|| Shooting Landscapes
Landscapes are photos that include (naturally) a lot of land. A good
landscape should set a mood, not just document some trees and mountains. It
should also give a sense of participation -- in some way, it should offer the
viewer a chance to "get into the picture."
Where possible, use the rules of composition: (1) the rule of thirds, (2)
diagonals are interesting, (3) give a sense of scale, (4) tell a story. In
addition, a landscape should give the viewer "a place to stand."
Never, ever, aim your camera across a valley and shoot a picture that includes
only the other side. You MUST have some trees, rocks, dirt, or something in the
foreground to anchor the viewer and give perspective.
Since you're a mountain bike photographer, consider sticking a biker into the
landscape. A human being in the photo gives the viewer a sense of participation.
Depending on your "story," the biker can be a minor, or a dominant,
part of the photo. In this lesson, we'll move from a "person-dominated
landscape" to a pure landscape.
Landscapes are usually shot with a slow shutter speed, for example 60 or 90.
That way, the aperature (lens opening) can be closed down to a higher f-stop. A
bigger number on the f-stop (for example 16 or 22) gives you a deeper depth of
field -- both your foreground object and the vista you're shooting will be in
||Here I've framed Matt right in the middle of the photo. This
purposeful "violation" of the rule of thirds changes the story
of this photo from "View of Colorado River" to "Matt
Arrives and Says WOW!" You share the sense of awe, because the
biker's placement forces you to "occupy his space."
Mentally move this biker one inch to the left, so
you're not "forced" to see him. The photo now has a different
feel to it -- the story that the picture tells is different.
||In this mid-distance landscape, I show three rock formations
of the Amassa Back area of Moab: cliffs, ridged "petrified sand
dunes," and flat tabletop. The biker provides a sense of
participation. Mike has equal weight with the surroundings -- this is a
"trail-riding" story as well as a "see the view"
Mentally erase the biker. Are the rocks and cliffs as
interesting without the human presence?
||For this photo on Antelope Island, I wanted a
"biking" story, but I felt that a human would overpower this
simple landscape. So I stuck an empty bike in the photo. The bike
"leads" the viewer's eye into the landscape, and provides a
sense of participation without dominating the photo.
Mentally erase the bike from the scene. Is the photo
still interesting? Now put a biker in the middle, wearing a cheesy grin.
Would you still bother to look at the water, the beach, and the hills? Or,
suppose the photo were taken from the point of this hill, with no
||A view over the handlebars, looking down the trail, can give
a sense of action and participation to an otherwise boring landscape. For
this trail shot on the Alpine Perimeter, I zoomed out to 28 mm.
Mentally remove the handlebars. Do you
care about this trail anymore? Or is the photo boring?
||For some landscapes, you won't want a biker in the photo at
all. Just be sure to keep the viewer anchored on some sort of foreground.
Provide a "path" for the viewer's eye to explore the photo. In
this picture from the Mormon Trail, there are two paths: (1) the bike
trail that runs right into the beaver pond, and (2) the pond itself,
running up towards the distant meadow and sky.
If I can give you one BIG hint: Buy a polarizing filter for your
camera (of course, you need a quality SLR camera to do this). Then experiment.
You can darken the sky to make the mountains and rocks "jump out" of
the photo. You can bring out subtle colors and details in trees. The photo above
was shot under the mid-day sun. Without a polarizer, the photo would have been
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All photos and text on this website are
copyrighted works of Bruce Argyle.
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