5 tops tips to take great landscape photographs

Pink sunset behind a tree on a tor on Dartmoor.

Dartmoor's Holwell Lawn during sunset. Sebastien explains: “Howell Lawn is quite a popular Dartmoor photographic spot. This sunset shot involved multiple visits before I was happy with the colours in the sky”." - Credit: Sebastien Coell

Leading Devon photographer explains how the county inspired his passion – and also provides top tips for taking great landscape photography. 

Sebastien Coell has created a portfolio of inspirational images from the UK, Europe and Scandinavia, developing his own distinctive style and providing viewers with breathtaking images that display his passion for capturing nature and human’s interaction with it. 

Growing up in South Devon, and spending much of his life outdoors among the county’s landscapes, Sebastien has gained an appreciation of the natural land and his place among it allowing him to capture the many faces Devon has to offer from its enchanting Dartmoor National Park to its stunning coastline. 

The Milky Way behind pictured behind a Dartmoor church at night.

Dartmoor's Brentor Church with the Milky Way behind it. Sebastien explains: “Landscape photography can often involve a lot of planning, shots such as this night time shot, involved precise timing." - Credit: Sebastien Coell

Sebastien started his photography journey from being inspired by the places he visited in his home county of Devon. He explains: “I would describe Devon as a county of contrasts. 

“We get a rather warm climate for the UK, with a bit of rain from time to time, and this has done wonders for the landscape and for me as a photographer by providing me with hundreds of blue-watered, golden sand beaches that back onto rolling vibrant green fields. 

“Along with the remote Dartmoor National Park, which is home to many rivers, granite outcrops, hills, and forests, it's a perfect place for a photographer to call home.” 

Sebastien uses his creative passion and the inspiration from the great outdoors to enrich his life: “Photography to me is as much about using the camera as exploring locations. In fact, it has a variety of benefits from exercise to improving my mental wellbeing. It’s actually quite hard to explain why photography is so alluring for those that undertake it”  

View from inside a campervan onto rolling hills.

Sebastien says: "Having a campervan has really opened up the UK as a photography location, allowing quick nights away to capture images.” - Credit: Sebastien Coell

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“The photographer Joe Cornish probably sums it up best, in this quote: ‘Landscape photography is, in its practice, a form of physical exercise, meditation and intense observation. It requires a myriad of decisions to bring the image to fulfilment'. 

“From personal experience I can tell you it helps to ground me, relaxes me and puts me into a creative mindset. It also allows me to slow down and see the finer details in the natural world, whilst challenging myself to capture the beauty of nature. I still have a big smile to this day when the image and work pays off.” 

Sebastien’s love of nature doesn’t end in Devon and he has used his passion for photography to travel and capture scenes from many other parts of Europe. 

He reveals: “I have always loved exploring the South West from surfing trips to Cornwall to windy walks on Dartmoor with friends and family. Photography in my later life enriched that experience and gave me a desire to see other parts of the world. 

“My first photography trip involved a tent and four days in the Snowdonia National Park. I soon realised multiple-day camping, rain and photography equipment didn’t mix to well, so during the same year I bought and self-converted a VW Campervan Sylvie which has come in handy for several holidays with my partner Alice. 

Man with backpack staring at reflection of Swiss mountains in a lake.

Hiking at Switzerland's Lake Bachalpsee. - Credit: Sebastien Coell

“This allowed travel further afield to places like the Italian Dolomites, Swiss Alps, Slovenia and Croatia which inspired traveling to Iceland and Norway to capture my Nordic photography. 

“I still remember driving to mainland Europe on my own for the first time, with nowhere booked to stay and just my sat-nav and camera equipment for company, I was pretty nervous but soon that was all behind me as the wonder of travel and amazing views started to become apparent. 

“It was a similar story when flying to Iceland, but the more I have travelled the more I have realised the world isn’t a scary place and you can find kindness and wonder wherever you go, I have met many photographers whilst traveling and have always enjoyed the camaraderie.”  

Man on a rope bridge staring at the camera.

Sebastien at Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan. - Credit: Sebastien Coell

We asked Sebastien to elaborate more on his photography in this Q&A: 

You have talked a lot about location and its effect on your photography, what is your favourite part of heading out to a location? 

“My photography is often focused around sunrise and sunset photography. So my favorite part is not knowing what will happen, I mean you're hoping the sky will light up a vibrant red colour but in all honesty the sky tells a different story every day and you never know what you might get. It’s the unpredictable nature of photography that keeps you hooked. 

“Weather is obviously another big factor in this and I have grown to enjoy moody weather and contrasty black and white shots as my photography has progressed. In fact  I have learned to work with the weather opposed to it putting me off. 

“Sometimes, for instance, I can go away in the campervan for the night and get overcast skies in the morning. I have learned to utilise these situations to my advantage - overcast skies, for instance, can make for great woodland or waterfall photography. So I often choose the location based on the weather.” 

Mountain in the Italian Dolomites.

The Italian Dolomites. “I camped at this location overnight with a group of Australian hikers who I met there - we all got very lucky with both the sunset and sunrise," reveals Sebastien. - Credit: Sebastien Coell

When people see your photography what do you hope they will take away from it? 

“Hopefully, the inspiration to take up photography themselves, or simply an emotional attachment or enjoyment from them. I notice this with orders I receive. Sometimes they are for places people have been married at, first met, or had a special moment at, and it’s nice I can provide people that joy and emotional connection through my photography.” 

What tips or advice would you give to aspiring photographers? 

“I would say in general don’t worry about trying to better every image you see online. Learn to love the outdoors and your subject and you will start to see unique features and compositions that you can use to define your style. 

“Don’t worry about equipment either, I have a pretty basic set-up, I have had my camera for five years, the same tripod for five years, and basic filters and equipment. The best equipment is your brain, save your money for travel instead.” 

Icelandic mountain range.

Iceland’s Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss. “I was lucky to have a moody sky and a dusting of snow to cap of the mountain in this early hours shot, " says Sebastien. - Credit: Sebastien Coell

What five 5 top tips for landscape photography would you give to people? 

  1. Try and shoot during the golden hour, this will allow you to get more unique images of the location, compared to the majority of the shots taken there. 

  2. Get to your location early, giving yourself time to scout out locations before the magic happens. 

  3. Use the weather to your advantage, for instance the sunlight appearing after a storm can bring in some magical moments often involving strong contrasts, magic golden light and rainbows. 

  4. Make sure your location has a strong subject or foreground interest. I’m a big believer in the scene having a central element, this isn’t always possible so instead look for interesting foreground components. 

  5. Invest dedicated time, nothing will improve your photography more than practice.    

  • Sebastien Coell Photography offers unframed and framed prints of the UK, Europe and Scandinavia from his base in Newton Abbot and you can see his work here.