A day in the life of a landscape photographer: 4 top pros learn a new genre

The sun setting over sea, lighting up white cliffs, photographed by Marc Aspland on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.
Sports photographer Marc Aspland is more accustomed to having to capture fast-moving action. Slowing down for landscape photography during his day learning from David Noton was a complete shift and a welcome challenge, he says. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 1/13 sec, f/22 and ISO100. © Marc Aspland

What happens when a group of top professional photographers, all experts in their specialist fields, take on the challenge of shooting a completely different genre of photography? How do they adapt, what do they learn from the experience and how does it change their work in the future?

We asked four pro photographers to step out of their comfort zones and learn something from the mindset, practical approach and equipment used by those working in other genres. Professional photography is a broad term, and this highlights the nuances of genres within the craft.

Landscape and travel photographer David Noton invited four fellow pros to shoot landscapes for a day. Family photographer Helen Bartlett, wedding specialist Sanjay Jogia, and two sports photographers, Marc Aspland and Eddie Keogh, joined David on his home turf: the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, England.

Pro photographers Eddie Keogh, Helen Bartlett, David Noton, Marc Aspland and Sanjay Jogia on the beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.
The group came ready for action, with all their equipment and warm clothing. As professional photographers, all recognise how important it is to dress for the conditions. All the behind-the-scenes photos here, and the portraits, were taken on the shoot by Joby Sessions. © Joby Sessions
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"I know the Jurassic Coast really well and have spent a lifetime photographing it," says David. "It's a south-facing coastline, so I wanted to do the shoot in the winter, when the light on the coast is particularly dramatic. I also wanted to introduce them to the kind of thought processes I go through when I'm scouting a location and planning a shoot."

The five pros met at West Bay in Dorset on a cold January day. David gave them some initial guidance, which included advice about using long exposures and ND grad, polarizer and 'big stopper' filters. After that, they were free to explore the location and get to grips with a completely new subject and way of working. Over the next 24 hours, the group worked in the chosen locations at different times of the day, relishing what they called their "job swap". Let's see what they learnt.

A black and white landscape shows a beach and cliffs, with a bunch of flowers on the rocks in the foreground.
Marc says a long exposure of 30 seconds with "huge depth of field captured this simple, yet for me rather evocative, scene." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 30.0 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Marc Aspland
Sports photographer Marc Aspland with a camera on a beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.

About Marc Aspland

Marc began his career as a general news photographer before focusing on sport. He has been the Chief Sports Photographer of The Times since 1993. He has covered six summer Olympic Games and four FIFA World Cup Finals. He has won the Sports Photographer of the Year award four times.

Marc Aspland, sports photographer

Marc says: "My world was turned upside-down by David as he allowed me to parachute into his world by using a tripod, filters and incredibly long exposures – all of which are utterly alien to me as an editorial sports photographer. At the start, he put his hands on the shoulders of Eddie and me and said, 'Alright, guys: slow. That landscape is not going to move. Put your cameras on single shot, close your eyes. Open them. Now look.'

"David is utterly at one with nature, and his working life has been spent in amazing locations around the world, simply waiting for the best light. It was fascinating to see how he sees things – how he will wait hour after hour for that non-moving subject, just for the light to change in a moment. Whereas in sports photography, it's all about reacting to 'that moment' and it's gone in a two-thousandth of a second.

"As I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow pros I quickly realised that I needed to find and see my own interpretation of this view. By walking along the beach and clambering up the rocks, I found myself on the harbour wall. And here my photojournalistic creativity matched perfectly with David's world, as on the rocks were a bunch of lilies with a memorial card and I knew I'd found what I was looking for. It was a simple, yet for me rather evocative, scene. That is my favourite picture because it says a little bit more about me as a photographer."

Four photographers silhouetted on a cliff-top at dusk, with sea behind, photographed by Sanjay Jogia.
Sanjay's favourite shot of the day is an almost abstract image of people in the landscape, but intentionally not a portrait, in which the landscape could become merely a backdrop. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/2.8 and ISO4000. © Sanjay Jogia
Wedding photographer Sanjay Jogia with a camera on a beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.

About Sanjay Jogia

London-based Sanjay has been a full-time wedding photographer for over 10 years, in partnership with his wife Roshni. He specialises in Indian weddings and has won numerous awards for his work, including a Fellowship of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers.

Sanjay Jogia, wedding photographer

Sanjay says: "What I took away from the job swap was how intersecting disciplines can enrich my own. As a wedding photographer I often find myself in some interesting locations. I've shot in landscapes from deserts to Iceland, but my approach is quite different. I'm aiming to capture a striking portrait of a couple, and the landscape becomes the backdrop. What I really enjoyed about this event was understanding David's approach to photographing landscapes.

"The key thing was the stillness of his approach. He would see an overall scene and look for geometries and shapes in the landscape, and allowed the scene to develop over time. So if there were people in the scene, he would allow their movement to develop into the geometries that he was looking for.

"This approach has made me think about how I will do my next pre-wedding shoot in a beautiful landscape. It's made me consider how I would use the landscape more intentionally in terms of the composition and the way I would allow the framing and the narrative to develop. It really got me thinking in terms of how that would work. Taking a step back and looking at the whole event, I think it really did its job in terms of that cross-pollination of genres and approaches.

"My favourite picture on the day was a shot of the group in silhouette, wearing head torches. It's a combination of landscape photography with the sort of shot I do on a day-to-day basis."

A black and white beach landscape, with rock stacks in the sea and cliffs behind, photographed by Helen Bartlett.
"I'm always looking for mood and emotion in my work," says Helen, "and I feel this shot has really worked because the use of black-and-white gives it a wonderful mood of mystery, and the long exposure makes it seem almost otherworldly in its stillness." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 187 secs, f/22 and ISO100. © Helen Bartlett
Helen Bartlett, David Noton, Sanjay Jogia and Eddie Keogh taking photographs on the beach at dusk.
Helen says the pros learned from each other as well as from David. "Sanjay was incredibly kind, explaining some of the finer points of working with a 10-stop ND grad," says Helen. "His technique of working out the change in exposure in terms of the number of clicks is inspired. Also, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens that Eddie was using on the beach looked like a lot of fun..." © Joby Sessions
Family photographer Helen Bartlett with her camera on a beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.

About Helen Bartlett

Helen has been a professional family photographer, based in London, since graduating from Cambridge University in 2003. She specialises in natural pictures of children of all ages and family groups, and shoots all her work in black-and-white. She has been a Canon Ambassador since 2017.

Helen Bartlett, family photographer

Helen says: "I've always felt that one of the great benefits of shooting landscapes is in slowing down. My work is usually a frenzy of activity. Yes, there can be moments of calm and stillness (and also cake) during my photo shoots, but from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave, I'm constantly searching for pictures, moving around and reacting to what is happening in front of me.

"In the landscape we are reacting to the light and the weather and the world around us. By putting a camera on a tripod, we take more time to consciously consider each element of the photograph – where does the subject meet the edges of the frame? What is happening in the corners? Should a piece of the landscape be included or cropped out? I've found, over the years, that this process is hugely beneficial to my portrait work.

"I was shooting with the Canon EOS R, and I did find that using its electronic viewfinder set to black-and-white really helped with finding a good landscape that would work in monochrome. Having the focus peaking markers on the back of the camera meant I could check at a glance and be sure the focus was where I needed it to be. It's a small thing but one that I found incredibly helpful.

"My favourite image was taken on the dawn shoot at Bat's Head – a view looking down from the cliffs towards Durdle Door. I feel this image has captured the calmness of the sunrise, the time of infinite possibilities before the world wakes up. I used a 10-stop neutral-density 'big stopper' filter to slow the shutter speed right down to three minutes. This means the sea becomes a tranquil blur, but with the shadows of currents and eddies visible in places to give a feeling of movement below the surface and other worlds in the deep."

Taken from the beach, a landscape shows huge golden cliffs above and people on the beach below. Photo by Eddie Keogh.
Eddie, a veteran sports photographer, also took on board the importance of slowing down when photographing a landscape – but still made a point of trying to capture the "dynamic" quality he saw in the cliffs. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 1/15 sec, f/18 and ISO400. © Eddie Keogh
Sports photographer Eddie Keogh takes a photo on a beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.

About Eddie Keogh

Eddie has been a sports photographer for over 30 years. He worked for national newspapers in the UK from 1986 to 2005, after which he became a contract photographer for Reuters. He is the official England football team photographer and shoots Premier League football for Reuters and the England rugby team for O2.

Eddie Keogh, sports photographer

Eddie says: "For me, the best bit about the day was getting up super early in the morning (I know that sounds a bit weird) and walking in the dark with head torches so we could get to the location for first light. It's not often you find yourself looking over a 200 metre cliff at 6.30am.

"I've had a go at shooting landscapes before, but never to a serious degree. It's difficult for sure. It's a totally different set of skills to understand. That was the great thing about going out with David – we could ask real-time on-location questions. His knowledge is limitless, but the lovely thing is he doesn't come over as a know-it-all.

"I tended to shoot long rather than wide, because I felt going wide lost the feel of the cliffs. They are quite dynamic, and a slightly longer lens compresses those lovely curved shapes. Also, the people would be lost in the frame on my favourite picture [below] if I'd used a wide lens on that particular scene.

"I guess the main thing I learned from the shoot was patience. Sports photographers are always in a rush to move pictures, and on occasion I just need to hold on and see if a change in the light makes the picture any better."

White cliffs seen from above stretching down to the beach. They look bluish-white and have a tiny figure on top in the distance. Photo by David Noton.
David's favourite photo of the day is this shot of a solitary figure on the cliffs of Bat's Head in Dorset, England. The feel is quite different from the generally warmer images captured on the day by the other pros. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 2.0 sec, f/11 and ISO100. © David Noton Photography
David and Sanjay discuss a shot behind a tripod on the beach, while Helen and Eddie shoot on either side.
David sharing his expertise with Helen, Sanjay and Eddie. © Joby Sessions
Landscape photographer David Noton on the beach. Photograph by Joby Sessions.

About David Noton

David has been shooting landscape and travel images in locations around the world for over 30 years. His work sells as fine art prints and commercially in advertising and publishing. His awards include prizes in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 1985, 1989 and 1990.

David Noton, landscape and travel photographer

David says: "It was great fun for me introducing the other pros to the rituals of my world. I knew there was nothing I could teach them about how to create strong images, but what I could maybe do was show them how I approach my landscape shoots, from planning to waiting to execution.

"The others all work in quite hectic, fast-moving, high-pressure environments. Landscape photography is, usually, more measured; it's often frustrating, but patience and persistence almost always pay off. I hope that a slower, analytical approach and contemplative mentality may occasionally be useful to them in their specialisms.

"Typically over the course of the 24 hours we either had too much cloud, as happened in the afternoon at West Bay, or too little cloud, as transpired the next morning at Bat's Head. But that's the challenge of landscape photography in a nutshell: we are slaves to Mother Nature's whims, and conditions are rarely perfect."

Helen, David and Sanjay take photographs on the sea shore. Photograph by Joby Sessions.
The pros were keen to discover new techniques and approaches that could enrich their work. © Joby Sessions

"We spoke about some technicalities including colour temperature. The big difference between us is that they would probably all be shooting on either custom or auto white balance, whereas I shoot daylight white balance all the time because I want to capture the shifts of natural light.

"My favourite image from the ones I shot on the job swap showed a solitary figure on the Jurassic Coast cliffs, shot from Bat's Head. I like this particular image because of the strong shapes in the frame, the sense of place, and the tiny figure on the cliff top, which gives scale.

"Being in the company of such talented professionals who are all at the absolute top of their games was humbling. But what was really special was being there with them watching the light paint the cliffs, stacks and arches as day broke on the Jurassic Coast. I live for such experiences. It was a privilege to share it with them."

Skrevet af David Clark

David Noton's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their landscape photographs

David Noton's kitbag laid out, with a Canon EOS 5DS R body, EOS R body, a selection of lenses and other equipment.


Canon EOS 5DS R

Designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with 50.6-megapixel resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor. "I like the incredible detail I get from the 50MP files, which make this camera especially good for landscape work," says David.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

With its high-sensitivity 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor, expanded 61-point Dual Pixel AF system and 4K video capture, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II delivers class-leading performance.


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

A fast, ultra-wide-angle zoom lens offering excellent optical performance throughout the zoom range. David says: "It's a very flexible lens with impressive corner-to-corner sharpness."

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