michael schaake sony alpha 9 a lone boat illuminated by a shaft of sunlight with mountains behind

How I Shoot | Extraordinary Landscapes

Michael Schaake

The most important thing about landscape photography is that you must be patient and enjoy your time in the landscape. A lot of the day could be spent hiking, and waiting for the light, so you have to enjoy being outside in nature.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM3 snow covered landscape with mountains in the distance illuminated by a pink light © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R III + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/30s @ f/16, ISO 500

Planning and Preparation

When taking a landscape image, I want to take the viewer on a journey and show the landscapes as I have seen them. I want them to be wowed by the scene, the same way I was when I took the image. One of the ways I achieve this is by doing as little research as possible on a location. If I see too many images by other photographers, it ruins the feeling of wonder when you first discover a place.

Surveying the Scene

Some of the most rewarding locations can be strenuous to visit. The majority of my pictures are taken in northern countries so I do a lot of hiking to locations. I never underestimate how demanding a hike can be, and so having a lightweight camera like all of those in the Sony Alpha range is essential for me as it means I can explore with ease.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM4 stormy skies over mountains and sea with the sun peeking through in the distance © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R IV + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 4s @ f/22, ISO 50

When I am ready, I will walk through the landscape. I don’t actively search around for a shot to take, but something will usually catch my eye. I look for several things that have to work in an image, either alone or in combination, such as the direction and quality of the light and how it shapes the landscape, interesting structures and leading lines. In terms of colour, the morning and evening hours are of course particularly interesting so I try to time my shoots during these hours.

a cabin by the lake © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R III + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/2500s @ f/9.0, ISO 100

One of my favourite images was taken in an old village that belongs to the Sami people in Sweden. It is only used for ceremonies and is uninhabited the rest of the time. I camped overnight in my van and woke at 7am to see how the light will develop. It was very foggy that day and the atmosphere was indescribably beautiful. Looking back, I would say it was one of the most peaceful and wondrous places I have visited.

I saw this wonderfully curved line of the shore leading to the log cabin. The lake was calmly in the fog, the sun was a nice balance for the composition of the photo. I just had to take that photo. I waited around 10 minutes until the sun came out of the fog and then the moment was right to starting shooting.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM4 a small waterfall running off the cliffside next to the ocean © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R IV + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/20s @ f/13, ISO 100

Setting Up the Camera

I use a variety of different Sony cameras, depending entirely on what I am shooting and where I am travelling to. From the wide dynamic range of the sensors, the long battery life, the high resolution - there are countless reasons I like shooting with them.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM4 a stormy sky above an angular oceanside cliff © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R III + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/2500s @ f/9.0, ISO 100

My main camera is the Sony α7R IV which I love because of its 61 megapixel resolution. In addition, I also have the Sony α7R III, the α9 and the α6400. Along with these cameras I have many lenses, but when I am hiking every gram of weight counts. I want to make sure I am preserving my energy and travelling as light as possible, so very often I will just have the α7R IV with the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens with me.

If I am hiking for a few days then I may add the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens to my bag, which gives me some flexibility to pick out details in a landscape.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM4 a row of trees standing on the horizon of a snowy landscape © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R IV + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/60s @ f/5.6, ISO 250

When it comes to exposing the image, I tend to shoot a lot in Aperture Priority mode and with the sensitivity set to Auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed. I also often shoot in manual exposure mode, depending on how the camera meters the scene. With this in mind, I will often use the Matrix metering to survey the whole scene, or I will meter for the highlights to make sure that I preserve as much highlight detail as possible.

Colour and Shooting Raw

I always shoot raw format images. Shooting this way allows me to capture the most amount of detail, which gives me more freedom when editing my images.

This does mean that the starting image is very flat when it comes to editing. One tip I have if you are shooting raw is to use the Natural Creative Style in-camera. Edit the style by turning the contrast and colour to a minimum. When you look through the viewfinder you will see a flat image that is close to how a raw will look. It may not look the best, but it will allow you to see much more detail in the highlights and the shadows so you can see what information you will have to work with in the raw file.

michael schaake sony alpha 7RM4 a row of conifer trees on a snowy landscape at sunset © Michael Schaake | Sony α7R IV + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/50s @ f/10, ISO 125

When I am editing the raw files, my aim is always to recreate how the scene looked from my memory. Whilst I may play with the contrast to evoke a mood, I try and keep the colour looking natural and as close to my memory as possible. This is how I want people to see my images.

Featured products

Michael Schaake

Michael Schaake | Germany

"Being in the moment and seeing the dramatic beauty of nature can be an awe-inspiring and very personal experience. By sharing my images, I hope to take others on this journey with me"

Sign up to get your α Universe newsletter

Congratulations! You've successfully subscribed to the α Universe newsletter

Please enter a valid email address

Sorry! Something went wrong

Congratulations! You've successfully subscribed