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Landscape Photography

The Creative Process of Gianluigi Palomba.

Gianluigi Palomba is 21 years old, and he is a landscape and outdoor photographer from Sorrento, Italy. He was my great companion during the photography course we took at Dundee & Angus College and his photographs, simply spectacular, always captivated our attention and our admiration. Today I am super happy to show you his magnificent work.

Why do you like landscape photography? How was your passion for this type of photography born?

I started photography when I was 15, borrowing my dad’s camera as I never had one of my own. In the early days, I took pictures of everything I saw, without a proper technique and a specific purpose. I grew up in the Sorrento Peninsula, a land with suggestive and breathtaking views, that since I was child excited me so much to get interested in Landscape photography.

The landscapes more than anything else connect me with the world around me and give me the opportunity to express my emotions in one click.

I traveled a lot during these years, and I could take many photos. I was living in Scotland for two years, and I was able to travel around the country. So, I was in the Highlands several times, on Isle of Skye, Glencoe, in the Outer Hebrides, and on the east coast. I have also traveled through my country, I went to know the Italian Dolomites with “Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago Federa, Cinque Torri, Passo Giau, and other mountain peaks that surround Cortina d‘ Ampezzo. I have been in Sicily on Mount Etna, an active volcano, and pretty much everywhere near Sorrento, my hometown. It is great to be able to portray each of these places.


In December 2018 my family and I decided to go on a trip to Sicily, an island in the south of Italy, and we were lucky enough to witness a spectacular eruption of the Etna, which is an active volcano, the highest in Europe at 3.327 metres high. To take this photo I had to take a short hike to one of the Etna’s viewpoints, away from the crater. I got to the viewpoint just before sunset time, I set up the tripod and I started taking long exposures of a couple of seconds using a ND64 Filter, enough to make the smoke from the crater dynamic. I used my telephoto lens to get closer to the scene I was trying to capture, getting rid of all the distraction around it. I sat there for a while waiting for the light to change and a couple of seconds after the sun went down behind the volcano…the smoke turned red and then orange, so I started taking loads of exposures in order to capture every nuance possible.

The photo is a single exposure, edited with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Gear: Nikon D800, Nikon 80-200mm f2.8, Manfrotto tripod, NiSi ND64 Filter.

Exif: 120mm, f11, ISO 100, 5s.

How do you plan your photo sessions?

To plan a photo trip, I use different apps to check sunset and sunrise times, milky way position in the sky, and how the sun is going to hit a certain landscape at a given hour.

I also use Instagram and google maps to get an idea of what kind of photos you can take in that place. In order to check the weather forecast, I use different applications but, in my opinion, the best one is called ‘Clear Outside’. It tells you everything there is to know about weather, clouds, fog, temperature, humidity and so on.

What is your basic gear you do usually carrying on with you?

I usually carry, along with my camera, a couple of lenses: a wide-angle lens 16-35 f/4, a zoom lens 24-70 f/2.8, and a telephoto lens 80-200 f/2.8. In my bag I then carry my tripod, filters, filter holder and a remote for long exposures.

Federa Lake

I took this shot during my last trip to the Italian Dolomites, a mountain chain declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. My goal was to capture the sunrise and the amazing autumn tones reflecting on the lake. The hardest part of taking this image was the hike to get to the lake, a very steep path in the middle of the night when you just woke up it’s not ideal! It looks me one hour to get there, but as you can see the effort was repaid, the sun's rays hit the tree branches just as I had imagined and I managed to capture the sunburst. This image is a blend of about 7 exposures, put together using luminosity masks plus a final exposure to get rid of lens flare. I edited this image in Adobe Photoshop and Camera raw.

Gear: Nikon D800, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8, Manfrotto tripod.

Exif: 24mm, f13, ISO 100, multiple exposures, shutter speed varies with light.

How useful is the HDR technique in your work?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and allows your camera to capture a wider range of luminosity. Even really expensive cameras can’t reproduce what our eyes do, so when we have a really bright sky and we want to capture the foreground as well, in order to capture the whole scene correctly exposed, we can use the HDR technique. It depends on the scene and the detail in it, usually I take 7 or 9 shots.

Blue hour at the Three Peaks of Lavaredo

I took this picture in October 2019, during one of my photo adventures in the Italian Dolomites, one of the best-known mountain groups in the Alps, northeast Italy.

My goal was to capture the sunrise and the incredible autumn tones reflected in the lake.

The idea of ​​the shot came to my mind observing the various cars that travelled along the road to reach the Auronzo refuge, a very famous place, since on several occasions it has been the end of the stage of the Giro d'Italia.

The image portraits the three peaks of Lavaredo during the blue hour. I tried to capture the majesty of the mountains by adding the cars’ trail for scale. So I took two photographs, one for the the mountains and the sky, and a second photo to capture the cars' bright trail.

This is probably my favourite photo, the tones in the sky and the reflections on the peaks are just breath-taking, the blue hour is magical in the mountains!

Gear: Nikon D800, Nikon 16-35mm f4, Manfrotto tripod.

Exif: light trail: 20mm, f13, ISO 100, 224s. Background: 20mm, f13, ISO 100, 25s

How did you feel seeing your work being published by National Geographic?

Seeing my work published on National Geographic made me really proud because it meant that my efforts and sacrifices have been repaid. I will keep working hard to make that happen again in the future.

Passo di Giau

I took this picture at about 21:30, it is a single shot, and I used the moon light to get the most of the reflection of the lake. The constellation in the photo is the Ursa Mayor.

Did you use any kind of technique to take the pictures to the stars?

Due to the rotation of the Earth, it appears as though the stars are moving through the sky in long exposures. To avoid that and achieve points of light you can use a simple rule that’s often called the “500 Rule”. Here’s the 500 Rule: 500 Divided By the Focal Length of Your Lens = The Longest Exposure (in Seconds) Before Stars Start to “Trail”

For example; let’s say you’re taking a shot with a 16mm lens on a full frame camera. 500 / 16 = 31 seconds, which you can round to 30 seconds.

Remember to multiply your focal length for the crop factor ( x1.6 on Canon and x1.5 on Nikon ) if you use a DX camera.

Did you do camping in these locations to wait for the perfect lighting conditions?

I usually go camping when I can because it allows me to stay overnight and decide which light condition is better for the image I have in mind.

Did you go with a group of friends or do you prefer to work by yourself?

I usually go by myself but sometimes my friends come too, it depends where I go and how long I stay out.

Fairy Pools

In March 2018, I had the opportunity to visit the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I had been there a couple of times already but that was the first with the pools completely frozen. The hike to the most famous pool is usually a nice stroll of about 45/60 min, but in bad weather could be a completely different experience, and I know something about it! The weather on the Isle of Skye is one of the most unpredictable things I’ve ever witnessed, that day went from sunny to something very close to a snow storm in about 10 minutes. Few seconds after I took this photo, a massive fog wall came up from behind the mountains and minutes after I couldn’t see anything whatsoever, so I started going down the path very slowly and I eventually managed to go back to my car and wait for the storm to calm. So beautiful and scary at the same time!

Have you made any exhibition of your work?

Not yet but I am working on it.

What are you planning now? What would you like to do?

Right now, given the situation we are in, I can’t plan anything, but I’d love to go back to the Scottish Highlands for another camping trip.

The only advice I can give you is to wake up early in the morning, go out there, explore and try to find the best light and weather conditions to capture photos of a scene. Also remember to always respect nature!

Gianluigi Palomba

English revision: Rebecca Brown

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