Take your landscapes to the next level
Satisfyingly sore muscles and a breathtaking view aren’t the only prizes for a brisk walk in the countryside. In the last installment of our landscape improvement course, we’re going to show you how to take your photography to the next level...
Shoot in beautiful golden light
If you’ve never heard a landscape photographer extol the vibrant beauty of golden hour, then perhaps you’re hanging around with the wrong kind of photographers. Golden hour is the name given to the period of time when the sun starts to dip above or below the horizon at sunrise or sunset. It’s called as such because the quality of light turns to a brilliant gold hue, capable of totally transforming an ordinary landscape into a jaw-droppingly good photo.
The most important aspect of capturing that all-important golden light is being in the right place at the right time. Without careful planning, you can run the risk of turning up to a location ten minutes after all the action has happened. The best way to prepare for success is to find out exactly when sunrise or sunset is due, and then ensure that you’re there at least half an hour before the magic will happen. This will give you plenty of time to set up your kit and find the perfect composition.
It’s easier than ever to find out what time you need to be at your location. Even simply typing in ‘sunset time’ into Google will provide you with the exact time the sun will dip below the horizon in your location on that day. However, if you don’t want to leave anything to chance, then why not download an app like PhotoPills or Photographer’s Ephemeris? Not only can you look into the future to plan upcoming photo trips, but you can even view maps of your desired location to find out which direction the sun will be rising or setting.
Once you’ve arrived at your location, with plenty of time to spare, you need to set up your kit. While golden light is notoriously beautiful, it can also be a bit tricky to capture. It’s often said that the eye is the most sophisticated camera in the world, and this is because we can see both brightly lit areas and dark shadows (in the same view) without a problem. However, many amateur cameras can struggle under these conditions, as they can’t expose for both extreme highlights and shadows.
This is why the Fujifilm X-T2 is such a great companion for landscape photographers. Its high dynamic range (the measurement between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks) means that it can comfortably capture bright highlights and dark shadows without losing key details. To ensure that you get the perfect exposure, it’s always best to expose for the highlights (i.e. the brightest areas), as it’s much easier to pull back detail from shadows than it is from something that’s completely washed out with light.
Fujifilm expert: Chris Upton
Q What’s the best part of shooting a sunrise or sunset?
"In landscape photography the light is everything, and there’s no better time to shoot than at the beginning or end of the day. However, to get good images you need to be shooting well before the sun rises, or continue well after it sets. In fact, the best light is often in that period of about 20 minutes before/after the sun reaches the horizon. Blue hour, the period of time when the centre of the sun is around -5 degrees below the horizon, can often be the perfect time to shoot. During this period the sky is a rich blue, creating amazing photos. However, you have to be quick, as it doesn’t last very long! I’ve just returned from Santorini, where the ‘blue hour’ lasted all of about 12 minutes!"
Q How do you adjust your setting to deal with the low light?
"When the light levels drop it can be difficult to expose and focus correctly. This means that shooting with a tripod is non-negotiable. This is when I prefer to shoot in manual, so I’ve got full control of my exposure and focusing. I’ll maintain as low an ISO as possible and select an appropriate aperture, so that the shutter speed is the only variable. To do this, I switch my Fujifilm X-T2 to ‘T’ on the shutter dial, and then simply use the rear command dial to change the exposure."
Q Do you plan your shoot beforehand?
"I always plan sunrise and sunset shoots. They’re fundamentally different, in that you’re either arriving or leaving in pitch darkness. Sunrise is definitely trickier, as you’ll need to have scouted your location beforehand. Otherwise you’ll find it difficult to get the best composition. When planning I use weather forecasts and apps to understand not only sunrise/sunset timings, but also the angle and direction of the sun."
Q What happens when you get disappointing golden light?
"All the planning in the world is no match for Mother Nature! If the shoot doesn’t work out, then a return trip is the only answer. You have to be pragmatic and accept that sometimes it just doesn’t happen. However, all is not lost! You’ve had a great recce of your location and you’ll know what to expect next time."
Understand manual mode
While camera technology is no doubt the best it’s ever been, the automatic mode is still no match for the human eye and mind. When a camera chooses your settings, you’re losing out on a vital part of the creative process. Photography doesn’t just have to be about composition, it can also be about choosing the right settings for the perfect shot.
There are three modes you can use to take control over your camera, manual, aperture priority and shutter priority. Each mode has its own particular uses, especially when it comes to landscape photography. If you’re interested in total control over your exposure, then you’ll want to switch your camera to manual mode.
The three main settings that you can control in manual mode are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Aperture controls how much blur there is in an image. If you’re shooting a portrait, you would want a wide aperture of around f/4, as this would isolate the model and cast the background into blur. However, for landscape photography you’ll want a large aperture of f/16 upwards instead. This will render your shot sharp all the way though your frame.
Shutter speed is another essential aspect of the exposure triangle. If you’re working handheld then you’ll need to keep your shutter speed above 1/60sec. If you go any slower than this, then you’ll start to risk camera shake. The narrower your aperture (i.e. the higher the number), the longer your shutter speed will have to be in order to get a correct exposure. This is because the aperture ring inside your lens is a bladed diaphragm that widens and shrinks to adjust the amount of light that comes through. This is why we would call f/4 a wide aperture – because the aperture ring is physically at its widest inside the lens, allowing in lots of light. The narrow apertures typically required for landscape photography make that diaphragm physically smaller, allowing less light in, and therefore requiring a longer shutter speed.
The last variable to wrap your head around is ISO. This essentially controls how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is, and the more detail it can capture. This is really helpful in low light conditions, such as sunset or sunrise. However, the unfortunate trade-off is that the higher the ISO, the more ‘noise’ you’ll get in your shot, marring the image quality. Working in manual mode is all about balancing these three variables to create an accurate exposure. However, if you’re particularly interested in controlling either your aperture or shutter speed, and you’d rather not think about the other, then why not use a priority mode.
In aperture priority, you can adjust the aperture and the camera will then automatically select an appropriate shutter speed for a correct exposure. Shutter priority mode is a similar process, but flipped around. To make things even easier for yourself, put your camera into Auto ISO to allow it to choose what ISO is best for the situation.
Where: Innominate Tarn, Lake District
Map and grid ref: OS Explorer OL4, NY197129
Getting there: Innominate Tarn nestles in a small hollow just beneath the summit of Hay Stacks, a near-2000ft mountain in the Lake District. To reach it, take the long footpath that climbs Hay Stacks from the little hamlet of Gatesgarth, and return via the little valley of Warnscale.
Why visit? Hay Stacks is surrounded by much larger fells, making it a perfect viewpoint. In the background here are Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirk Fell. The calm sheen of the tarn frames the views perfectly. It is also the final resting place of guide writer Alfred Wainwright, whose ashes were scattered at the tarn after his death in 1991.
Fujifilm expert: Chris Upton
Q What setting do you typically use for landscape photography and why?
"I typically shoot in aperture priority, as I’m looking to control my depth-of-field. Since I normally use a tripod the shutter speed is basically irrelevant to me, unless of course I’m using it for creative effect. I’ll also shoot in manual, especially at the beginning and end of the day when light levels can be tricky and I need to be in full control. The Fujifilm X-T2 allows me to assign the rear command dial to shutter speed when in ‘T’ mode, which means that I can make adjustments without moving my eye from the viewfinder. I’ve also found that the live histogram is absolutely invaluable in ensuring a perfect exposure."
Q How has using a manual setting benefitted your photography?
"Shooting in manual gives you complete control. When lighting conditions are tricky, or you want a certain feel to the image (such as low or high key lighting), then this is the way to go. Fujifilm cameras make shooting manually a breeze. All of the main controls (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) are laid out on the top plate or around the lens, so it’s incredibly easy to change the exposure and immediately see the result on the LCD screen or in the viewfinder. Of course, you can also check the live histogram for ultimate control of your exposure, ensuring that you retain detail in both the highlights shadows."
Q Was there ever a time when you used the automatic setting? If not, why were you never tempted by it?
"I don’t think I’ve ever used fully automatic, because then the camera is the one determining the exposure. There’s usually one element that requires management. Whether that’s aperture, which determines your depth-of-field, or shutter speed, which controls the appearance of movement in an image. However, the Program mode (P) can also be a good halfway house, as you have the ability to change the ISO and shutter speed/aperture combination very quickly, which is great for fast-moving situations."
Q What would be your camera EXIF data for a typical landscape?
"I’ll always try and shoot at the native ISO (the ISO where image quality is best). On Fujifilm cameras this is 200, so that’s always where I start out. I also shoot in RAW rather than JPEG, as this gives me a great quality file with lots more information recorded. My default aperture for landscapes is f/11 or f/8, as that’s typically the sharpest setting. However, sometimes I’ll work with wide apertures if I want to have a creative effect to produce some separation between my main focal point and my background."
Slow down your exposure
The beauty of a long exposure landscape can leave any photographer breathless. Rushing water is rendered into a milky texture, while fluffy clouds turn into dramatic streaks of greys and whites. Embracing long shutter speeds is a fantastic way to take your landscape photography to the next level and give it a pro edge.
If you’ve set your aperture to its widest, and your ISO to its lowest, and your shutter speed is still too fast, then don’t panic! Filters are an ingenious way to compensate for the bright setting you’re working in. Filters are dark pieces of glass that screw onto the end of your lens. They dramatically cut down the amount of light that hits the sensor, which means that your shutter speed has to be longer. You can buy filters of varying darkness, from a 6 stop (referring to how many stops of light you’ll lose) to a huge 15 stop filter.
However, if you’re keen to avoid extra kit weighing you down on your walk, then you may be interested in the Fujifilm X100F. Not only is it one of Fujifilm’s Premier Compact range, but it also comes complete with a built-in 3 stop ND filter. This means that there’s no need to stick an extra sheet of glass in front of your lens (which can compromise your image quality). Instead, simply use this handy feature and reap the benefits of the longer shutter speed required for your shot.
While a filter isn’t necessarily a must for long exposures, some form of a tripod is. Remember that if your shutter speed dips below 1/60sec, using it handheld will likely result in camera shake and unwanted blur. However, there are many types of tripods that you can use, depending on where you’re walking and what kind of shot you want. If you’re happy to carry something a bit heavier, a normal tripod is fantastic for being able to choose lots of different compositions. However, if you don’t mind having to work close to the ground, or relying on finding a wall, then why not use a beanbag or mini tripod. While small, these can be incredibly helpful when you don’t want to carry too much weight, but you want to be able to capture beautiful long exposures.
For more information about the X100F and other cameras from the X-Series range, please visit www.fujifilm-x.com.
Where: Padley Gorge, Peak District
Map and grid ref: OS Explorer OL1 and OL24, SK253793
Getting there: Padley Gorge lies between the village of Grindleford and the National Trust Longshaw estate, just outside the Sheffield city limits.
Why visit? The gorge is a magnificently tranquil place among much wilder country. Above it are the large Dark Peak uplands of Millstone Edge and Stanage Edge, but in Padley Gorge you can be enclosed by picturesque broadleaf woodland, with just the babbling Burbage Brook for company. At the bottom of the gorge is the portal of the Totley Rail Tunnel, which also looks good in photos.
Fujifilm expert: Chris Upton
Q When did you first discover long exposures?
"As a landscape photographer, introducing movement in my image for creative effect has been a favourite technique for many years. For example, shooting a stream between 0.5sec and 2secs gives a pleasing milky effect to the water. However, true long exposure photography, with shutter speeds from 30secs to several minutes, is a more recent technique. It’s usually achieved through the use of Neutral Density filters. The appearance of smooth water in an image really helps to separate objects. However, remember to take care with your compositions, as simply using a long exposure won’t compensate for a poorly framed photo. Instead, inadequacies will merely be highlighted."
Q How have long exposures improved your work?
"Long exposures bring a different dimension to photography, and, when combined with a great subject and beautiful light, the results can be stunning. I like to use this technique to bring some variety to my images. When done well, they can also bring great impact in black-and-white."
Q How do you achieve a long exposure when the light is too bright?
"The introduction of Neutral Density filters has opened up landscape photography at times of the day when we would otherwise be taking a break, or using the hours to explore a location for potential shots. A normal exposure of 1/30sec will translate into 30secs when using a 10 stop ND filter. If the light is still too bright, then you should reduce your ISO to its lowest setting and then select a smaller aperture, such as f/16 or even f/22. However, be aware the image quality can start to suffer at the extreme ends of the lens’ available apertures."
Q What’s your favourite subject to take a long exposure of?
"Although you can use an ND filter to introduce blur with water, clouds or other moving objects, my preference is definitely shooting long exposures of water. However, there’s a fantastic use for long shutter speeds that not many photographers take advantage of. If you’re at a busy landscape location and there’s a few people walking around in your shot, a long exposure can eliminate them from your final image. As long as they’re moving, they won’t be exposed long enough to register on your camera's sensor."
Capture shadow detail
Ever taken a quick shot of an incredible sunset on your phone, then looked at the image afterwards and thought “It looked so much better in real life”? Don’t lose heart, as this disappointment has nothing to do with your photographic skills. As mentioned earlier, camera sensors are simply unable to see things like our eyes do. One of the most important things that pro photographers will consider when buying a camera is how it handles areas of high contrast (i.e. a very bright sun and very dark shadows). Luckily, Fujifilm cameras offer their D-range function (short for dynamic range), which allows you to recover and retain more info in high contrast shots.
However, another way to remedy a tricky lighting situation is to use the bracketing and HDR techniques. Simply put, the way this works is that you take around three different exposures of the same landscape and then combine them in Photoshop to create one single perfectly balanced exposure.
The first step to this technique is to set your camera on a tripod. As you’ll be combining multiple different images, you won’t want your composition to change. Ensure that you’ve focused correctly and then switch your camera to manual focus, which will make sure it won’t change midway through your shots. Now that you’re ready to start using the bracketing technique, you’ll first need to set your camera to expose for the highlights, i.e. the bright parts of the image, such as the sky. You can do this by intentionally underexposing your shot by one or two stops (+1 or +2). Next, expose for the midtones by ensuring that the marker on your light meter is in the middle. Lastly, capture the shadow detail by overexposing your shot by one or two stops (-1 or -2). The great thing about this technique is that it’s a good insurance policy to ensure you’ve got a workable photo once you get home and load up your images to take a look. Now you may find that you can salvage the shadow or highlight detail in one of your images with some tweaking in post-production, but if you were shooting in a particularly high contrast environment, then HDR is the perfect way to rescue your photo. Standing for ‘High Dynamic Range’, the HDR technique is how you take your three bracketed shots and turn them into one balanced exposure.
We’re going to show you how to create an HDR image in Photoshop CC, which is more affordable than ever with monthly payments of £9.98. However, you can also download the free software Luminance HDR if you don’t have access to Photoshop.
To begin, open Photoshop and navigate to File > Automate > Merge to HDR Pro. This will then bring up a box with the option to ‘Browse’. Click on this and select the three images you shot using the bracketing technique earlier. Ensure that the ‘Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images’ box is ticked and then press ‘OK’. You may find that it takes a little while for Photoshop to merge your images, especially if you’re using an older computer. Once the program has finished it’ll present you with the amalgamated shot. However, it’ll also provide you with a series of options to increase the quality of your final image, including ‘Remove Ghosts’ (which will reduce any discrepancies in a moving subject, such as clouds), or the ‘Curve’ tab, which allows you to adjust the contrast. Play around with these options until you’re happy with the results and then click ‘OK’ at the bottom for your final HDR photo.
Fuji film Expert: Chris Upton
Q How often do you use HDR and bracketing?
"Bracketing a series of shots to capture a range of exposures, containing the highlight, mid-tone and shadow detail, has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Advances in post-processing software now makes it much easier to blend these exposures seamlessly together. While I try and get the exposure right in camera by using ND graduated filters (ND filters that graduate from dark glass to clear, which allows you to expose for a bright sky and dark foreground), sometimes it just isn’t possible. In these situations, I usually use the very good Extended Dynamic Range feature on my Fujifilm cameras, but I also occasionally resort to shooting a bracketed set of exposures as well."
Q What’s the most useful aspect of this technique?
"When the dynamic range in a scene is just too much to capture in one single frame, bracketing a series of shots enables me to capture all the tones required to produce a well-exposed image. This is especially useful if I don’t happen to have my filters with me, which I sometimes don’t if I’m just enjoying a nice country walk. Using this technique does require the photos to be shot one after the other, so a tripod is definitely recommended to get the best results."
Q What format do you shoot in?
"I shoot virtually all my images in the RAW format, because I want the best quality file possible (RAW files contain around 3x more information than JPEGs!). It also allows me to have maximum flexibility when post-processing my images. I do sometimes shoot JPEG by default when I choose a different format in the viewfinder. The Fujifilm XT-2 allows me to select Image Quality RAW and JPEG, and then Image Size, where I’ll then often choose 1:1. Although you can guess what a square crop will look like, having the ability to frame this accurately in this way really helps."
Q How does your Fujifilm camera make bracketing easy?
"The X-T2 Auto Exposure bracketing can shoot 3, 5, 7, or 9 frames with anything from 1/3 stop to 3 stops (of light) inbetween. My preference is usually for either 3 or 5 frames, which will mean one frame shot as the base exposure, then two frames 1 and 2 stops over-exposed, then two frames 1 and 2 stops under-exposed. You can choose the order in which they’re shot, and my personal preference is to shoot for highlights, mid-tones and then shadows."
17 tips for better landscapes
In the second part of our guide to better landscape photographs we reveal three of the UK’s most photogenic landscape locations, how to get to them and how to capture the best photos when you arrive.
In the second installment of our photography improvement course, we’ve been busy scouting out some of the very finest British countryside and photogenic walks you can go on around the UK. To help you get the best possible pictures when you get to your picturesque peak, or sublime summit, we’ve constructed a comprehensive list of tips and tricks to help you shoot in all scenarios and weathers. So if you’re presented with a stunning sunset, we’ll show you how to tame the light to stop your images overexposing. And if you get caught out in a ferocious downpour, we’ll show you how to harness the raw emotion of a storm in a moody mono landscape. So get out there, get shooting, just don’t forget to take this guide with you!
1. Level up your horizon
One of the easiest tweaks you can make to your composition that has a huge benefit, is to level up your picture. A wonky horizon is instantly noticeable and will detract from even the most stunning landscapes. But it’s an easy fix. Hotshoe bubble levels attach to your camera so you can see when the camera is level, or even better, use the electronic level that most modern digital cameras come with built-in. If you do forget to level up at the point of capture don’t worry – you can level-up in post-processing too.
2. Shoot the perfect sunrise or sunset
The beautiful golden tones of a sunset or sunrise can look magical, but it’s difficult to capture the scene you saw as a digital image. It’s best to shoot in the RAW image format, rather than JPEG, to record as much of the exposure data as possible. This makes it possible to use software back at your computer to get the deep shadows and bright highlights that you saw at the time. The golden colours of these types of images also look better when you underexpose the shot a little, as this stops the picture from overexposing. To do this, dial in one or two stops of negative exposure compensation.
3. Use a lens hood
If your landscapes are looking a little washed out and flat, it could be because the sun is in the corner of the frame causing lens flare. If this is the case, attach your lens hood to the front of your lens. This blocks out the light from the corners of the shot, restoring contrast and increasing saturation.
4. Create a sense of movement
Blurring the clouds in your sky, or cascading water in a waterfall, is a fantastic way of adding drama to your landscapes. All you need is a tripod and a long exposure to give the sensor enough time to record the movement. To set the exposure, use your Aperture priority mode and dial in your highest aperture value, usually f/22, to restrict the lightflow. Then set the ISO to around 100 to reduce the camera’s sensitivity to light. The result is a much longer exposure, and on an overcast day you should get a shutter speed of around one second. You can also use special neutral density (ND) filters which block out even more light for longer exposures.
5. Go mono in bad weather
It’s all-too-easy to put your camera away when you come across inclement weather, but this need not be the case. Some of the best images are taken in fog or heavy rain – it really adds bags of atmosphere. In these scenarios, shoot with Black & White in mind to create a moody mono landscape. Many cameras have built-in presets that let you see what the image will look like in Black & White on the LCD screen. Fujifilm’s Acros Filter Effect gives images a brilliant high contrast mono style.
6. Add impact with a polarising filter
The effects of many physical filters that attach to the front of your camera’s lens can be replicated in software like Fujifilm’s Silkypix, or Adobe Photoshop. This includes correcting the exposure and enhancing colours. But one effect that cannot be easily mimicked back at your computer is that of a polarising filter. These filters have a ring that can be twisted to let in more or less polarised light and has two main benefits for landscapes; reflections in water can be reduced, and contrast can be increased in the sky between white clouds and the blue sky.
7. Travel further with a compact system camera
Weight and bulk are of peak importance when hillwalking, but choosing a smaller camera doesn’t mean you have to compromise on image quality. Fujifilm’s X-T2 weighs just 457g, body only, but takes on a large APS-C image sensor to produce fantastic pictures. Like a DSLR, it also boasts the ability to change lenses to suit different subjects, so you can attach a long lens to shoot distant wildlife, or a wideangle
to squeeze in broadspanning landscapes.
8. Shoot for the stars
Light is limited at night, so you’ll need a tripod to lock your camera off and then use a long exposure. 10-20secs is perfect, any longer and your stars will blur due to the Earth’s rotation. A wide–angle lens, like Fujifilm’s XF10-24mm f/4, is ideal for capturing some foreground interest like a tree, millstone or barn with the stars in the background. Go into your camera’s manual mode and dial in the widest aperture, an ISO of 800 and a shutter speed of 10secs. Engage the 2sec Self-Timer and take a test shot. If it’s too bright, lower the ISO or shutter speed, and if it’s too dark increase them until it looks good. It’s best to shoot at least a full hour after the sun has set on the night of a new moon to achieve the deepest skies in your shots.
9. Keep your snow white
Shoot a landscape with a bright sky and snowy white foreground, and your camera will likely underexpose. This will give you a much darker shot and your brilliant white snow will look muddy. To keep your snow white, take a test shot and if it turns out dark, simply apply a stop or two of positive exposure compensation to force the camera into taking a brighter image.
10. Get more with RAW
RAW literally means the raw information from your camera. Unlike JPEGs, which are processed in-camera, RAW files are untouched at the point of capture, so it’s up to you how much saturation or contrast you add back at your computer. RAWs are larger than JPEG images, so will fill up your memory cards faster, but this is a small price to pay. Their extra information makes it possible to change the exposure of your shot substantially when you’re editing your pictures. This means if you get home and find out your image is over or underexposed, it’s easy to fix with RAWediting software like Fujifilm’s Silkypix or Adobe Photoshop.
11. Use lead-in lines to direct the viewer’s eye
Using lead-in lines is a great way to guide the viewer’s eye towards a specific focal point in your images. Lead-in lines appear both in the natural world and in man-made objects, from a line of trees going up a hillside, to a paved footpath. Try to frame your composition so that multiple lead-in lines point the eye towards the main focus of your shot, rather than take it out and away.
12. Choose aperture priority
The automatic modes are great for starting out with your camera; you can focus on the composition of your image, while the camera works out your exposure settings. But to take more control, it’s best to use a semi-automatic mode like aperture priority. This is really easy to set on Fujifilm’s retrostyled mode dials, and is denoted by a bright red A, so can be changed quickly when you’re in a hurry. This mode lets you set the aperture – an adjustable hole inside your lens that can be adjusted to let in more light for a fast shutter speed, or can be closed down for longer exposures.
13. Maximise sharpness throughout your scene
There’s no shame in using your camera’s automatic mode. It’s sometimes more convenient and you’re eager to take the shot before the moment passes. But this often means the camera chooses the focus area too, so your point of interest could come out blurry! For landscapes it’s much better to choose the focus area yourself, by setting your camera to its single point or single servo AF mode, then placing the active AF point about one third of the way into the scene for the best sharpness. Then use aperture priority to set an aperture of f/16 for a much stronger depth-of-field and increased sharpness.
14. Use a long lens for wildlife
You need only venture outside to open up your photographic opportunities. But the great outdoors isn’t just fantastic for landscapes. When you immerse yourself in nature you can get some brilliant wildlife pictures too. Bring along a lens with a long zoom, such as Fujifilm’s XF50-140mm or XF55-200mm, for frame-filling shots of nearby wildlife such as squirrels, deer or birds. If you only have space for one lens, look out for optics like Fujifilm’s XF18-135mm, which has a versatile zoom range suitable for a wide range of subjects.
15. Go super light with a compact
A heavy kitbag will wear you out quickly and potentially cut short your journey to an awesome landscape location. It really pays to travel as light as possible, so Fujifilm’s range of Compact System Cameras are a great, portable alternative to DSLRs. The firm’s ultra-portable X100F prestige compact has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens and weighs an impressive 469g with battery and memory card, making it the perfect travel companion.
16. Use compositional rules for better landscapes…
The rule-of-thirds is a great framing technique where you divide your image into nine equal boxes and position your subject on one, or more of those intersecting lines. This is said to be more pleasing on the eye and engaging than placing your subject right in the middle of the frame. It’s also worth considering the rule-of-odds when you’re composing. The theory is that an odd number of subjects in your scene looks more aesthetically pleasing than an even one. So, if the subject in your landscape was a tree, the landscape would look more pleasing with one, three or five of them in the frame, than two, four or six.
17. …then break them!
In rare scenarios, it may be the case that a different framing works better for the landscape at hand. So, once you’ve tried composing using the rule-of-thirds, and the rule-of-odds, from the previous tip, it’s worth experimenting with other framing options too. Rules are meant to be broken, so have fun finding abstract compositions. Telephoto lenses are usually reserved for far away wildlife subjects but can be useful for creating a tighter ‘scene within a scene’ in landscape images.
The right kit for perfect pictures
Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras are ultra portable and ideal for hillwalking adventures. In the first part of our guide to better landscape photographs we explain what to look for in a travel camera.
Hillwalking takes you to all sorts of amazing photogenic places, but how do you capture the beautiful landscapes and memories of your walks when you’re out and about? Many of us use a smartphone because they’re conveniently light and portable, but this means image quality can be left looking a little lacklustre. So we’ve teamed up with Fujifilm to provide you with the knowledge to get better landscape images, how to get to amazing locations and what settings you need to know to get them.
We kick off our three-part guide looking at the gear you’ll need to get better photos. Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras are considerably lighter and smaller than conventional Digital SLR cameras, so they won’t weigh you down when you’re out on a long hike. Use the jargon buster below to get to grips with the terminology and then discover which camera is your perfect travelling companion.
Megapixels - This is the resolution of the camera’s sensor and determines how large you can print your shots. Fujifilm’s 24.3MP sensor can print at up to 42.33x63.5cm.
FPS - Frames Per Second.
OIS - Optical Image Stabilisation is a special feature that some lenses adopt to reduce camera shake when shooting hand-held.
EVF - Electronic Viewfinders are what mirrorless cameras use to show you what the camera will take a picture of.
RAW - This file type literally means the raw data from the camera. Any camera worth its salt gives you the option to shoot RAW for more options when you’re editing.
JPEG - The universal digital picture file format that provides a good balance between low file size and great quality.
CSC - Compact System Camera. Does away with the moving mirror which makes SLR cameras big and heavy, but still has interchangeable lenses.
Fujifilm X100F RRP £1329
If you're torn between DSLR image quality and the portability of a compact camera, then the X100F is the perfect choice for you. Its 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor is the same size as those you’d find in a much larger DSLR, but has been wrapped up in a portable, retro-styled package. Tipping the scales at 419g (body only), the X100F is ideal for photographers that like to pack light. There’s also no need to carry around extra lenses as it sports a fixed 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens, perfect for landscapes.
Sure to be a hit with fans of vintage film camera chic, the X100F fuses old retro styling with new technology for a truly special user experience. It provides some remarkable features, including an Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder, which gives users the choice of a traditional low-power optical viewfinder, or an electronic display, to show you what the exact image is that you’ll capture. This even works if one of Fujifilm’s Film Simulation filters is active, such as Sepia or Acros. The retro-styling continues with its faux leatherette grip and an ISO dial which has been integrated into the Shutter Speed Dial to save space.
Lighting is key to all genres of photography, but is particularly important to landscapes because the range of tones is vast. Bright highlights in the sky can burn out to pure white, while deep shadows in the foreground can come out black. Neutral Density (ND) filters act like sunglasses for your camera, and are what professional photographers use to tame bright highlights and balance the exposure. While these are bulky and often require filter adapters to affix them to the camera lens, the X100F comes with a three-stop ND filter built in. This is a great feature, as if the highlights come out too bright you can activate the built-in ND filter to fix it. What’s more, if you shoot in the 14-bit RAW format you’ll be able to capture even more tones, unlocking the full potential of your shots.
“Sure to be a hit with fans of vintage film camera chic, the X100F fuses old retro styling with new technology for a truly special user experience.”
+ DSLR-rivalling image quality with its 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans sensor.
+ Staggering number of features in a neat portable and lightweight package.
+ Fixed 23mm f/2 lens is superbly sharp and ideal for landscape photography.
Fujifilm X-T20 RRP £1149
with XF18-55mm kit lens
The X-T20 is a portable alternative to an entry-level or enthusiast DSLR. As a compact system camera, it has no internal mirror, meaning it can be much smaller and lighter than a conventional camera. Despite its petite proportions, it packs a solid punch with its DSLR-sized X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. The resolution of 24.3MP is nothing short of vast, and teamed with its X-Processor Pro engine, bursts can be shot at up to 8 frames per second (fps). The active AF point can be set to no less than 325 different areas and the middle 40% of the frame consists of Phase Detection points for faster subject acquisition.
The rear 3in display boasts 1.04m-dots so images can be composed and played back in stunning detail. Touch functionality makes tapping to focus possible, and you can swipe through the images you’ve taken in Playback Mode too. To top it all off, the LCD can be tilted to assist with awkward shooting angles above or below eye level. If you prefer to shoot through the viewfinder, the X-T20 has a highly-detailed electronic 2.36m-dot organic EVF. And with a lag time of 0.005sec it feels like you’re using an optical one.
If you’re struggling to fit in all of the scenery in front of you, it’s possible to switch to a wider lens because the X-T20 is an interchangeable lens camera and can be used with any of Fujifilm’s X-Mount lenses. Alternatively, you could use the X-T20’s Panorama Mode which squeezes in up to an 180° view.
Video is an area where the X-T20 excels. Its 4K movie mode packs in four times more detail than Full HD, so it’s a great way to make your footage stand out from the crowd. Fujifilm’s legendary Film Simulation digital filters can also be applied to your videos and photos. The Interval Timer mode is another great video feature and can be set between 1sec to 24hours. The total number of frames can be set from 1 to infinity, so is fantastic for creating dramatic timelapse videos wherever you are.
“The X-T20 is an interchangeable lens camera and can be used with any of Fujifilm’s X-Mount lenses.”
+ Brilliant autofocus system with 325 AF points to choose from.
+ Great features including 4K video recording and a 14fps burst rate.
+ Supports Wi-Fi connectivity with the Fujifilm Camera Remote app.
HIGH END CSC
Fujifilm X-T2 RRP £1899
with XF18-55mm kit lens
The X-T2 is a professional mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, designed for speed, performance and astounding image quality. As a pro-level camera, the X-T2 has a tough and rugged build ready for whatever you throw at it. Its durable magnesium alloy body is weathersealed in no less than 63 different areas. And it comfortably handles hot and cold climates with its operating temperature of -10°C to 40°C. The handgrip has been designed for increased comfort and will make it feel familiar to DSLR users. Fujifilm’s X-Processor Pro paves the way for a blisteringly fast 14fps RAW burst mode, a start-up mode of just 0.3sec, 4K video recording and an improved autofocus system which can hunt down a subject in just 0.06sec. Speaking of focusing, the X-T2 uses an Intelligent Hybrid AF capable of acquiring focus in low-light situations at up to -3EV, and has 325 AF points at its disposal.
Inside its tank-like body you’ll find Fujifilm’s 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. This is physically the same size that you’d find in many enthusiast DSLRs, but its X-Trans technology provides a more organic capture of colour and helps to combat moiré, an imaging defect that can appear on repeating patterns within your shot. The high resolution makes it possible to comfortably print images at A2 size, and because the sensor omits an image-softening Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF), your pictures will take on an extra level of detail.
It’s not just a solid image-taking machine though, the X-T2 is also fantastic for recording movies. The jewel in the crown of the X-T2 is its superbly detailed 1.04m-dot LCD display, which boasts toughened glass to protect against knocks and bumps, touch functionality for tap focus, and an innovative tilting mechanism that allows it to be adjusted on three different directions to make it easier to compose images above or below eye level. If you prefer to use a viewfinder, the X-T2 has a richly-detailed EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) which activates instantly when brought up to your eye and refreshes at up to 100fps.
“As a pro-level camera, the X-T2 has a tough and rugged build ready for whatever you throw at it.”
+ Weather-sealed in 63 areas allows you to shoot in a heavy downpour.
+ Ergonomic button layout and feels like a DSLR in the hand.
+ Movies can be shot in the 4K video format for astounding detail.
X-E3 RRP £1249
with XF18-55mm kit lens
Fujifilm's latest Compact System Camera, the X-E3, is built with portability in mind. It’s the firm’s smallest and lightest model to date that boasts both an interchangeable lens system and a viewfinder. Some impressive features have been squeezed into its petite body, including the 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor found in all of the current X series models. This yields fantastic image quality even in low light conditions. It also adopts Fujifilm’s remarkable X-Processor Pro which allows a top shooting speed of 5fps and makes it possible to record 4K videos for incredibly-detailed movies. Bluetooth is a brand-new feature for X series CSCs, and it allows users to transfer images from the X-E3 to a smart device in a heartbeat, using the free Fujifilm Camera Remote app. It uses the same X-mount as other Fujifilm CSCs, so is compatible with the current range of 25 Fujinon interchangeable lenses.
It has a start-up time of just 0.4 seconds and takes just 0.06 seconds to track down a subject so you’ll never miss a shot. In addition, the tracking autofocus speed for moving subjects is twice as fast as its predecessor. Focus can be set by tapping the touchscreen, just like you would with a smartphone, or using the Focus Lever which sits to the side of the LCD and makes it easy to set the focus area without looking away from the EVF.
The X-E3 has a premium exterior design. Taking on the style of old film rangefinders, the Electronic Viewfinder on the back is great if you prefer to compose this way, or if the sun is too bright to see the LCD screen. The top of the camera has been kept simple and uncluttered with its Shutter Speed and Exposure Compensation dials that let you hone in core settings quickly. There’s also a hotshoe for attaching a flashgun or microphone accessories and a Function button that you can personalise to really make the camera your own. The shutter button has been integrated into the power switch for a rapid start-up too.
“It has a start-up time of just 0.4 seconds and takes just 0.06 seconds to track down a subject so you’ll never miss a shot.”
+ Bluetooth connectivity makes it quick and easy to transfer images to a smart device.
+ Touch functionality makes the X-E3 handle more like a smartphone or tablet.
X-Pro2 RRP £1699
Charmingly retro-styled and packed with innovation, Fujifilm’s flagship X-Pro2 is the long-awaited update to the highly regarded X-Pro1. Building on its success, the X-Pro2 comes brimming with new features, including a totally revamped Advanced Hybrid Multi viewfinder. This incorporates an Optical Viewfinder, Electronic Rangefinder and a 2.36m-dot, 0.48in Electronic Viewfinder, so you can choose your preferred mode depending on the subject you’re shooting.
Built with professionals in mind, the durable magnesium alloy body is sealed in 61 places to keep dust and water out. Inside sits a 24.3MP X-Trans III sensor to delivers DSLR image quality, and an X-Processor Pro for a speedy 8fps burst rate, native 200-12,800 ISO range and a rapid Intelligent Hybrid AF system. 14-bit RAWs can be shot to capture every detail in your landscapes, and can shoot in a new Lossless Compressed file format to save space.
As expected with a flagship model, the X-Pro2 comes with dual SD card slots. This can be set up in the menu to overflow your shots when one card becomes full, backup a card like-for-like, or to separate your RAW and JPEG images onto different memory cards.
The speed of the X-Pro2 has been shifted up a gear, boasting a start-up time of just 0.4sec and an autofocus acquisition time of just 0.06sec. It has an extra 28 AF points, with 77 in total and 40% of the imaging area is covered in the faster and more accurate Phase Detection type points. There’s the option to use a Colour Digital Split Image mode which works in a similar way to the focusing system of film rangefinders. There’s also the option to use Focus Peaking, where a bright colour overlays your shot to show you which areas are sharp.
As the viewfinder is an integral part of the X-Pro2’s DNA, the buttons and dials have been positioned in a way that means you can easily change settings and exposure parameters without taking your eye away from it. This includes the Dual-Function dial on the top plate, which can be used to set both the ISO and the Shutter Speed.
“The speed of the X-Pro2 has been shifted up a gear, boasting a start-up time of just 0.4sec and an autofocus acquisition time of just 0.06sec.”
+ The 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor delivers incredible image quality.
+ State-of-the-art Advanced Hybrid Multi viewfinder makes it a joy to compose.
+ Perfect blend of style and substance, fusing retro-chic with innovative new features.
Four great lenses
Fujinon XF10-24mm f/4 R OIS
An ultra-wide lens helps you squeeze more of your surroundings into the frame, so Fujifilm’s XF10-24mm f/4 wide-angle zoom is a brilliant choice for landscapes. It has a 35mm film equivalent focal length of 15-36mm, and its 2.4x optical zoom gives users the option of shooting wide, or super-wide. It’s not always ideal to carry a tripod when you’re out and about, so you’ll be glad to hear that it boasts powerful Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) to reduce camera-shake when shooting hand-held. It has a bright maximum aperture of f/4 which is constantly the widest aperture value at both ends of the zoom. It also has an inner focusing system and stepping motor for a rapid and quiet autofocus action. The minimum focusing distance of 24cm is ideal for nature macro images.
Focal length: 10-24mm
Aperture range: f/4-22
Dimensions (DxL): 78x87mm
Filter thread size: 72mm
Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS
18-55mm is an ideal focal length for many shooting scenarios, and as such many kit lenses adopt this zoom range. This XF18-55mm is essentially a ramped-up kit lens, taking on a much wider aperture value of f/2.8 at the wide 18mm end, and f/4 at the telephoto 55mm mark. This allows better light gathering for faster focusing and shooting at faster shutter speeds. Autofocus can be achieved in just 0.1sec, so you’ll never miss a moment. The AF also has a silent operation so it’s suitable for video recording as well as taking photos. The aperture is made from a seven-bladed round diaphragm for smoother, circular bokeh (out-of-focus highlights) too. Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) has been included for shake-free shots when shooting hand-held.
Focal length: 18-55mm
Aperture range: f/2.8-4
Dimensions (DxL): 70x62mm
Filter thread size: 58mm
Fujinon XF18-135mm f3.5-5.6 WR LM R OIS
If you like to cut down on weight and bulk, then it can be a good idea to travel with just one lens. An optic with a versatile zoom, such as Fujifilm’s XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, boasts an 18mm wideangle perfect for landscapes, and a long telephoto 135mm zoom, great for getting tighter compositions or shooting nearby wildlife. Its WR badge means the lens is fully weather sealed, so you can carry on shooting even if the heavens open. Camerashake is magnified when shooting at longer focal lengths, but fear not as this lens implements a comprehensive 5-stop Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system to combat blur and produce crisp images. Large zoom and focus rings around the lens barrel make it feel comfortable and secure in your hand too.
Focal length: 18-135mm
Aperture range: f/3.5-5.6
Dimensions (DxL): 75x97mm
Filter thread size: 67mm
Fujinon XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
Need to get closer to your subject? You need look no further than Fujifilm’s XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8. The zoomis equivalent to 84-305mm in film terms and complements an 18-55mm kit lens. It’s ideal for shooting long lens landscapes, far away wildlife or macro shots like insects. Built for superb image quality, the XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 features an array of Fujinon’s low dispersion (ED and Super ED) elements to increase clarity. There’s a large zoom ring around the lens barrel which makes the lens comfortable to use and easy to change the focal length when you’re in a hurry. The manual focus ring is easy to find, placed at the front of the barrel, and a powerful 4.5-stop Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) system reduces camera-shake when you’re shooting hand-held.
Focal length: 55-200mm
Aperture range: f/3.5-4.8
Dimensions (DxL): 75x118mm
Filter thread size: 62mm
Three Fujifilm features for BETTER LANDSCAPES
Framing guideline – 9x9 grid for easy rule-of-thirds framing
Composition is key to creating fantastic landscapes. The rule-of-thirds is an age-old method where the frame of your scene is divided into nine equal boxes. Generally speaking, positioning your subject on one or more of these lines is said to give your shot a more pleasing aesthetic than having it in the middle, though remember – rules are made to be broken. Many of Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras have a Framing Guideline mode where a 9x9 grid can be applied to help you compose using the rule-of-thirds. There’s also a 24 box, 6x4 grid modes for extra framing options. The Framing Guidelines also appear when using the Electronic Viewfinder on the X-T2.
Electronic level – helps achieve straighter horizons
A wonky horizon is the first thing we spot when looking at a landscape and a perfectly straight one makes your images look much more professional. A hotshoe bubble level is one way of making sure the horizon is absolutely level, but this is another thing to carry in your kit bag and slows down the flow of your shooting. Many Fujifilm X-Series cameras have an Electronic Level built-in to them. All you have to do is activate it in the Display Custom Settings menu and a white horizontal line will appear over your scene which turns green when your horizon is level. It can also be used in conjunction with the Framing Guideline if you’d like to compose using the Rule-Of-Thirds at the same time.
Film Simulation modes - Get a new look in an instant
Fujifilm’s powerful built-in Film Simulation modes are a fantastic way of applying a different look to your images live through the rear LCD panel or when using the Electronic Viewfinder. Black and white photography lends itself to landscapes, and Fujifilm’s Acros Film simulation provides high contrast results with rich details and incredible clarity. There’s also a more subdued Monochrome setting and a Sepia tone to play with too, each adding a new feel to your image. If you prefer to shoot in colour, the Velvia/Vivid setting delivers vibrant and striking colours. If you shoot in the highly-detailed RAW picture format you’ll keep the original colours intact should you prefer a different look later on.
In the hills, away from power, battery anxiety is a common condition, particularly when camping. Smartphones in particular are incredibly power hungry, and many have apps and functions that run in the background and suck power even when you're not using it. How you use your phone on the hill will dictate how many of the following you can do… but all could ensure you have juice left when you need it most.
- Put it in flight mode. This saves the most battery as it switches off all connections coming in or out of your phone. You can still use the camera, but you won’t be able to use navigation apps – and nobody will be able to call you.
- Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Two big drains on battery life, and both useless on the hill.
- Turn the screen brightness down. It will make it harder to see in the daylight, but you can always turn it up if needs be.
- Switch off ‘background app refresh’. This is the updating of phone applications while you’re roving about. Sucks battery and uses data as well.
- Buy a backup. If your phone has a removable battery, buy a spare and keep it charged. Alternatively, a huge range of companies make power banks, from the pricy ones by Brunton and Goal Zero to the cheapos in service stations.
- Turn it off. Yes, it is possible. Make sure you tell people that contact will be on your terms, though.
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As summer approaches, a map can often be the only navigational tool you bother using – but which mapping scale is best? In PART 10 of our navigation series, Lyle Brotherton explains how to interpret them.
"Thanks to the creation of the Ordnance Survey on 21st June 1791, in Great Britain we are fortunate to have the best maps in the world. Originally all Ordnance Survey mapping used Imperial measurements: miles, yards, feet and inches. Today they all use the much simpler metric system (kilometres, metres and centimetres) and we also have access to other excellent maps available from Harvey Maps."
The tricky part: map scales!
The scale of a map shows how much you would have to enlarge your map to get the actual size of the piece of land you are looking at. It is expressed as a ratio and is always printed on the map.
If your map has a scale of 1:25,000, this means that every 1 unit on the map represents 25,000 of those same units of measurement on the ground. These maps use metric measurements and we navigate using metres and kilometres, so using the aforementioned ratio 1cm on the map equals 25,000cm, or 250m, on the land. This means that every 4cm on a 1:25,000 map = 1km in real life. To make life easy the blue grid lines (grey on Harvey Maps) are exactly 4cm apart, so every square is 1km by 1km.
The first number (map distance) is always 1. The second number (ground distance) is different for each scale – the larger the second number is, the smaller the scale of the map. This sounds confusing, but in fact it is easy to understand. Large scale maps show small features on the land, such as an individual house. Small scale maps show large features, such as an entire city. So, a 1:50,000 map has large area (and therefore less detail) on one sheet, whereas a 1:12,500 map has a small area (and therefore more detail) on the same space.
The most popular maps
Ordnance Survey Landranger Maps
204 of these pink-sleeved maps cover the whole of Great Britain. You’ll find footpaths, rights of way and some tourist information features on these maps, but you do lose some detail as compared to smaller scale maps such as the 1:25 000. This means you won’t find minor paths, field boundaries, open access areas and public rights of way, or smaller areas of marshland, rocky ground or small streams on these maps. However, don’t be put off Landrangers, because they do have their place in walking and mountaineering. Indeed, some Scottish Mountain Rescue teams use these as standard issues where fences and rights of way are unimportant and where they need to view larger areas of land.
Why should I use these?
In places where the terrain is extremely complex or very spread out, too much detail can become confusing and the 1:50,000 scale is easier to follow.
Harvey British Mountain Maps
Centred around specific mountain locations in Britain, these have a large area of clear, detailed mapping on one sheet. Layer colouring is used for easy ID of hills and valleys. With detailed enlargements of selected summits, climbers’ crags are highlighted too. Mountain incident info is included, as well as a BGS (British Geological Survey) map of the geology of the area.
Harvey National Trail Maps
All the detail needed for sure navigation of your chosen National Trail is shown, with 100 miles of detailed mapping on one sheet along with an introduction to the route. Directions to the start, facilities available in towns and villages, information on finding accommodation, camping and food, plus ranger service contacts are all shown.
Slim, light and pocket-perfect (weighing 25gms), the unique folding pattern of the compact Ultramaps allows you to open to either side of the sheet. They show all the detail you‘d expect on a large-scale walking map, including boundaries, walls, fences and rights of way.
Why should I use these?
Like the 1:50,000 scale, these 1:40,000 maps are often preferable in confusingly contoured landscape when a more general view of the shape of the land is required.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps
403 of these orange-sleeved maps cover the whole of Great Britain (with the exception of the Isle of Man, which is excluded from this series). They show the detail of Britain’s landscape, minor paths, field boundaries (walls and fences), open access areas and public rights of way (except in Scotland where the ‘right to roam’ act covers most land), and small areas of marshland, rocky ground and small streams.
Harvey Superwalker Maps
Like the OS Explorers the 1:25,000 scale of the Superwalkers shows land shape in clear and accurate detail. However, although public footpaths, bridleways and other key features are shown, these Harvey maps do away with information irrelevant to the walker, making them appear less cluttered than their Ordnance Survey equivalents.
Why should I use these?
Because of the extra detail shown they are superb for micro-navigation when you need to be able to identify as much of the terrain as possible.
Harvey Summit Maps
Although they only cover an area of 4x3km, the extra close-up version of Harvey’s maps are used by some Mountain Rescue teams as they are excellent for complex ridges such as the Cuillin on Skye.
Why should I use these?
For navigating super-complex mountain summits like those on the notoriously difficult Cuillin Ridge, these maps offer an extremely clear view.
Tourist features in blue ink (nature trails, visitor centres and – importantly – ski-lifts) are not placed accurately on any of the above maps. They should NOT be used as navigation aids.
Important considerations when choosing your map
Durability: Using a map cover will protect your map, but these can be unwieldy and you may need to take a paper map out to refold it as you move across terrain – not ideal in the rain. Laminated maps are waterproof and these are good, but my preference is maps that are printed directly onto a plastic material (look out for Harvey XT series, printed on lightweight polypropylene) as these fold more easily and are less cumbersome.
Buy the most up-to-date maps you can: From the minute they are produced maps start going out of date. New OS maps come with a free digital version of the sheet, which will update automatically – but, of course, your paper map will not!
CUSTOMISE YOUR MAP
If you’re unsure of your exact position and you don’t have the luxury of GPS it’s possible to work out where you are the old-fashioned way with a map and compass. You can also use these tools to check your navigation as you go, and one of the easiest techniques for this is using back bearings.Read More
Do you know your 'dome' from your 'geodesic'? Or your 'tunnel' from your 'tarp'? More to the point, do you know which type of tent would suit you best? Confused?
Allow Trail to explain...
in association with
The simple design of the classic tunnel tent provides spacious accommodation for relatively little weight and bulk. They do need to be pegged correctly, but when set up properly, they are remarkably stable in even high wind conditions: Hilleberg Keron and Nammatj models are the de facto standard for Polar expeditions.
- Outstanding space to weight ratio
- Quick and easy to pitch
- Remarkably stable
- Can be tough to pitch on rock
Best suited to...
- Long distance walkers
- Winter backpackers and ski tourers
Often seen as the classic mountaineering tent, the geodesic design relies on multiple poles that cross in multiple places to produce a very stable structure, making them excellent for trips with high snow loading potential. Note that while the main tent is self-supporting, the vestibules do need to be pegged out on most models. Geodesics are a smart choice for demanding exposed terrain, especially in winter or extreme conditions.
- Highly stable
- Self-supporting tent body
- Relatively heavy
- Sloping walls can limit useable space
Best suited to...
- Winter hillwalkers
- Mountain base campers in all seasons
“Dome Tents” include a broad array of models. At the high end, modern dome tents, such as the Hilleberg Staika, Allak and Soulo, are easily as strong as geodesics, and offer the added benefit of fully free standing construction, with vestibule(s) integrated into the structure. These tents are well-suited to any mountain venture, from a summer ramble to a winter mountaineering assault. At the low end, dome tents offer lower prices and are often quite capable of taking on most conditions.
- High end: Highly stable
- High end: Excellent on rock and in other tough pitching conditions
- High end: fully free standing construction, with integrated vestibule(s)
- Low end: generally cheaper
- High end: Relatively heavy
- Low end: lower stability
Best suited to...
- High end: All-season backpackers, hill walkers, and mountaineers
- High end: Mountain base campers in all seasons
- Low end: Roadside wild campers
- Low end: festival goers
Though A-frame ridge tents were once a staple of Himalayan expeditions and Scout camps, better design and materials have made them impractical for most modern backpackers, who are better served by tunnel designs. However, some of the modern, reimagined ridge designs are a good choice for weight-driven backpackers. In addition, fun and funky tents like those from Field Candy are adding a new twist to the humble ridge design, and are great for festivals or sheltered campsites.
- Stable when pitched sensibly
- Can be very lightweight
- Smaller styles claustrophobic
- Old style A-frames heavy and walls slope
Best suited to...
- Festivals and campsites
- Some modern designs good for weight-oriented backpackers
'Tarping’ is getting ever more popular in summer, and there’s no doubt it offers an ascetic, streamlined way to camp – with the added benefit of the ability to pitch on tent-unfriendly surfaces like ridges or boulderfields. If you’re happy regarding shelter as purely functional, enjoy. If you like being sealed away from the elements, it won’t be for you. Note that a tarp and tent combination offers great versatility: use the tarp to create an extended patio for your tent, or use it alone for shelter on breaks from the trail, or for cooking or group gathering.
- Very light
- Pitching variations limited only by the imagination
- Open to elements & bugs
- Requires thoughtful pitching
- Colder than a tent
Best suited to...
- Superlight backpackers who love al fresco sleeping
- Tent using backpackers and hillwalkers who want extra versatility and/or those who want or need separate covered cooking or gathering area
In part 8 of our navigation skill series Lyle Brotherton shares a handy technique that can help if you get lost...Read More
The usual definition of the phrase ‘boxing clever’ is to use one’s resources beyond conventional ways. This is equally apt for ‘boxing’ in navigation; it is a much underused technique, and yet it’s incredibly effective and very straightforward to master.Read More
The navigation term grid magnetic angle (GMA) sounds daunting, but it isn’t! Here you will learn exactly what it is, and how and where to use it.Read More
This time we’re looking at how easy it is to use natural features in the landscape to keep you on track. Handrailing, collecting features and catching features are the three techniques I use most, because they allow you to enjoy the great outdoors without constantly concentrating on navigation.Read More
In this part we are working with bearings, the backbone of all navigation. Even for experienced navigators it’s good to refresh your knowledge and test exactly how accurate you are. An error of just 5° over one kilometre will result in you missing your target by more than 87m; and in poor visibility or at night, this is a real game-changer!Read More
This series is designed to help improve your navigation, using techniques and tools you can safely practice inside your home, then your garden, and in this issue we take you into your local neighborhood - don’t worry we’ll be on the hill soon!Read More
Walking Boots are your passport to freedom, so it’s imperative that you get the right footwear to suit the conditions and the type of activity you're looking to do. Our guide takes you through the elements you should consider when buying your next pair of boots.
Decide what the principal activity you want to do in the outdoors is, and then choose a boot designed for that activity. All boots can be categorised into one of the following ways:
B0 – flexible 3-season boots for valley, hill and mountain walking, backpacking, scrambling and via ferrata. They are not recommended for use with crampons or for use on snow in the mountains.
B1 – stiff but flexible 3-4 season boots for use on or off the snow when hillwalking and backpacking in the mountains. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B2 – very stiff 4-season boots for use on snow when hillwalking, climbing or mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B3 – totally stiff and flat-soled ice-climbing boots for serious snow and ice-climbing and mountaineering. They are recommended for use with crampons and for use on snow in the mountains.
B0 boots are not recommended for use with crampons
B1 boots can be used with C1 types of crampons
B2 boots can be used with C1 or C2 crampons
B3 boots can be used with C1, C2 or C3 crampons
You’ll find two sizes– UK and Euro – in many boots these days. We’ve listed them all here (left) so you can work out whether they’ll fit you!
Stiff uppers are better for rocky ground and winter use, and they allow crampon straps to be comfortably fitted. Softer uppers are more comfortable and so are best for valley walking where less support and protection is required than on rocky mountains.
For winter walking, look for grooves that are at least twice as deep as the thickness of a pound coin. Lug depths less than this are ideal for hill and valley walking. But if the lugs are less than the depth of a single coin, they won’t give much grip in mud or on grass and they’ll also wear down quickly on harder surfaces. The heel breast (the cutaway section between forefoot and heel) should be three times the thickness of a pound coin for hillwalking above or below the snowline. Boots with shallower heel breasts are best kept to good paths at valley level.
Press the toe box with your thumb and then pinch it on the sides. If it flexes easily, the boot is best restricted to good paths in the valley, while a stiffer toe box is better for rocky mountains and winter use.
Grab the boot by the toe and heel, and bend the heel towards the toe. Then twist the toe while holding the heel steady. The harder it is to bend the boot, the better suited it is to snow and rocky ground, and crampon use. The softer the flex, the better the boot is suited to use on good paths in the valley. A 3-4 season boot is stiffer than a 3-season boot but not as stiff as a 4-season boot.
Support Choose boots with minimal underfoot support for walking on good valley paths, but go for those with a stiffer sole and plenty of support underfoot for use on rocky mountain terrain.
Cushioning With the boots on, stamp your feet on the ground to get an idea of how well they can cushion impact. More cushioning is best for walking, but climbers may prefer less cushioning to allow a greater ‘feel’ for what they are standing on.
Pinch the heel cup between the fingers. If it is soft and flexible it won’t offer much support, so such boots are best restricted to valley path use, while boots with stiffer heel cups are better for rocky mountain walks and winter use where maximum support is useful.
Stitching will come apart over time, so a boot with minimal stitching will be most durable. But double stitching improves the durability considerably and adds extra security to the seams. Stiff uppers made of thick leather will be more durable than those made of synthetic materials. To improve durability, look for a rubber rand around the sides, toes and heels. The most durable boots are best for rocky mountain use and winter use, while less durable designs are best kept to valley paths.
If the upper is made of one piece of leather, or is relatively stitch-free, the boot will be as waterproof as most people will require – particularly if it is made of thick leather. Boots that are covered in stitching or those made with synthetic materials will leak more easily and are more prone to wear, while a waterproof lining such asGore-Tex will make the boot waterproof.
The UK offers so many great walking options, however there’s one thing that you can’t rely on and that the weather. A good waterproof jacket is an essential piece of outdoor clothing when planning a day outdoors, this handy guide highlights what to consider when buying your walking jacket.
On high-priced jackets you can expect to find that the fabrics used are the most waterproof and breathable available – and while there may be small differences between them It’ll will be difficult to notice on the hill. Your comfort will often therefore be dictated by features such as the hood, pocket and sleeve design. However, on lower-priced waterproof jackets fabric breathability and the durability of waterproofness are more important considerations. Some jackets might have Gore-Tex fabric, eVent, Polartec Neoshell or a range of proprietary fabrics.
Normal zips used on jackets are not waterproof so they are usually covered by an external single or double stormflap. Water-resistant zips are commonly used on high-priced jackets but these are not waterproof either. As these zips may leak, they are often fitted with an internal flap which is designed to channel away any water that enters this area.
Even the best waterproof and breathable fabrics allow condensation to form, so it is important that you can increase ventilation of the jacket. A front zip can be used for venting, as can underarm zips, also called pit zips and mesh linings in pockets can increase airflow through the jacket. However note that mesh pockets may also allow water to pass through.
Big pockets are great for storing maps, guidebooks and gloves, and they can also be used to protect your hands from wind and rain. Rucksack belts obscure access to some pockets, so make sure they are well-positioned to avoid this problem.
The hood should fit snugly so it doesn’t blow off, but it must also move with your head so you can see where you’re going. The peak may become bent when the jacket is stashed in a rucksack, so look for a wired one that can be easily reshaped to allow good vision even in the wind.
For over 800 reviews of waterproof jackets perfect for all types walking visit our outdoor directory by clicking here.
How to shoot the stars - wherever you are!
Few subjects are as captivating as the stars, so it’s easy to spend hours gazing at them. Dan Mold of www.practicalphotography.com explains how to capture astro images loaded with detail.
If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of the night sky using the automatic mode on your camera or phone, doubtless you’ll have been disappointed with the results. Creative cameras with manual modes, such as DSLRs, have the ability to capture a much higher level of detail than the human eye. But they do need to be set up correctly to do the night sky justice, so stabilising your camera with something like a tripod is essential for this technique.
Dark Sky areas
The night sky can look very different depending on where you are on the planet, as you’ll be able to see different star constellations. The southern hemisphere also gets a much clearer view of the Milky Way, so places like South America and Australia can be particularly good for these kind of shots. Regardless of where you are, you’ll want the sky to be as dark as possible.
A dark sky area is one that is far away from the light pollution of city street lights, as this light will bleed into your shots, reducing contrast and star visibility. There are loads of dark sky maps online showing you where these dark pockets are. In England, places such as Kielder Forest in Northumberland become fantastically dark in the evenings. You can also use apps such as Star Walk 2, which show you where specific constellations are, as well as where the Milky Way sits in the sky. This particular app also informs you of special celestial events such as meteor showers.
Set your camera up on a tripod and compose your shot. Focusing can be tricky as there is little light, but if you place your active AF point over a star it should be bright enough to lock on to. If the autofocus keeps hunting back and forth, don't worry. Go into your camera’s Live View mode and zoom in on the screen view so you can clearly see how sharp the focus is. Put your camera or lens into manual focus and adjust the focusing ring until the stars are pin-sharp.
Go into your camera’s manual mode, set an ISO of 800 to begin with and open your aperture as wide as it will go. This is usually f/3.5-5.6 on a kit lens, but if it will open further that’s even better. Shutter speeds will vary between 5sec and 15sec, so start with a 10sec exposure as your first test shot. Set the 2sec self-timer so you don’t jog the camera and start the exposure. Alternatively, you can use a shutter release cable.
Take a look at the shot on the back the back of the LCD and if it’s too bright reduce the shutter speed a little. If it’s too dark, increase the ISO and shutter speed a little until the exposure looks right. Make sure you don’t set a shutter speed longer than 15sec, as after this your stars will turn into long trails rather than sharp pinpoints of light. This is because the Earth’s rotation is more noticeable in these longer exposures.
Step-by-step - How to edit your star shot:
1. Tweak the RAW
Make sure you shoot in the RAW format, as these files hold much more data – very handy for star shots when you need a broad range of tones, from the deep black sky to the bright stars. In your RAW editing software increase the exposure a little until you’re happy with the result. Push up the shadows and decrease the highlights to preserve detail in the darkest and brightest areas of the shot.
2. Dodge and burn in Photoshop
Having a good level of contrast between the bright stars and dark sky is crucial for creating a great astro pic. In Photoshop you need to use the Dodge and Burn tools to selectively add these pockets of contrast. Start by clicking on the Burn Tool to make it active and in the Tool Options set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure to 3%. Make sure the Brush is soft so you can apply the effect gradually. Now brush over the areas of the sky you’d like to darken and keep painting over them until you’re happy with how dark they appear.
Then switch to the Dodge Tool. Keep the settings the same as before, but this time set the Exposure to Midtones and paint over the parts of the sky you’d like to brighten. This includes the horizon, stars, foreground and Milky Way. Finally, set the Exposure to Highlights and paint over the stars to make them really pop. You can switch back and forth between the Dodge and Burn tools until you’re happy with the result.
In Part 1 we gave you some navigation tips and tools that you can try in the comfort of your own home or office. Now, we’re taking you outside, all the way to… your garden! Here is a trio of techniques that you can learn in your own outdoor space before taking them to the hills to put into practice.Read More
Trail’s photographer Tom Bailey covers more miles on the hill than most (if not all) walking gentlemen. Hence, so do his boots – and more often than not they’re transporting a fair weight of kit over difficult terrain. Correctly fitting boots are essential. Finding himself in the Lake District in need of a new pair at short notice, he drops in to the George Fisher store in Keswick to chat with John Owens about his requirements.Read More
QUESTION: THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO WEATHER FORECASTS. IS THERE ONE THAT'S PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR MOUNTAINS?
ANSWER BY JEREMY ASHCROFT, MOUNTAINEERING EDITOR
"All weather forecasts are derived from the
same raw data – that is, land-based weather stations, weather buoys, satellite sensors, aircraft and ship feeds. It is the interpretation of this data that varies, and generally the variance tends to be user-driven. For example, the forecasts you see on national television are aimed mainly at the general population and
will generally focus on where most people
live and work. For a more specific mountain forecast you really need to track down reports that use interpretation modelling designed specifically for mountain areas, for example
the Mountain Weather Information Service – www.mwis.org.uk
"Mountains have a huge influence on weather locally and generate microclimates. For this reason developing an active or even an obsessive interest in a full range of weather forecasts is ‘best practice’ for any mountaineer. Learning what all the different charts mean and comparing the detail with what you experience on the ground will over time allow you to make your own interpretations. A good place to start is by learning how to read a synoptic chart; this will allow you to understand what’s heading your way. You can also glean extra information by looking at webcams, reading other people’s hill blogs, and checking out walking and climbing forums."
Even the most adventurous of us are inevitably sometimes confined to staying at home. When you can escape, safe and competent navigation sets you free to explore the hills – and you can practise much of it while stuck inside! Here are three simple skills you can try indoors that really will improve your outdoor nav.Read More