Rural landscape photography is in many ways similar to photographing urban landscapes. The difference is rural photography is about capturing the “life” in the countryside. Of some reasons I like to think of rural as something “old” while urban is mostly modern.
I prefer not to include humans in my rural landscapes. Some will disagree and claim it is photographing people in their rural environment that is the way to go. For me, rural landscape photography is to include elements of human influence in the photos.
In this article, I will give you useful tips on how you can improve your rural landscape images.
What you will learn:
- Best time to photograph rural landscapes
- Ideas for rural landscape photography
- Composition tips
Rural landscape photos - what to shoot?
1. Abandoned houses
There are abandoned houses all over so everyone can find spots where older houses and buildings can be part of the composition. These houses where people have lived tell a story about the past. A story is an important part of an image.
Your goal as a photographer is to create a photo where the viewer can get a feel of how it was when people were living in this house. If you manage to do this, you have not only created a photo, but you have told a story. You can tell the story with one or more photo from the same scene.
2. Old barns
It is an unfortunate fact many farms are left behind as people move to the cities. Abandoned farms also tell a story about the people and animals that used to live there.
3. Old machinery
Another consequence of farms being shut down is the scrapped agricultural machines left behind. Photograph machines and equipment left behind. Most likely they are covered with grass or moss. This can give an indication of time.
Don’t forget to get in close and photograph details like rust that have formed over the years.
4. Old cars
By visiting a car graveyard, you can combine the old style cars with the surrounding landscape.
5. Farming land
Look for interesting textures and patterns in farmland. The fields change characteristics through different light and between the different seasons.
The colors and textures are totally different when the grass is growing in the summer compared to the plowed fields in autumn. You should take advantage of these changes when you plan for rural landscape photography.
6. Old bridges
Old constructions and bridges can be very interesting subject to include in a rural landscape image. Bridges are constructed in many different ways. They can be straight or curved. Therefore, bridges can make for some great compositions.
7. Plane wrecks
You don’t find plane wrecks everywhere, but if you do, and they are accessible, it is a fantastic object to include in rural photography. One special object that is a hugely popular to photograph is the grounded airplane in Iceland. I have been to Iceland several times but have yet to photograph this plane wreck.
8. What about modern elements in rural landscape photography?
It is a personal taste but, of course, you can include modern houses, farms or anything modern for that sake in your rural images. It is me and my attraction to the old stuff that makes me include this type of subjects in my rural landscape images.
When to photograph rural landscapes?
9. Golden hour
The golden hours are the best time. Both morning and afternoon will be fine. Normally sunrise is better due to less air pollution. In rural areas, pollution is not that much of a problem so around sunset is also a good time to photograph urban landscapes.
10. Blue Hour
The cold blue color can create a “spooky” scene if your subject is something old like a house or another abandoned building.
11. At night
After dark might not be the best time for rural landscape photography because there is no light from abandoned houses. Somehow you will need to light your main subject. If this is an old house, your camera flash will not do because it has too short reach.
What you can do is to light-paint the house with a flashlight. You need to put your camera on a tripod and expose for at least 30 seconds or as long as you need to properly “paint” the house with your flashlight.
Composition in rural landscape photography
12. Main subject
Often, in a not so good composition, it is hard to tell what the main subject is. The image has too many elements, and the elements are not ordered properly. This creates chaos and is not pleasing to the viewer. Isolate your main subject and let the rest of the landscape complement it.
13. Create depth
Also in rural photography one of your challenges is to create depth in the photographs. One way to give a sense of three dimensions is to make sure to include a foreground a middle ground and a background in your composition. Most landscape photos are composed this way.
14. Different angles
Move around and look for better angles to photograph. The first vantage point you pick at a given scene is rarely the best. Look again.
15. Include the sky
An interesting sky with clouds gives dimension to an image. If it is an overcast day with a white boring sky, you should consider not including the sky at all.
Don’t let the weather stop you. Stormy clouds can be beautiful. A dramatic sky over an abandoned house can take your rural photo to the next level.
So go out in different weather and make the best out of it. And remember, after rain comes sun - in a matter of minutes the sun can break through the clouds and create some beautiful sun rays.
17. Create mood
On the countryside, with fewer people, it can be quiet. Try to create loneliness or a mood that makes the viewer feel you are photographing far away from the city.
Rural landscape photography is about reflecting the less busy everyday life in the countryside compared to the busy life in the cities.