Shooting landscapes in the summer

Its that time of year that most think is difficult for landscape photography, the sun is high in the sky which gives a harsh light, the foliage can be very green, and of course the sun rises very early and sets much later. But with a bit of planning and the right light, you can shoot great landscape photographs not only throughout the season but also all day.

First thing to think about is the subject and how the time of day will affect the light on the subject. A great case in point is Gordale Scar which is 1 mile from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. The main reason is the positioning of the scar which is facing pretty much due south. This means that in the morning, half of the opening is in shade and later in the day the other half is in shadow. Therefore a mid day shot is great as its all lit up nicely. It can also work really well if there a few dotted clouds in the sky that cast a few shadows around the scar for depth. The stream that runs from the Scar gives great lead in lines and the foliage is very pretty this time of year.

Gordale Beck, looking up the valley to Gordale Scar, Malhamdale,

There are many alternative locations at this time of year, as this is the ideal time to capture the Oil Seed Rape which fills the landscape in vibrant yellow, the swaying wheat and barley fields and later in the summer, around August time the Poppy fields give beautiful flashes of red. It can often give nice results shooting into the sun, which can give nice lens flare.

Also living in England, we aren’t guaranteed wall to wall blue skies and sunshine all through the summer, quite on the contrary. We have quite a few cloudy overcast days, and this is a nice time for some floral photography. Ideally you would need a nice overcast day with very little or no wind before heading out to you local parks or meadows. The below image was taken in May (a little before the official summer, I know) at the Valley Gardens in Harrogate. Whats nice about these type of images, is that a tripod often isn’t necessary… often you would want a nice shallow depth of field, so a large aperture is required, this gives us quicker shutter speeds, so usually off the tripod is ok (you would still want the lowest ISO speed your camera would allow).

Tulips in bloom, Valley Gardens, Harrogate, England
Tulips in bloom, Valley Gardens, Harrogate, England

Rivers lakes and the sea on still calm days give fantastic reflections of either the surrounding countryside or (and especially the sea) refections of the blue sky can be very effective. A polarising filter can be very useful for these types of shoots.

Castle Hill reflected in a Pool on North Sands Scarborough North. By Mark Sunderland
Castle Hill reflected in a Pool on North Sands Scarborough North. By Mark Sunderland

If the sky is too harsh, don’t be afraid to crop it out. This makes getting the histogram nice and central without a clipping if the highlights.

Field barns near Kisdon hill, Swaledale, North Yorkshire Dales,


General tips for shooting in the summer.

  • Be prepared – take lots of water, sunscreen and a hat
  • A circular polariser is very useful when photographing water, however be careful not to turn the blue skies too dark, as they can come out black.
  • Take a compass with you to find the locations for the early mornings and evenings.
  • Try and avoid the tourist hotspots, as on sunny days, they can be full, save those for the late sunset shots, but in the mid day, find alternatives such as fields with hay bails and flowers, cliff top views etc…
  • To capture wide vistas, still on a sunny day you will need a tripod, with ISO speeds of 100 and small apertures, shutter speeds can be slow.
  • Keep and eye out for the Oils Seed Rape, Poppy fields and the Heather
  • you may have to use exposure compensation to avoid any highlight clipping, so watch out those highlights.

If you would like to join us for a mid summer photography workshop, we visit Malham and Gordale Scar In July and August, click here to read more.


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