Today's tip about landscape and outdoor photography is a little bit counter intuitive, and it might make you question my sanity if you haven't already, but it's one that I believe is truly important. And for the record, my sanity is relatively intact it's usually just my pants or car keys that I've lost.
Make Mistakes! On purpose! (gasp, what did she just say? I am questioning her sanity)
Have you learned the rules of composition? Can you recite your f stops? Do you know what the hell ISO does? Do you know what you need to do to make your photos nice and sharp like a good little photographer? Great.
It's the nice thing about learning all the rules, once you've got them figured out, you can also figure out when to completely ignore them. It's kind of like being an adult and getting to eat ice cream for three meals a day - you may know the reasons why you shouldn't do it, but there's also absolutely nothing to stop you from doing it anyway. So go ahead, eat ice cream, make mistakes and enjoy.
Focusing strictly on following the "rules" of photography can get in the way of your own vision and leave you frustrated with the entire process. Not every photo has to be perfect in every way and portfolio worthy. Holding yourself to impossibly high standards might do more harm than good when something doesn't work out as planned and it gets to your head. Besides, nobody has to know if you snap some photos that aren't perfect once in a while. (Unless you tell them, I usually prefer to keep my mouth shut and my delete button at the ready though) If you allow yourself the freedom to experiment and make mistakes without beating yourself up about it, you might surprise yourself and produce something you really like in the process and at the very least, be able to learn from your errors.
Try jogging down a path with a slow shutter speed.
A Walk in the ParkRules? We don't need your stinkin' rules! Throw your camera in the air, don't worry, the crowd of tourists across the street aren't pointing and laughing at you, only at your actions. Try not to pay attention to them anyway, your camera is careening through the air towards your face.
Subject? Focal point? Pffft.
A beautiful lake surrounded by a majestic mountain range, or, zoom in an extra150 mm and see what else is around. Not every sweeping vista needs an equally wide angled lens.
Most people would cringe at the thought of using Vaseline on a camera, but it's not just useful for dry skin (tip: check out ebay for cheap UV filters, I'd highly recommend using one if you're going to play with vaseline and other lube like substances around your camera. I picked up mine for 99 cents each)
So go ahead, ditch the rules and have a little bit of fun, it's allowed once in a while. You might be surprised at what you can come up with. Happy shooting!