There’s always something special about experiencing all the elements Mother Nature has to offer, but capturing the amazing beauty is a challenge. We have all come across and photographed a beautiful landscape, but only to find them flat looking after you pull it up onscreen. What we see with our own eyes is often not what our cameras will capture. To help you capture those missing elements, we spoke with one of the masters of landscape photography, Benjamin Edelstein, asking him what has made him so successful shooting landscapes over the years.
Edelstein aspires to push his creativity, and show a world that few people ever get the chance to see or experience. Photography started as an escape from the complexities of every day, and has evolved into his life and passion. Photography brings him a sense of calmness, and he tries to portray that through his bright and vivid scenes.
“I lean toward my landscape photography because it allows me to temporarily escape my life.”
I’ve been interested in photography for quite some time now. It started as a hobby some 12-plus years ago. What sparked my interest with photography is that it gave me an avenue to explore and express my creativity. I didn’t know I wanted to pursue my passion full-time until I decided to take a year off before attending law school … I suppose it’s safe to say I’ve never looked back.
Were you a big fan of Ansel Adams?
Ansel Adams was quite the inspiration when I first dove into the world of landscape photography. His black-and-white photographs had significanct depth and appeal, and it motivated me to want to get out there and explore.
What do you like better, fine art or commercial photography?
That’s a tough question to answer. I love both fine art and commercial photography because they both allow me to follow my passion. I would have to say I maybe lean a little bit more toward my landscape photography because it allows me to temporarily escape my life. It provides me with the ability to enter the surreal world of the outdoors and bring that to viewers that may never get the opportunity to visit these locations.
What are some of the biggest challenges in many of your on-location shoots?
There are challenges that you can try to anticipate, and then there are the unexpected challenges that come out of left-field. I would say the biggest challenge is Mother Nature. One moment she can be an array of beautiful colors during sunset, and then in an instant cover you with rain and fog. Keeping your gear out of harm’s way is crucial when all you want to be doing is shooting.
What are some of your favorite national parks to shoot at and why?
I have a list of national parks that I haven’t had the opportunity to make it out to just yet, but as of now if I could pick a favorite it would most likely be between Zion National Park and Olympic National Park. What I appreciate about both parks is that they are large enough to get lost in, and they both offer tremendous versatility for landscape photography. I most definitely plan on getting back to both of them when the time permits.
What gear do you shoot with?
I’ve used numerous different brands of cameras as well as different formats. My go-to camera right now is my Phase One DF+ matched up with an IQ260 digital back. The versatility, resolution, and dynamic range of this setup are unlike anything I have ever experienced.
How are social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook playing a role in your photography?
Social media is a huge platform that allows me to try and connect with all of my fans. I am regularly posting on both Facebook and Instagram, as I understand how important and valuable it can be. It gives me the opportunity to provide insight on my life and my work, while answering any specific comments or questions my fans may have.
Where is the best spot on the planet you have ever shot?
A personal favorite spot that I have photographed is in the sand dunes of Colorado. The sand dunes are so vast and empowering, and most importantly away from the touristy cities. The photographic opportunities are endless as the sands change colors depending on what the sun is doing. It also gave me the opportunity to sit high above everything else, and just reflect on life. The solitude in an unknown area has always brought me to a great mental state.
What does it take to shoot an incredible landscape photo?
For starters it takes a great deal of patience. I am normally at my location well before I want to be just to make sure the lighting is right and my composition is set. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Not every photograph that you take will make the cut, but the important thing is to learn from your mistakes so that you don’t make them the next time out. Lastly, I would say learn to have fun out there. Being able to travel and take photographs while doing so is an amazing opportunity, so try not to get lost in it and enjoy all of the details that make up the bigger picture.
Can you supply a few tips/techniques for our readers with shooting landscapes?
The notion that 10 photographs are needed to merge into one finished file is nonsense. Understand your exposure settings, and make sure you feel comfortable with your camera in manual mode as well as making changes to the aperture or shutter speed on the fly.
This leads me to my next point of learning how to properly use the necessary filters. I have a stack of filters that goes everywhere I go, and they are essential in trying to capture beautiful landscapes. Words like circular polarizer, graduated ND filter, and reverse graduated ND filter should be words that you familiarize yourself with very well.
Practice on your composition: There is only so much you can do if you don’t have a great composition for the scene. Although the rule of thirds and leading lines are always important guidelines … remember that rules are always meant to be broken. Experiment with different compositions, and before you know it you’ll know exactly what you want when you arrive at any location.
Benjamin Edelstein is a renowned, international-award-winning photographer born and raised in Miami, who specializes in both fine art and commercial photography. Edelstein’s photography has been published in national and international advertising campaigns. His photographs can be seen in various publications including Ocean Drive, People Magazine, Aventura Magazine, Miami Magazine, duPont Registry, 944 Magazine, Luxe Magazine, Haute Living, Allure, and Vogue. His photographs have been showcased in various cities across the United States.
(Images © Benjamin Edelstein)