as you can to set up.

Research your location.

There are many ways to research your chosen location. From books or the internet and even other photographers. Ideally, a scouting visit is probably your best course of action.

A scouting visit will allow you to familiarise yourself with the area, time how long it takes you to get there and set up ready to shoot and work out exactly where you will be shooting from.

You can also get a good idea of what focal lengths work well with the location. Arriving with your camera and lens set up ready to go is one less thing you will have to worry about. I know that this is not always practical due to time and cost involved but if it is then I highly recommend it.

  • Journey time, allowing for a coffee stop and maybe something to eat. It’s always good to arrive fuelled up feeling fresh and energised.
  • Top Tip. Make sure that you’re vehicle is fuelled up and ready to go the night before, especially if you have a long journey to make. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have plenty of washer fluid and anti freeze on those cold winter mornings!
  • Parking location, availability and cost. There is nothing worse than turning up to a location with no change for the Pay and Display or having nowhere to park. If you are shooting at sunrise or sunset get there early or stay late. Make sure the place you intend to park will be open when you arrive or that they don’t shut and lock gates!
  • Terrain. I usually wear a decent set of wellies so that it gives me the option of composing a shot in water if necessary. It also means I don’t have to worry about getting wet or dirty feet on route to my location. I’ve driven home with bare feet before after getting soaked and its not much fun. especially in the winter.
  • Tide times. I can’t stress how important this is. (Putting Health & Safety hat on) Not only because it could have a massive effect on how you can shoot your chosen location but also because getting cut off by a rising tide is no laughing matter. You not only risk serious damage to your gear but also to yourself. The coast guard is not going to thank you if they have to rescue you from the rocks due to bad planning either. (removing Health & Safety hat).
  • The position and times of the rising or setting sun or moon. Photography is all about light so it’s important to know exactly where the light is going to be and at what time. I use an app called ‘The Photographers Ephemeris‘ that allows me to see all this information well in advance of any trip I have planned. I always make sure to have a printed copy of this information as well just in case I have no access to my phone when on location.
  • Top Tip (Health and Safety hat back on) Its also important to remember that if you are shooting a sunset you may have to make your way back to your car in the dark. I would recommend spending money on a good head torch, this keeps your hands free to climb or carry a tripod and greatly reduces the risk of trips or falls. It can also help to alert people to your position if you should get in to trouble.

3. Research the weather.

Researching the weather can be hit or miss as we all know how reliable the reports can be. I keep a selection of wet weather gear and warm clothing in my car and then decide on what to take with me once I have arrived and assessed the conditions.

Choose the right kit.

Choosing the right kit to take is going to be key to a successful image. It can also make hiking or climbing over rocks a lot easier if you pack as light as possible. It’s nice to have the comfort blanket of a bag full of every lens that you own but not only is it going to be hard work carrying a heavy bag around all day, it can sometimes give you too many options to choose from. Have you ever been to a restaurant that has a huge menu? If you have, you’ll know it can take ages to choose something to eat and when you finally do you aren’t sure if you made the right choice. Given a limited menu, the choice becomes easy and you leave knowing that you made the right choice.

Kit check.

When you’ve decided on the kit that you will be taking it’s time to give everything the once over.

Check that batteries are fully charged or chosen film is loaded into film holders or camera bodies. With digital cameras make sure that the memory card is formatted and your camera settings are correct.

Check that your ISO is set to its native minimum and that you’re shooting in RAW. Returning from a trip and realising that you have been shooting JPEG images at ISO 800 because you forgot to change settings is never a good feeling.

When required, give all your lenses a clean as well as any filter sets you have. Check that your tripod is clean and operating smoothly. If going on a longer trip make sure to pack spare batteries and battery chargers.

Always take a decent lint free cleaning cloth for your lenses as well as a handful of microfibre cloths. These are good for wiping down wet kit or covering your camera in the rain.

A good umbrella is recommended if you are expecting heavy rain or to shield your camera from wind.

It’s a good idea to give your camera a good clean after every use. Especially if you’ve been on the coast with salt water and sand finding its way into things. It’s just as important to do this with your tripod in order to ensure many years of hassle free use.

Top Tip. If your camera has duel memory card slots, set the camera to use the second memory card as a backup. This way if a card should corrupt you won’t lose any of the photos that you’ve worked hard to make. It is very rare for a memory card to fail but having those duel slots does give peace of mind.

Food and drink.

It’s always a good idea to take plenty of water with you and try to have a decent breakfast before you leave the house or when stopping on the way to your location.

On longer trips, when you may be out all day, take a big bottle of water and some snacks to keep your energy levels up. The last thing that you want is to be too tired and dehydrated to be able to concentrate on what you’re doing. Have you ever tried looking through a bright viewfinder with a splitting headache caused by dehydration?

Planning a trip well can make all the difference and allow you to concentrate on your photography. The only thing left to worry about is finding a composition you are happy with and waiting for the light. Hopefully if you are very lucky and the conditions are on your side you will go home with something special.

In the next blog post i’ll be looking at the process that I go through when on location to get the best results that I can out of my equipment. Until then I hope that the above information is useful and helps you to enjoy planning your next adventure.

Matt walkley

A guide to long exposure photography

Long exposure photography is something that many photographers like to try at least once. Using a neutral density filter to extend exposure time can be a great way to expand your creativity when it comes to producing great images. This basic guide should give you a head start and provide you with the knowledge you will need to get started.

Things you will need

  • A camera and lens, hopefully this goes without saying.
  • A sturdy tripod is important and buying one of poor quality rather than save for a bit longer is false economy. Buy the best that you can afford and look at it as an investment. I use the Gitzo Systematic Series tripods. I like the Systematic range due to the centre column being absent. The lack of centre column means maximum stability and the ability to set the tripod up really close to the ground when needed. If I look after them these will last me for decades to come.
  • A sturdy tripod head is also important, especially when using heavier cameras and longer lenses. Setting up your shot only to have your camera keep moving due to a head that is not up the task is very frustrating. It was exactly this that finally made me bite the bullet and buy decent kit. I use a Kirk BH-1 and Kirk BH-3 Ball Head on each of my tripods. They are simple but solid and very well made.
  • A neutral density filter I recommend the square type filters that use an adapter and filter holder to fit to your lens such as those in the image below. Screw in filters will also work but do have limitations. I highly recommend the LEE 100mm Filter System due to its high quality and flexibility when it comes to using different cameras and lenses. I use a single selection of filters for my Fujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm GFX-50s and even my large format film camera. The only thing I need to change Is the adapter ring that fits to the front of my lens. ND filters are available in many different strengths. A 10 stop filter is a good place to start and will allow you to reduce exposure time enough to make a significant impact on your image.
  • A remote shutter release cableIf you don't have a cable, use the cameras built in timer as this will help to eliminate any softness in your image caused my camera shake.

Optional extras

  • Graduated neutral density filters (For balancing exposure).
  • A circular polarising filter Can be used to reduce haze and control reflections.
  • 3 old CD's (These can be placed under the tripod feet to stop the legs sinking when shooting on soft sand or mud).

Camera and lens settings

  • Single shot mode and all bracketing options turned off.
  • Focus set to manual and if your camera has the option then turn focus peaking on as this will help you to focus easily.
  • Any image stabilisation turned off as this can become confused when your camera is mounted on a tripod and cause it to make corrections that are not needed resulting in a soft image.
  • ISO needs to bet set at the lowest native setting and not in auto ISO. For example on the Fujifilm X-T2 this will be ISO 200.
  • Aperture is dependant on many things such as subject, what lens you are using and how much depth of field you require. For now lets assume we are using a wide angle lens and set the aperture at between f/8 and f/11. This should give you enough depth of field to ensure front to back sharpness.
  • Long exposure noise reduction set to off. You can choose to keep this turned on if you wish and allow the camera to apply noise correction. The only problem with this is that for every exposure you make, the camera will take the same amount of time to process the file and apply the noise correction. This could mean a long wait in between shots and possible missed opportunities. It's easy enough to apply noise correction when post processing.
  • Shoot RAW if you want maximum flexibility when it comes to post processing your image. This, as with most other things is optional and if you don't wish to spend time at the computer and are happy with the JPEG files that your camera produces, then shooting in JPEG is fine. It does limit you though and due to the colour casts that can produced by some neutral density filters, having the maximum flexibility and information contained within the RAW file is going to ensure that you get the absolute best results possible. Most cameras now have the option of shooting RAW+JPEG so if you are unfamiliar with processing RAW files choose this option and you will have a JPEG file you can share straight away and a RAW file that you can come back to at a later date.

Let's get shooting!

So now that we have all the settings needed to make a long exposure lets put it into practice. My favourite place for long exposure photography is on the coast or anywhere that has water.

Long exposures can turn the roughest of seas calm and give seascapes an almost alien appearance.


Set the exposure

Set up your tripod carefully in a firm and level position and find a composition that you are happy with. Plug in your remote shutter release and dial in the correct exposure. We've already set the aperture and ISO as above so the only remaining part of the exposure triangle is the shutter speed. If you have a mirrorless camera such as the Fujifilm XT-2 this can be done with the ND filter in place but to ensure we nail focus and for the benefit of those not using a camera with this function leave it off for now. Keep an eye on your histogram as a good guide to correct exposure.

Balancing exposure

As mentioned in the 'Optional Extras' section above. If using a filter holder a Graduated Neutral density filter can be used to balance exposure at this point if the dynamic range of the scene exceeds that which the camera can record in a single exposure.

This is where using screw in filters can be limiting and the options would either be to bracket exposures and blend together in post processing or decide whether to sacrifice details in the shadows or highlights. If you decide to use a graduated filter then ensure to leave the place in your filter holder closest to your lens free for the ND filter. Doing this ensures that a light tight seal is made between the filter and filter holder.


Check again that you are in manual focus and focus your lens. Zooming in to ensure critical focus is a good idea. Taking your time now and ensuring everything is right will save disappointment when sat at the computer later.

Take a test shot

Before placing the neutral density filter in place, take a test shot. Be sure to use either a remote shutter release cable or the cameras built in self timer. This will eliminate camera shake that can be caused by pressing the shutter button. Ensure that exposure is correct and zoom in around the scene to check focus. Make any adjustments that are needed and repeat this step until you are happy.

Fit the ND filter

Make a note of the exposure time without the ND filter and then put the filter in place. I like to remove the filter holder from the lens to slide the ND filter into place. This ensures that I don't accidentally mess up my composition by moving the camera and also means that I can check that it is fitted correctly with no gaps where I may get light leaks. If using a screw in filter then be careful not to move the camera or adjust focus accidentally.

Calculate the correct exposure

Calculating the long exposure is easy these days due to technology available to us. There are various applications that you can use and many filter manufacturers include a sheet showing adjusted exposure times. LEE filters have an app that allows you to select either their 6 Stop, 10 Stop or 15 Stop Filters that is excellent. For example if my un-filtered exposure time is 1/15th second my exposure time using a 10 Stop filter will be 1 minute. If you don't have access to a device that supports the use of these applications I would recommend writing down or printing out corrected exposure times on a sheet of paper and keeping them in your camera bag. This is good practice anyway as phone battery's do go flat at the most inconvenient of times.

Check again!

Make an exposure with the filter in place using the remote shutter release cable or built in self timer. Check the exposure is correct and that focus is accurate on the image you've just taken and make any final adjustments that are needed.


The more you use neutral density filters for long exposure photography the more familiar you will become with the effects that they produce. Taking into account the movement of clouds among other things that can add to your compositions. As with anything the more you practice the better you will get. Hopefully the information provided here will give you a head start and serve as a useful guide.


Portland Bill with the GFX 50s

2.30pm and I'm leaving my house in Weston Super Mare and heading to the Dorset Coast. Portland Bill is one of those locations that provides a multitude of options when it comes to subject and composition and so its a place that I have and will continue to return to.

The weather is less than perfect and there will only be 45 minutes to an hour of light left when I get there, but the plan is to grab a few shots and then stay over night so I can get up early and catch the sunrise. I love the light in the morning, its my favourite time to shoot and hopefully if predictions are right It could be a good one.

Upon arriving and parking up it looks like both me and the camera are going to get wet. It's high tide and the rain combined with the spray from the sea is going to be a challenge. I do try to photograph in all weathers, so this is just part of the fun and good practice. One thing that the weather has reminded me of is the need to purchase some clear filters for my lenses. I don't usually use filters but when conditions are rough and the salty spray is constantly hitting the front of the lens it pays to protect expensive equipment.

Shooting a nice sunrise or sunset can appeal to a lot of people and the light is always good during this time but I feel that I need to photograph the not so pretty things as well. We live in a less than perfect world so there isn't much point in trying to maintain a blinkered vision of perfection and beauty when it comes to shooting landscapes. I personally find a moody landscape far more powerful and evocative than a pretty sunrise or sunset.

I made a few exposures in the 30 minutes or so I had. This is my favourite of those. I feel it captures the mood nicely.

Well after a pretty crap nights sleep due to a spirited saxophone player its up at 6.30am and down the road to the Portland Bill car park. The postcode for this pay and display car park is DT5 2JT. If you pop this postcode in your SatNav it will take you straight there. Bring plenty of change if you plan to stay for a while. Winter charges are £1.50 for two hours up to £6 for 24 hours. Summer charges are around 50p per hour extra.

The wind has dropped off a lot from what is was last night but it is still far from calm. Where I am heading I should be able to get out of the wind behind the rocks and hopefully the spray from the sea will be minimal.

The main attraction for this particular location is the lighthouse. As with most of the places that I visit though, I intend to ignore the obvious and look for compositions in other places. It's not long before I spot a small cove that looks ideal and so I set up my tripod and wait for the light to be just right.

The GFX 50s Is capable of capturing stunning levels of detail. For this shot I used the GF 45mm f/2.8 lens with a LEE 0.6 very hard grad filter to darken the clouds a little. The detail and tones captured in the rocks is superb and far superior to any camera that I have used before. It will be interesting to see how this translates into a large finished print. The end goal is always the print. A photograph isn't a photograph until it has been printed so If you haven't already got a dedicated photo printer or don't regularly order lab prints of your work make, it a priority to change this.

After taking this shot I climbed back up the rocks and headed towards Pulpit Rock. Another well known photographic location. I won't be making the rock the subject of my photo though. I simply want to get up a bit higher and capture the view out to sea and the white tops of the waves in the distance. This will be a very simple composition that I hope conveys the vastness and wild nature of the sea.

This was taken using the GFX 50s combined with my favourite lens at the moment, the GF 110mm f/2. I used a LEE ProGlass IRND Little Stopper (6 Stops) to give me just the right shutter speed to capture movement in the sea. The LEE ProGlass filters are superb, they are colour neutral so no colour correction is needed in post processing and the reduction in transmitted light is accurate. If it's a 6 stop filter it will reduce the transmitted light by 6 stops, 10 stop by 10 etc. Both of these features are particularly handy when shooting film as calculating the correct exposure and not introducing a colour cast is critical to getting good results. I will be doing a short review on the ProGlass range of filters in the not so distant future.

Although only a quick trip, is was great to get out with the camera. The GFX is continuing to wow me each time that I use it and with the promise of some exciting new features such as focus stacking in the March 2018 firmware update, things can only get better.


Some personal thoughts on Street Photography

Street photography is not my strong point but I do really enjoy it. I love a challenge and for me street photography is certainly that. I would have to say that most of my efforts in learning photography have been put into landscape photography. It's where I am most comfortable and where my understanding of photography is at its peak.

Street photography when executed properly is probably one of my favourite genres of photography. A good street photograph poses more questions than answers or tricks the viewer into believing a reality imposed on them by the photographer. It's usually only after a second or third look that the true reality of the image is realised.

We see many photographs posted online (Including my own at this point in time) that are no more than images of people walking the street. Some choose to photograph the homeless or extremely overweight individuals in an attempt to add more interest to their photos. Unless in a context that adds narrative to the image, or in an effort to bring attention to a serious social issue and affect change, I feel that this is largely inappropriate. I photographed a homeless man and his dog on one occasion, choosing to do so as the gentleman had his hand over his face. If I had to make the decision again I would choose not to take the photo. There was no real point to the photograph no matter how hard I tried to justify it to myself other than to highlight another persons misfortune.

In order to improve my street photography I'll need to spend a lot more time walking the street and as Matt Hart says. "Learn to see". As with anything in life, you don't tend to get better unless you practice, practice, practice.

At this point in time I'm trying to include a link between the subject and their surroundings as often as possible. The picture above was taken simply because the backpack matched the graffiti around the street. The one below because of the word 'Boo' and the glitter-ball styled bag owned by the glamorous elderly women fitted the theme of the record shop she sat in front of.

I think its important to remember that whoever we choose to photograph, we do so in a way that is respectful and that doesn't intentionally make fun of their appearance or actions. It's also important to remember that the photographs we make now, may not have a huge impact but give it 10 or 20 years, when fashions and locations have changed and I'd imagine they would be received in a very different way. Photography is massively important in this respect, as every time we make an image we are documenting human history.

I choose to use the Fujifilm X-Pro2 when shooting on the street. It's a great camera that is small, quiet and discreet. It provides fantastic image quality and when combined with a lens such as the 35mm f/2 is lightning fast to focus when using the cameras autofocus system. I am considering the purchase of an X100F as a smaller alternative to the X-Pro2 but that decision is yet to be made.


Location, Location, Location

Photographers tend to be rather territorial. Whether its returning to our favourite location for sunrise or sunset or wandering the streets of our favourite town or city. Returning to a familiar location time and time again seems to be commonplace among photographers. Building a familiarity with a location is a good and allows us to fully exploit our surroundings. It may be that the light on a certain street at a certain time of day works well or that the sun rises or sets in just the right place at a certain time of year. Knowledge of an area allows us to adapt easily to changing conditions and ensure that we don't miss out on opportunities to make standout images.

There are two locations that I return to on a regular basis and I'm still managing to find new compositions each time that I visit. One location in particular I visit more than most and that's a place known as Priddy Ponds on the Mendip Hills.

Priddy Pools is a 30 minute drive from my house. It's an easy drive with little traffic and the location itself is rarely busy. You may get the odd dog walker every now and then but apart from that its quiet. It can be eerily quiet at night and extremely dark so not a location to shoot on your own if you are of a slightly nervous disposition. There can be some strange noises in the dark up there and its easy to let your mind play tricks on you. The tree itself provides a great point of interest but there are many other areas to explore as well as the pond which provides great reflections on a clam day.

Another location that I return to on a regular basis is the very famous wooden lighthouse located on the beach at Burnham-On-Sea. This location is particularly special to me as I was fortunate enough to have the image below printed in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016. It also made it onto the back cover of the book. This is the one of the few times I have had recognition for my photography so I take every opportunity I can to shout about it.

Again, this location provides masses of opportunity for different compositions and I've yet to explore many of them. I want to shoot it at high tide with the water around the legs of the lighthouse but so far ever time I have had chance to visit the tide hasn't been right. At low tide there is great opportunity to capture the reflection of the lighthouse in the tidal pools. It can mean getting knee deep in the mud of the Bristol Channel but isn't that what landscape photography is all about?

The other reason that this photograph is special to me is that it was this photo that convinced me to ditch my DSLR and go full Fujifilm. This shot was made with incredible Fujifilm X-Pro1 and superb XF 16mm 1.4.

I will continue to visit both of these locations and if you have a favourite location I would encourage you to do the same. You could visit the same location for 20 years and one day get that once in a lifetime shot. The large collection of images will also look good put together in a book when you feel the location has finally run its course and every avenue (or street) has been explored.

Buy the Fujifilm GFx 50s from Wex
Buy the Fujifilm GFx 50s from Wex

My favourite tree is going to be the subject of a long term project so if you follow my work I'm sure you will be seeing a lot more of it. I intend to use the GFX 50s to photograph it at when conditions allow and I'm excited to see what results I can achieve with it. This will be the subject of a future blog so stay tuned for that one.



Some thoughts on the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4 WR

A modern masterpiece.

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. This lens is a modern masterpiece. I adore this lens and would probably go so far as to say it's my favourite of all the Fujifilm lenses. I won't go into technical figures and talk about the way the lens is constructed blah blah blah because the only thing I'm ever interested in is the final image there are plenty of sites where you can look at this type of information if that's what floats your boat. I've used this lens primarily for landscape photography but it has also saved my ass a few times when I've shot portraits and had very little space and light to work with. All the images featured in this blog were shot using the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4.

This shot in particular was  for a local musician who wanted some shots for her album cover. It was literally a case of turn up to a venue and do the best that I could. The first venue let us down and we didn't even get through the door. I think the person who was supposed to be letting us in got drunk the night before and couldn't get out of bed. Then we had to make our way across Bristol to the second venue but the girls manager managed to lose his ticket for the car park. That delayed us for an hour until we could get hold of somebody to pay the fine for losing the ticket and lift the barrier. Arriving at the venue it was clear that I had my work cut out and only an hour and 30 minutes until we lost the use of the room. It was tiny and poorly lit so the 16mm 1.4 was my only option. It didn't let me down and this shot was used for the album cover.

When I shot with a full frame system, I always favoured the 24mm focal length and the lens I always turned to was the Nikon 24mm 1.4. One of my main concerns when changing to the Fujifilm system was being able to replace this lens. When I got my hands on the 16mm 1.4 all those concerns vanished and I quickly fell in love with the sheer perfection of this lens.

What makes this lens great?

It's super, super sharp, focuses super close and has the least amount of visible distortion of any wide angle lens that I have used. Add to that an aperture of f1.4 that produces super creamy bokeh and allows you to shoot in very low light and it makes for a hard lens to beat at any price. I use it for portraits, street photography and landscape photography and never fail to be impressed with the way in which it performs. It's weather sealed as well so shooting in wet or dusty conditions isn't a problem either.

I first used this lens with my X-Pro1 and made this photo. It's still one of my favourite photos made with this lens and what started my love affair with it. It also cemented my decision to sell my Full Frame gear and move to the X-series cameras. I could even go as far as to say that if Fujifilm didn't make this lens, I may not have made the switch.

The 16mm 1.4 performs really well in low light. I don't use flash and prefer to use available light. This means pushing the ISO up so the larger the aperture that I have to work with the better. The shot below was made at the 2017 Bristol Balloon fiesta and was shot wide open at f1.4 at an ISO of 6400. The only available light was that from the balloons and the torch light from a phone behind me that lit up the young boys face.

Portrait photography is traditionally shot using a longer focal length like the 56mm 1.2 or 90mm f2. This isn't to say you can't use this lens for portrait photography though. Due to the lack of distortion it can make a great environmental portrait lens as proven above and as you can see in the example below if you get in really close you can get creative as well.

If you have been thinking about buying the 16mm 1.4 I would simply say stop thinking about it and buy it. This lens that will be sure to put a smile on your face when it is attached to your camera and may just be the most versatile lens that you ever buy.



A shot in the dark

One of the things that I haven't spent a lot of time doing with the Fujifilm system is night photography. It's something that I touched on briefly when I used Nikon cameras, with moderate success and something that I like to have a go at every now and then.  I decided to nip out tonight and see how the XT-2 handled things at a location I was familiar with on the Mendip hills.

I arrived shortly after sunset hoping to find a composition that I was happy with so that I could set the focus ready for when the light faded. One of the great features of the Fujifilm cameras is the electronic viewfinder. This is superb when it comes to composing in extremely low light and a real advantage when it comes to this type of photography as I found out later.

As the light disappeared and the moon set I decided to move from where I had set up and chose a composition that I felt would capture star trails in a way that complimented the composition I had in mind. There was now very little light so ensuring sharp focus was going to be tricky. Luckily with the XT-2 set to manual focus this was achieved easily and after a test shot to ensure focus was spot on and that I was happy with the composition, I set the camera up to shoot continuously. Using a shutter release cable I made the first exposure and then locked the cable release so that it would continue to fire the shutter every 2 minutes. It's important to set long exposure noise reduction to off when making multiple exposures so there is no interruption between shots. In total I made 25 exposures in order to achieve the image below.

Because I wanted to show star trails In the image above, I made multiple exposures of 2 minutes at an ISO of 640 and then combined these using a piece of free software available to download online called StarStaX. I wanted to exaggerate the star trail effect as I felt that it would add more interest to the image. The appearance of star trails can vary depending on your composition in relation to the pole star and if your clever and plan carefully, some extremely impressive patterns can be captured. A quick Google image search for star trail photography will provide you with plenty of examples.

When making longer exposures, the rotation of the earth means that stars will show up as streaks of light rather than single points in the sky. To avoid this you will need to boost your ISO or use a wide aperture to keep your exposure time short enough. There is a rule that I follow that requires a simple calculation. This calculation is based on the equivalent full frame focal length of your lens. For the Fujifilm X series cameras I multiply my focal length by 1.5. I believe the precise crop factor is 1.53 but it's not necessary to be this precise. 16mm x 1.5 = 24mm you can then apply the following.

Divide 500 by the full frame equivalent focal length of your lens and this will give you the maximum time in seconds that you can expose for before stars start to trail. For example when using a 16mm (24mm equivalent) lens 500/24 = 20.8 seconds.

If you are thinking about trying night photography it would be wise to invest in a decent head torch. For around £100 you can buy one with a rechargeable battery that lasts for a decent amount of time and will ensure that you can move around in relative safety when out in the dark. It can also be used for light painting, something that I will cover at a later date.

If you are going to head out at night the best time to go is when there is no moon and the skies are clear. It's also worth considering the effects that light pollution can have and if it's stars that you want to capture, it's best to choose a location away from the bright lights of towns or cities to ensure that you get the best results possible.


Using filters for creative control

I remember discovering filters for the first time. I'd read a couple of articles online that sparked my interest so after a quick look on eBay I picked up a couple of cheap screw in neutral density filters and headed to the coast (Seaton in Devon to be exact). After experimenting for a while I got the hang of using them and I really enjoyed the creative possibilities that they opened up for me. Fast forward a few years and I don't leave home without a full set of filters as they are an essential part of my workflow for landscape photography for both film and digital.

I don't use screw in filters any more, they don't provide me with enough control and just aren't very practical. I decided very quickly that a set of square filters and filter holder were what suited my needs best so after a bit of research I decided upon the LEE 100mm Filter System. As you can see in the photo below there are two types of filter that I use. These are neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters. ND filters are used to reduce the amount of light that enters the lens across the whole of the frame reducing exposure equally and graduated neutral density filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens over a specific area of the frame such as a bright sky during sunset. The sunset photo at the top of this page wouldn't have been possible without a graduated filter or series of exposures combined in post processing without the loss of detail in the sky due to blown highlights.

A selection of the LEE filters that I currently use (filter holder not shown). Notice the difference in gradation and density from left to right. The two completely black filters at the bottom are the LEE Little Stopper and Big Stopper used for increasing exposure time. These filters can create a really dramatic effect.

I've stuck with LEE filters since first purchasing a foundation kit and have slowly built up the kit that I have today. I have always been more than happy with the results the system has given me . I can't compare them to any rival brands because I haven't used anything else but I haven't felt the need to try another brand. As the old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Some people decide not to use filters, deciding instead to use multiple exposures (bracketing) and then combining these when post processing. This is a sound technique and sometimes essential for certain situations, but it's not the way that I choose to work if I can help it. I actually enjoy using filters, it enhances the photographic experience for me, from choosing the right filter and insuring the exposure is correct to seeing the image for the first time after a long exposure, it all adds to the fun. It also means I am capturing a single moment rather than multiple moments. This may be the photography snob in me speaking but doing things this way makes things feel more.....pure.

This was a 30 second exposure shot on the Fujifilm XT-2 with 16mm 1.4. I used the LEE Big Stopper combined with a 0.6 soft grad filter to create the shot that I was after.

I enjoy long exposure photography using both the LEE Little Stopper (this reduces the light entering the lens by 6 stops) or the LEE Big Stopper (10 stops). They also make a Super Stopper which I haven't tried yet, that reduces the light entering the lens by a massive 15 stops! This would mean if your shutter speed without a filter is 1/100 sec you would be looking at an exposure time of 5 minutes and 20 seconds with the Super Stopper. This allows you to be creative and capture surreal landscapes that show the movement of clouds or smooth the movement of water to give a sense of calm even on days when the weather is less than perfect.

I used the LEE Little Stopper here to maintain a feeling of movement in the waves and a 0.6 very hard grad to darken the clouds. Shot on the Fujifilm XT-2 with 35mm 1.4.

Another filter that I use on a regular basis is the circular polarising filter. The Circular Polariser is probably the filter that I use the most but it needs to be used with care and I tend not to use it on lenses wider than 16mm (24mm full frame equivalent) as this can lead to various issues such as vignetting or an uneven polarising effect across the frame. They can be used to darken blue sky, control reflections or reduce the glare on the surface of water. The polarising effect is strongest when used in bright sunshine at 90 degrees to the sun however I tend to use one on overcast days when shooting seascapes. This is definitely a filter that you want to invest in for your Landscape photography.

One thing to be wary of when choosing a filter system is the colour cast produced by some filter brands. Its worth doing your own research on this before deciding on which system to go for as the filter system you choose could stay in your camera bag for many years to come. I have had very few problems with colour cast using the LEE system. An old Big Stopper that I had used to give me a slight blue colour cast that was easily fixed in post process but after loosing it to the sea and replacing it with a new one this colour cast seems to have disappeared almost completely. LEE now make a ProGlass IRND range of filters that claim to offer even better performance than the standard filters and when finances allow I will be trying these out for myself. If shooting in black and white colour cast isn't really an issue.

1 second exposure using the LEE Little Stopper and Medium Grad Filter. Fujifilm XT-2 with 35mm 1.4.

As you can see from the photographs above, using filters can be great fun and produce excellent results when used correctly. Attention to detail and careful positioning of graduated filters is key to achieving good results but a bit of practice, patience and a keen eye is all it takes. Buy a decent set of filters and look after them and they are sure to hold a permanent place in your camera bag.