Patrick Smit takes beautiful iPhone landscape photos, capturing sunrises and misty scenes that have a fairytale magic to them. I’ve recently had the chance to chat to Patrick about his photography, and I’m really pleased to share that interview with you here. In this article you’ll discover more about Patrick, and how he takes such great landscape photos with his iPhone.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in a little town called Nieuwe Niedorp in the north-west of the Netherlands. I’m the husband of Linda, and father of Bram, Bob and Max.
I’m a service/visual merchandiser for a company that sells jeans to wholesale companies where business owners do their shopping. We have shops in all their branches in Holland and Belgium.
Due to my former jobs as visual merchandiser and shop owner, I always took a lot of pictures. But I didn’t like to carry around a big camera, so I always used my phone. I never studied photography, but I always loved to shoot and did so using my iPhone (and before that a Nokia).
How did your iPhone photography journey begin?
As I’m surrounded by natural landscapes where I live, I started to shoot sunrises on my way to work, and also sunsets on the beach. This is where I started my hobby photography, not knowing anything about it.
I’ve always had a great interest in mobile phones, especially the cameras in them. I’ve had a good deal of Nokias with great cameras, but the I read reviews about the camera of the iPhone. I read that the iPhone was the most used camera for uploading photos to Flickr, that was the moment for me to purchase an iPhone.
You take beautiful landscape pictures with your iPhone. What draws you to this genre of photography?
Thanks! I live in a small village that’s surrounded by flat nature and great landscapes, but only 20 minutes away we have forests, sand dunes and the beach.
By taking occasional sunrise and sunset shots, I suddenly began to see other great aspects of nature. I not only wanted to shoot a sunrise, but I also wanted a tree in the left corner and decided that a street sign on the left was not really cool! This is where my love of composition began.
Then I thought it might also be cool to find objects in nature, like small fences, flowers, little roads, etc. and try to photograph them. This is where my love for landscape photography began.
You capture amazing light in your landscape photos. What’s your favorite time of day for shooting landscapes?
I think a shot is perfect when it has at least three elements that strengthen each other. For instance, beautiful scenery, light from the rising sun, and mist or fog.
For these kind of conditions you have to wake up very early in the morning, knowing how late the sun rises and what the weather conditions are.
I discovered along the way that if there’s a big temperature difference between night and day, there’s a great chance it will be misty or foggy in the morning. This is the reason I always wake up very early, and this is by far my favorite time of day for taking photos.
Many of your photos are shot in mist and fog. What impact does the weather have on landscape photography?
The weather has a very big influence on how a picture looks and what kind of feeling it gives you. For instance, I have a shot in my Instagram feed of a house at a waterside which I shot in pretty thick fog. The sun was just coming up, there was no wind, and the sky was clear blue.
Due to the thickness of the fog you have to look twice to see what the scenery really is, because it looks like a house floating in the sky surrounded by clouds. This gives it a bit of a fairytale feeling.
If I’d shot the same picture in the afternoon, it would be a totally different photo with a different feeling! So yes, the weather has a great impact on my shots for giving them that special something.
Many people struggle to capture landscape photos that look as good as they did in real life. What tips would you give to beginners who want to start take better landscape pictures with their iPhone?
My first tip would be to not jump right in to it! Take your time to see where the light is coming from, what it is that you want to “tell” with your photo, and which part of the scenery is the most interesting.
A lot of people are to eager and want to show everything they see, for instance, a row of trees, a house with a barn with a little road to it. But sometimes a small part of the scenery, or the part where the light is most beautiful, is the part you want to show people and is what will make a great photo. Maybe just the barn with one tree, and the little road because the sun is just above it.
So keep in mind what it is you want to show, what the subject is, and how you can make the light work to your advantage. Then take at least four or five shots from different angles to be sure that the perfect shot is among them.
In short, try to recognize the strongest subject, let the light work to your advantage, and try to tell a story with your photo.
The Netherlands is famous for its beautiful tulip fields and you’ve captured them in all their glory with your iPhone. Do you have any advice for taking great photos of flowers?
My advice would be to examine everything you see. For example, with a tulip field, if you want to shoot a large part of the field, make sure the part you’re shooting is full with tulips and that it doesn’t have and large gaps in it where the flowers aren’t growing.
Then I always look where the light is coming from, so that the light of nature strengthens the shot. Than I try to let the sky work in favor of the tulip field – usually I compose my shot with one third tulip field, and the rest sky. The negative space draws the focus onto the field.
Another one of my tactics is to go shoot the field at exactly the height of the flowers and the horizon, so if you see the shot it looks like two parts (the sky and the field) were glued together.
For shooting flowers up close with a shallow depth of field, make sure the subject is perfect. For instance, does it have all of its leaves, is the color right, is the flower in its prime? When you want to take a shot of a flower with water droplets on it, make sure your subject and the drops are crystal clear.
It took me a while to get the hang of getting the subject clear and the background blurry with my iPhone. The trick is to get nice and close, then make sure you tap on the flower to set the focus before taking the shot.
I never use a stand to put my iPhone on – I taught myself to have a steady hand by practicing. But if you’re getting blurry shots, I would recommend an iPhone tripod for this kind of photo. And keep on practicing until you get the hang of it!
Let’s talk about photo apps. Are there any apps that you use for taking photos besides the native camera app?
There are only two apps that I use for shooting pictures with my iPhone – the native camera app and Cortex Camera.
I use Cortex Camera in low light conditions. It uses a slow shutter speed, so you have to have a steady hand when you’re using this app. I would recommend using a tripod if you’re getting camera shake.
What are your favorite apps for post-processing?
Do you have any advice for editing landscape photos?
Make sure your horizon is straight, ensure the subject is highlighted, improve colors and make use of the existing light. Use editing tools that will enhance your shot, like contrast, warmth, vignette, brightness, saturation, etc. In landscape photography most of the time less is more, so don’t overdo the editing!
Do you use any iPhone photography accessories?
Maybe I’m a bit boring, but I don’t use any iPhone accessories whatsoever. My iPhone is always in my pocket, and when I want to take a shot, I take it out and shoot. I’m a point and shoot kind of guy!
Can you briefly explain the story and editing process behind your three favorite iPhone photos?
I took this photo on my way to work, early in the morning. It was a still morning and there was a light mist. The sun was just rising and the light was exactly behind the beautiful tree, so I was able to capture a shadow and a sunbeam which appears better when it’s foggy.
I made the whole shot look even better by improving the light and colors with a bit of HDR effect – but not too much because that would overdo it.
This is one of my favorite photos. Again the weather was perfect for this kind of picture. I saw three rows of trees with mist hanging between them, and due to the rising sun there was a great light which made the colors appear pastel-like.
It’s funny, because these trees are standing next to a highway, but due to the mist you can’t see that. I edited the photo in Snapseed where I used the ambiance and shadow tools, and took the contrast down a bit.
This photo of a tulip field was taken very early in the morning. The flowers were moist with dew drops, and I didn’t hear a thing except for some birds singing.
I took this shot exactly at the moment that the sun rose above the tulips, and due to the mist the sky turned a beautiful orange/yellow – the perfect combination!
I used the Instagram editing tools for this one. I made it a bit sharper, and used the Sierra filter to give it a more fairytale look.
You share your photos with a loyal fan-base on Instagram. What does the mobile photography community mean to you, and what effect has it had on your iPhone photography?
It means a lot to me! I haven’t mentioned that I also organise Instameets in Holland with some Instagram friends. We had the two biggest meets on the island of Texel and the Zaanse Schans.
More than a hundred Instagramers showed up at these meets, and tagged more than 2000 photos using the hashtags #instameetnl_texel and #instameetnl_aandezaan.
The great part is that you learn a lot from others using iPhones, such as what kind of apps they’re using, what kind of techniques to use when shooting puddle reflections, etc. There’s always someone on such a meet who does something I never thought of doing or shows me something that I didn’t know about the camera of the iPhone.
Also, I’ve learned a lot so far from the videos of Emil Pakarklis @iPhone_Photography_School, the founder of iPhone Photography School. You get such clear explanations, and great tips and tricks from this guy! Great job!
Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?
I have a few iPhone photographers I really appriciate, like Jaap @jaaperkelens (check out our interview with Jaap Erkelens), Nick @nicksch, Yulia @edgy_frog, Joe @joez19, and my wife Linda @vlinderlin.
Where can we see your iPhone photography?