For the last month or so, I've been using my digital camera exclusively. Don't worry, I haven't left film behind, I'm just weighing my options to get my negatives developed in a way that I can afford and still get quality images from them.
I must admit I've been enjoying shooting digital, though. I will leave this topic for another post, but I think that in the art of image making we should seek inspiration, no matter where it comes from.
Even though I'd used my Sony a6500 for stills before, its main use was for video. I am in no way new to digital photography, but after a year of shooting film only, this process has felt like I was learning everything from scratch again.
And that's why I wanted to talk about the settings I use in my digital camera for landscape photography. Because as I explain in the video where I talk about this (and I also photograph the beautiful mountains of O Courel), when I got my first "serious" camera with manual controls, I made the mistake of shooting everything in manual (exposure, focus...).
The lens I was using was a Rokinon 12mm f/2.0, a wonderful high-quality lens I recommend to anyone who needs a fast wide angle for APS-C Sony cameras. All my photos from that time are boring (I was following the principle of "get as much as you can in the frame") and most were not properly exposed, and some even out of focus (hard with such a wide lens, but it happened).
Fast forward a few years, and I feel I'm more pragmatic with my cameras. I fully embrace the capabilities of my camera letting it decide for me. I use P mode (program mode, or auto mode) when shooting landscape photography.
Now, I still set the ISO to 100 when I shoot during the day, and I usually instruct the camera to use an aperture between f/6.3 and f/11. Even in P mode, you still have control over your settings. But most of the work is done by the camera, and I'm only needed when small adjustments are necessary.
If the camera is getting it wrong, because the light is tricky or because I want to do something different for a specific image, I use the exposure compensation dial. That way I can tell my camera to underexpose or overexpose from what it thinks is the best exposure.
If using P mode and modifying the settings to get the aperture I want sounds to you very much like aperture priority, I'd tell you you are completely right.
The reason why I use P mode is because, at least for my camera, after I set an aperture in A mode (say, f/8), the next time I turn it on, that aperture is still there (f/8). While P mode will adjust every time you turn the camera on, meaning that it's always ready to shoot any scene I might find in front of me. Of course I'm not talking about landscapes here but about wildlife, people, or whatever scene that might go away in seconds.
As I said before, I set the ISO to 100. So I might still need to change it to capture a quick scene. But it's just one thing that I need to change instead of two.
I'm not saying you should use P mode like I do. Everyone is different, and cameras are flexible enough to adjust to anyone and to any situation we might encounter. My point here is: don't be afraid of using all the features your camera came with. You aren't less of a photographer because you let your camera make some decisions for you. The quality of your images isn't about the mode we use, but about the composition, subject, light and overall thought we put into them.
As long as you know what your camera is doing in P, A, M or XYZ mode, you are good to go.