How to Take Beautiful Landscapes with Michael Breitung
Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape photographer and world-class traveler from Germany. We love Michael's perspective on landscape photography, and today he's sharing some tips on how to capture high-quality images of the places you visit. 
Revelation by Michael Breitung

Tell us about yourself and your photography

For more than 10 years, I've been photographing landscapes all over the globe. In that time, I have visited nearly 30 countries. I'm always in search of special places, trying to photograph them in the best light. In the beginning, my focus was a lot on famous locations. Now, I dig a bit deeper during my planning and each year I try to visit a few locations that haven't been photographed much.

The search for those locations has become harder in the last years, but putting in the work during both planning and traveling is always worth it.

Pacific Rim by Michael Breitung

What a lot of people don't know is that I'm no full-time photographer and I don't plan to become one in the near future. The most important thing about photography for me is the pure joy I feel when I'm out exploring and taking photos. And I don't want to put the pressure of having to get the shot to pay my bills on that joy.

I've been there already. Although I didn't depend on my photographic income, there was a time when I put a lot of focus on the results. The number of high-quality photos I got out of a trip became the measurement of a successful journey. There was a time back in 2016 during my travels around the world when I got totally caught up in the fact that I failed to capture epic photos of the places I visited. And being a perfectionist made it worse and led to a lot of frustration. My mind was constantly centered on those missed opportunities, while I should have been enjoying the process of traveling, exploring, experiencing new things and discovering new landscapes.

Final sunrise by Michael Breitung

I think this half year-long journey was the biggest learning experience for me as a photographer because it helped me to find the right balance between traveling and photography again. There's still a lot of things I do during my travels that are focused on getting the shot. But I understand that there are many things I can't control and that, if the conditions don't allow for a great photo, it doesn't mean I cannot have a great time.

Another thing that helped me to get more relaxed in my photography is starting a Youtube Channel. When the conditions are bad and I don't get the photos I set out to capture, there's usually a lesson I can teach via some video.

What gear do you use for your photos?

For five years now, I've photographed using a Canon 5DSR with either a 16-35 f/4 or 70-200 f/4 lens from Canon. In addition to that, I always have a tripod with me and a set of Kase Filters. You can find a full list of my equipment here. But what's really important about equipment for me it that it doesn't get in the way and that everything I bring on my travels fulfills a purpose.

The same goes for upgrading gear. I usually use my equipment either until it fails me technically or until I realize that it somehow holds me back creatively. And since I now have started to get into night photography more and more, I think it will be time for an upgrade soon.

Desert Nights by Michael Breitung

Can you give us a couple of tips on how to get the best landscape photos?

To take the best possible photo of a place, you have to fully commit to it. I actually have a video on this exact topic on my Youtube channel, talking about the importance of scouting to find the best possible composition for a subject you want to capture and then sticking with it.

The key is not to get distracted when the sky suddenly begins to glow in the other direction. If I did a good job during scouting, I should already know that there weren't any good compositions in that direction and that the place I'm at right now has the biggest potential. Now it's up to mother nature.

Surely this can mean not getting a photo at all if the light doesn't travel into my composition. But jumping around, trying to quickly get some photo in the direction of the light just for the sake of photographing a colorful sky, mostly won't result in a great photo either. The only exception might be if I already know some potential compositions in that direction because I did my homework during scouting. Only then I might give it a try.

Marinha Dawn by Michael Breitung

Describe your style and what role post-processing plays in developing that style.

My style is capturing very detailed and high-quality photos that present the places I visit in the best possible way. To do this, I often walk the fine line between realism and imagination. While I would never replace a sky in a photo, I don't shy away from employing techniques like exposure blending to increase dynamic range or time blending to allow me to capture both details in the night sky and in the landscape. The key for me is that my photos capture my experience of a place.

An example is the star trail photo I took in Morocco back in February. My memory of that place is the warm airbrushing over the land when I was capturing the photos at sunset, the glow of the setting sun behind the steep mountains, the stars moving across the sky an hour later when I was laying on a blanket in camp watching the night sky.

Timeless by Michael Breitung

To capture all of that, a single exposure wouldn't have been enough. But even though this photo isn't realistic, it shows my reality of that evening under the stars in southern Morocco.

What are some tips when it comes to post-processing landscape photos?

What I always try to do during my post-processing is to go in little steps. I don't do very dramatic adjustments but instead, apply very targeted changes to my photos that slowly build up the effect.

This also allows me to easily change the direction of where I want to go with a photo along the way. Most of the time I have a very clear idea of what the final photo will look like - usually, already when I take the photo. But I might realize that it doesn't work in communicating how I experienced a place. So I might go with another color balance or go for a softer or more detailed look.

Also, post-processing like photography takes a lot of practice and experimenting. So don't shy away from trying different processing styles and applying different techniques to your photos. And if you want a little bit of direction, you can check out my tutorials, where I show exactly how I edit my photos.

For more about Michael and his photography, visit the links below: 

Website | Blog | Print Shop | Flickr | Facebook | YouTube 

FeaturedLandscape photographerLandscape photographersLandscape photographyLandscape photography tipsSeptember 2013

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