Black and white landscape photographs can make a powerful statement but care must be taken to ensure you capture the beauty of your landscape. Black and white can eliminate detail and that is one of the most important aspects of landscape photography.
How to photograph landscapes in black and white
Many photographers find black and white landscape photography is more difficult than capturing in color. Often details are lost when shooting in black and white, so careful thought must go into what should be included in the frame. A wide angle lens is most effective at describing the landscape but they are not necessary for black and white landscapes.
There are different methods depending on where you shoot, but generally it is advisable to use a low ISO setting. A low ISO setting bounces more light to the sensor allowing you to use a fast shutter speed for sharp images. The camera should be tripod mounted, or at least have a very sturdy base so the camera is not vibrating when taking your photograph.
What lens to use
Shooting landscapes is most effective when you use a wide angle lens with a minimum focal length of 24mm. A longer focal length can be used but this will distort the landscape. If you are using a crop sensor, choose the widest lens available to you. Using a wide angle lens enables you to include more of your horizon in the frame. This is important when creating black and white landscapes, as less detail means less distraction from your main subject.
When shooting landscapes, you should always focus on the main point of interest in the scene. If you have a wide angle lens, you may find that focusing on the main subject can be difficult. You can increase your depth of field by using manual focus. This is achieved by setting your fixed focal point to infinity, and using auto-focus for the close-up objects in your landscape photograph.
Shooting Black and White Landscape Photographs
When I first started photographing landscapes in black and white, I felt quite limited in the shots I could take. I would spend time looking for a scene that would suit black and white but then when I had found the perfect shot, it would turn out to be too far away. Dead trees or dead branches that were too close to focus on and a lack of detail are common problems faced by photographers trying to create black and white landscape photographs.
Today, I am able to avoid these problems because I have learned what causes them. For example, if you shoot a landscape scene with lots of flowers or grass in the foreground, it will cause a lack of detail.
The lens that you use can also limit your choices when shooting landscapes in black and white. A wide-angle lens will always provide more detail for you to work with but a long telephoto lens can also work well in black and white photography.
Composition is very important when taking black and white landscape photographs. You should try taking your shot from different positions to see how it affects your the elements of your scene. Sometimes, you may find that a change in perspective really does improve the appearance of your landscape photograph.
Should You Use A Filter?
Today, I use a UV filter when shooting black and white landscapes. This is because I work with a wide-angle lens that can be easily scratched, so the protection is worthwhile. It also reduces glare when taking my photographs.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced photographer, your landscape photography will improve by living in the moment with what is around you.
This is my personal experience of shooting landscapes in black and white. Drop me a line with any questions and tag us in your black and white landscape photographs.