How to capture raw emotion in your landscapes

Mikko Lagerstedt What I’ve learned as09 apr 2024Lettura di 6 minuti
The Human Prompt campaign asset

Next up in our ‘What I’ve learned as’ series – where the best in the business reveal dos and don’ts – Mikko Lagerstedt shares how he photographs the sublime

Mikko Lagerstedt captures magic. His bold emotion connects you to the deepest levels of nature, even if you’re viewing from the busiest of cities. Recently returned from Finland filming Nikon’s latest series The Human Prompt, the Nikon Creator  – who has snapped for Samsung, Nokia, Chevrolet and featured in The Lonely Planet, The Telegraph and many other publications – reveals the formula for drawing emotion from landscapes.

Mikko Lagerstedt

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What’s in my kitbag?
The Human Prompt assets for Mikko Lagerstedt
©Mikko Lagerstedt
Search for the unique

How would you respond to the prompt, ‘Light in the darkness, darkness in the light’? “My first idea was to photograph the northern lights,” Mikko explains. “Then I wanted to go further and capture a split view beneath the water (using underwater housing) and the northern lights (see below). It was completely different and the first time I’ve used underwater housing gear.” Trial and error – and standing in very cold water – followed next. “The first night was windy and caused ripples in the water,” says Mikko. “I tested different camera settings and moved the tripod around – careful of the mess of the sand. It was the last night when I captured the log underwater with a long exposure. It was so sharp and beautiful. Just after, the northern lights appeared, so I did two long exposures and blended the photographs together afterwards because it was tricky to shoot all in one.”


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The human prompt campaign asset
Photo left/top: 14mm, 10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 ©Mikko Lagerstedt | Photo right/bottom: ©Jarno Schurgers
Elevate contrast

Sharp contrast can improve your composition and framing. In the photograph below, Mikko framed the light as it hits the snow-topped hill and small cabin using the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. Mikko used 400mm focal length, 1/2000 sec shutter speed, f/5.6 aperture and 64 ISO. 


Top tip: Embrace the trickiest of weather conditions. A thick fog or mist almost always offers more drama and atmosphere.


Focus in on the details 

Small details are key. Look closely and you’ll spot a cabin in the photograph below. “Sometimes you can have the simplest of compositions, but details pull you into a photograph,” says Mikko.


Be in the moment

“Don’t overthink the situation you’re in,” Mikko advises. “Be open to projecting emotions you have inside you on to the landscape. Follow your intuition, be in the moment. Take it all in, do what most comes naturally to you.”

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©Mikko Lagerstedt
A tripod is key 

To capture sublime landscapes, invest in a tripod. Mikko recommends Really Right Stuff, but any sturdy tripod will do. “Experimenting in low light is crucial because your eye can’t see all of the light, while your camera captures much more of the light,” he says. “I really enjoy shooting at blue hour and sunrise, especially if the weather is slightly hazy.” Mikko’s top tip? “Wake up early (or stay up all night!) and go out and photograph.”


Always network

“One year I might really focus on my prints, or my books, but I’ll always be active on social media – that’s where I get most of my sales and clients,” says Mikko. “I also network and work with other photographers, like Konsta Punkka, who also lives in Finland. We go out and photograph together.”

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©Mikko Lagerstedt
Post on social media regularly

“My first desire to photograph was in 2007. There was a mist rising from the sunset coming through a forest. I stopped my car in admiration and photographed using a point-and-shoot camera. The moment was so inspiring, I decided to buy a decent camera – a Nikon D 90,” Mikko explains. “At first, I photographed everything. Eventually, I found the subtle moments of landscapes I photograph now. I then started sharing online, on Flickr and Facebook, posting regularly, and I grew from 10,000 followers to 50,000 followers and then 500,000 in two months!”


Over the years, what I’ve learned the most is…

“Perseverance. One year I might not get super-good photographs because so much of landscape photography is about the weather and things you can’t really control,” says Mikko. “You can’t capture every beautiful moment and that’s fine. You must learn to persevere, to show up and push yourself to capture something unique.”


Capturing the emotion of the landscape with Mikko Lagerstedt

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