Expanding your horizons: 8 innovative ways to photograph landscapes

An infrared shot of a bridge across a still lake in which the trees appear bright yellow. Taken by Pierre-Louis Ferrer.
French landscape photographer Pierre-Louis Ferrer uses infrared techniques for a fresh perspective on familiar locations. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 18mm, 1/60 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Pierre-Louis Ferrer

Epic views offer endless opportunities for creative landscape photography and yet the genre can slip towards cliché thanks to overused locations, stale compositions and an over-reliance on ultra-long exposures. Breaking away from the traditional picture-postcard landscape mould requires creativity and fresh thinking, and a willingness to experiment with new angles, new subjects and new techniques.

Dutch nature and landscape photographer Theo Bosboom has twice won Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards for his innovative imagery. He uses fisheye lenses to introduce new perspectives and pick out details in his abstract, artistic landscape photographs. French photographer and former aeronautical engineer Pierre-Louis Ferrer has become synonymous with the infrared technique he uses to cast iconic landscapes in a whole new light. Meanwhile, action photographer and Canon Ambassador Martin Bissig approaches landscapes from a narrative perspective, using them to tell stories of endurance. Here, they share their top techniques for taking a more creative approach to landscape photography.

Long grass sticking out of a snowy scene, resembling eyelashes.
Theo believes you can take great photos anywhere and encourages photographers on his workshops to find new ways of looking at landscapes. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 120mm, 1/50sec, f/9 and ISO250. © Theo Bosboom
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1. Don't be limited by light or location

When Theo runs workshops, he gives each participant a 10 metre x 10 metre patch and challenges them to spend an hour taking photographs inside it. It might be muddy and grey, but hard work invariably results in worthwhile images. "The iconic locations have been done already," he says. "About 80% of landscape portfolios are made up of the same five or 10 places. Once you realise you can produce good photographs anywhere, at any time, it frees you from waiting for the perfect light."

Martin shoots into the sun, and sets up images for sunset and sunrise, which allows him to capture dramatic silhouettes. "I tell stories, but I also compose them," he says. "Sometimes you have to set up a picture to enhance the reality and make it look good. It's no different to creating a still life at home."

Icicles pictured from underwater, framed by a mass of bubbles. Taken by Theo Bosboom.
A waterproof housing for his camera enabled Theo to shoot underwater, capturing the air bubbles on the surface as well as the icicles and the trees in the distance. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, 1/200 sec, f/14 and ISO2500. © Theo Bosboom
A view of overarching trees shot from below. The fisheye lens has made the trunks appear to curve and bend. Taken by Theo Bosboom.
Using a fisheye lens to photograph trees from the ground up gave Theo a totally new perspective on this forest. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm, 1/50 sec, f/10 and ISO1250. © Theo Bosboom

2. Try a fresh angle

Shooting from different angles can help you to see a landscape in new ways. When Theo embarked on a project in the valley of the Hoëgne, Belgium, exploring novel ways to photograph autumn, he shot some of his landscapes looking upwards, through water. He used a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens to create the striking, award-winning images for his series, The Journey of Autumn Leaves.

"The fisheye was great for this project," he says. "In water, you have to get very close to your subject, otherwise you can see dirt and particles. So, there was a technical reason for using a lens which, in the end, helped me to be more creative."

A mountain biker performing a jump against the backdrop of Pakistan's Karakoram mountains. Taken by Martin Bissig.
What makes this landscape photograph interesting is not just the dramatic backdrop – Pakistan's Karakoram mountains – but the juxtaposition of the mountain biker and the snow-covered peaks. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 118mm, 1/2000 sec, f/6.3 and ISO500. © Martin Bissig

3. Tell a story

Martin describes his work as "landscape photography with athletes in it", and has travelled the world photographing mountain bikers, from the Himalayas to Greenland. He combines action and sweeping landscapes, and the environment becomes a vital part of the story he's telling.

"If I took only close-up action shots, my work could easily be replicated, so I like to shoot with a wide-angle lens in order to say something about the athlete's environment," he says. Adding subjects and action into a landscape shot creates a dynamism which challenges the traditional picture-postcard style, as does shooting photo stories, rather than focusing on a single standout image.

An infrared shot of the Eiffel Tower and surrounding fountains in which the trees appear white. Taken by Pierre-Louis Ferrer.
Shooting at an ultra-wide angle requires an exacting eye. Here, Pierre-Louis makes the most of the leading lines to draw the viewer towards the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 6D Mark II) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 17mm, 1/80 sec, f/10 and ISO100. © Pierre-Louis Ferrer

4. Shoot wide

"Wide-angle lenses allow me to control the viewer's eye by playing with the guidelines in the frame," says Pierre-Louis. He particularly likes using the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, especially when shooting infrared images. "The lens is perfect as it doesn't create a hotspot in the middle of the image – something that's common with lenses when shooting infrared."

Wide-angle lenses are also a vital part of Martin's kitbag. He often pairs his Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 15-35MM F2.8L IS USM lens. "Wide-angle is dynamic, but as soon as you include cyclists in your shot, you have to be careful not to place them too close to the edge of the frame because they can become distorted. I use lens correction in post-production because, however creative you are, your images have to look realistic."

A close-up of the layers made in flysch rock formations in Spain. Taken by Theo Bosboom.
This abstract shot of flysch formations (sedimentary rock layers) is perfectly sharp throughout the entire frame thanks to Theo's use of focus stacking. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm, 1/5 sec, f/7 and ISO200. © Theo Bosboom

5. Focus stack for maximum sharpness

Despite the popularity of blur in creative photography, there are still occasions when only corner-to-corner sharpness will do. Theo often uses focus stacking to create pin-sharp images. "I take four or five shots, focusing on the closest point, then adjusting the focus as I move through to the furthest," he says. He uses Live View mode to zoom in on areas of the frame to ensure they are perfectly sharp, and merges the images in the edit for complete front-to-back sharpness.

An infrared shot of the Eiffel Tower and boats on the Seine in which the trees appear white. Taken by Pierre-Louis Ferrer.
Pierre-Louis' infrared shots of familiar locations reveal an alternative reality. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 16mm, 1/80 sec, f/10 and ISO100. © Pierre-Louis Ferrer
An infrared shot of Eyrignac Manor Gardens, France, in which all the trees and foliage appear bright yellow. Taken by Pierre-Louis Ferrer.
Eyrignac Manor Gardens in the Dordogne, France, bathed in gold. Pierre-Louis has discovered that harsh, bright light is a necessity when shooting infrared. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 16mm, 1/100 sec, f/10 and ISO100. © Pierre-Louis Ferrer

6. Embrace new techniques

Pierre-Louis has become a specialist in infrared and ultraviolet photography, which allows him to give familiar scenes, such as the Parisian skyline, a unique twist. He uses a converted camera, and then changes the colour saturation in post-production to give his photographs a dream-like feel.

"I started out with a modified Canon EOS 6D, but my modified Canon EOS RP is perfect for infrared photography, because the LCD screen shows you exactly how the effect will look," he says. "Canon sensors are very sensitive to infrared light, and the Canon EOS RP is the best camera for creating quality infrared pictures."

He believes, as with any technique, infrared needs to be used for a reason, though, which means finding the right subject for a powerful picture. "Because infrared light is so highly reflected by foliage, my images demonstrate the extent to which nature spreads – even in a city such as Paris, which is better known for its buildings and museums."

A mountain biker performing a jump on a dirt track in Pakistan's Karakoram mountains. Taken by Martin Bissig.
"When you're trekking for 10-12 hours a day, you need your gear to be as light as possible. The Canon EOS R has been transformational for me," says Martin. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 87mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6 and ISO200. © Martin Bissig

7. Pick out details

"I like to leave things out," says Theo, who often uses a zoom lens, such as a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM), to isolate the detail in his landscape photographs. At the other end of the spectrum, he uses his "hidden gem", a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro lens, to reveal "small, intimate landscapes".

He shoots on either a Canon EOS 5DS R or a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. "They make a good pair," he says. "The Canon EOS 5DS R is crazily sharp and the colours are wonderful, while the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is better for high ISO shots."

When on location in the far corners of the world, Martin needs a wide focal range to ensure he can capture all the surrounding landscape can offer. "The Canon EOS R is the perfect size and weight for carrying on a trek," he says. "On a recent trip to Pakistan, I took a lot of shots with a Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens, which was perfect for my purposes – small, light and with a huge zoom range."

A succession of waves breaking during an Icelandic winter storm. Taken by Theo Bosboom.
For a more abstract approach, Theo uses a short shutter speed to capture the drama of an Icelandic winter storm. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens plus Canon Extender EF 2x III at 400mm, 1/6400sec, f/9 and ISO640. © Theo Bosboom

8. Choose a different shutter speed

With the ultra-long exposure now ubiquitous in landscape photography, Theo suggests using shutter speeds of between a half and a couple of seconds to create photographs that stand out from the crowd.

"At these shutter speeds you will still see the detail, elegance and flow of the water," he says. "I tend to use only a polariser or, at most, a three-stop neutral-density (ND) filter. I take 20 or so images at varying lengths before choosing which works best."

Skrevet af Ailsa McWhinnie

Martin Bissig's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their landscape photographs

Martin Bissig's kit.


Canon EOS R

Canon's pioneering full frame mirrorless camera offers the perfect shooting experience to take your storytelling further. "I've waited for this camera for a long time. It's small, fast and offers all I need," says Martin.


Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Capture more, even in low light, with this ultra-wide angle 15-35mm RF zoom with 5-stops of image stabilization – ideal for landscape and architecture. "My wide-angle lens of choice," says Martin. "Fast and super sharp all the way to the corners."

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Boasting a fast aperture and image stabilization, plus a Nano USM motor for silent focusing, this RF lens provides outstanding performance. "This lens sets new standards for this zoom range with incredible image quality," says Martin.

Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM

A highly versatile 24-105mm zoom lens offering an ideal balance between performance, portability and image quality, this RF lens offers superb flexibility to photographers and filmmakers. "If I can only bring one lens and don't want to compromise on image quality, this is my choice," says Martin.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

This portable, versatile 10x zoom RF lens is ideal for everything from wide-angle landscapes to frame-filling portraits, and even close-up sport and wildlife, offering near-silent focusing that is as unobtrusive as possible. Martin describes it as his "expedition" lens: "It covers a zoom range that's ideal for me while travelling, with great image quality considering its size and weight," he explains.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

This professional quality, fast-aperture telephoto zoom lens is popular with a wide range of photographers, from wildlife and sports photographers to those shooting weddings and portraiture. "Its size and weight, combined with its excellent image quality, is perfect for me," Martin says.

Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

From wide to telephoto with just one lens. The flexibility of an 11x zoom range, combined with the quality of Canon's L-series glass, make this lens the perfect tool for photographers on the move.

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

An ultra-wide professional L-series zoom lens with constant f/4 aperture for architecture and landscapes.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range.


Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

A powerful flashgun for use both on and off the camera, capable of being triggered remotely up to 30 metres away. "I have three of these units," says Martin. "They're great: small, lightweight and easy to set up. Perfect for most of my shots outdoors!"

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