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Capturing Summer Landscapes

by Ian Shive
featured, Outdoor & Landscape, photo & video

Summer is one of the most magical times of year to photograph. The landscape is lush and vibrant, wildlife abounds and it’s typically comfortable to be outdoors almost all the time. As a photographer, you also get a major variety of opportunities to make incredible imagery. In summer, different landscapes provide for different opportunities. Let’s explore a few of my favorites:

Coastlines & Oceans

Who doesn’t love the beach in summer? One of the best ways to get great images is thankfully also one of the best ways to relax. Kicking off shoes entirely and walking a beach just to explore is a great way to unwind and ease off the pressure allowing some of the best creative works to emerge. One of my earliest memories of a classic composition was created exactly this way. I was with friends and decided to take a walk down the beach, looking for colorful shells or anything else that may have washed up and could make a great foreground to an ocean landscape photo. Lo and behold I came across an entire section of beach covered in beautiful, white sand dollars. Immediately I knew this would be a lot of fun to try and create compositions with but they are extremely challenging! Being very flat they are often somewhat buried in sand and even if they are fully exposed, they really require you to “work the scene.”

Summer Photography

Looking to take your own outdoor summer photography to the next level? RSVP and join renowned instructor Ian Shive for The Complete Guide to Outdoor Photography and Motion July 24th.

Working the scene is important to making great images. You don’t want to just settle on a single perspective, you want to try and capture as many different angles and components of the shot as possible. This is because often you get back to the studio and realize that you either didn’t get enough, a shot is slightly out of focus or you “wish you had just moved a little further to the left.” How often have you said that to yourself!? Don’t regret missing a great opportunity and make sure you get every possible conceivable angle, focal length and lighting situation possible, especially when a moment really strikes you as being special. Otherwise, by limiting yourself in the field you are essentially editing yourself in the field and my #1 rule is to NEVER EDIT IN THE FIELD! Editing should not be done in camera and not until you are done with your day and are either at home or working on your laptop in your tent. How you feel in the moment is often very different from how you feel much later when you are editing because we get enough separation from the emotional energy of the moment and can be more constructive about the kind of photograph we have taken.

Summer Photography

This applies whether you are photographing in the mountains or walking the beach or anywhere in between. Slow your process down, photograph every angle and don’t decide what your best shot is until you get home and begin reviewing all your shots – even those accidental ones of your toes!


Places like North Cascades National Park, Washington, are idyllic for summer photography. In the earlier months of summer (and depending where you are, even all summer long) the mountains are still accented with snow while the lower regions are green and teaming with life. This juxtaposition of snow capped peaks and summery valleys offer a great way to begin thinking about your compositions. For instance, if you know you want summer in the foreground and snow capped mountains the distance, you can immediately begin looking for areas that provide this, such a meadow or valley, perhaps with a pond that could be used to reflect the mountains in the distance. I find that in the summer months a good pair of knee high boots or waders are helpful in getting great compositions, though often I just go right in bare foot!  

Summer Photography

In summer, the mountains will also generate a broad range of weather, which gives a photographer ample opportunities to create dramatic images. Foreboding skies, summer snow (!) and passing thunderstorms with preceding rainbows all add that extra element of surprise to a photographic composition. Great compositions are about more than just f-stops and shutter speeds but about capturing unique moments that not just anyone can drive up and see. Of course always be careful when working around electrical storms. Safety first, always!

Summer Photography

Looking to take your own outdoor summer photography to the next level? RSVP and join renowned instructor Ian Shive for The Complete Guide to Outdoor Photography and Motion July 24th.

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Ian Shive

Ian Shive, is an award-winning conservation photographer, author, educator, film producer and environmental advocate, who was also recognized as the 2011 Sierra Club Ansel Adams Photography Award winner.