Have you ever taken a photo that you thought was amazing, but then when you looked at it you knew that something wasn't quite right? I know that when I started my photography journey it happened all the time! Luckily, with today's technology we can just delete the photo and try again, but in the beginning I was searching for a roadmap so that I could have better success more often. So I developed my own criteria for taking a "good" photo called "The C's & L's". Every time I'm out shooting landscape shots, I'm constantly reminding myself to check my C's and L's. Full disclosure, I didn't reinvent the wheel here, but hopefully my process or organizing key elements or photography will help you too!
If you do a quick Google search on photo composition, you'll come across the "Rule of Thirds." It's a very useful guide to get a nicely composed photo, but I break the rules all the time depending on the situation. However, what the rule of thirds does force you to think about is how you're framing your photo.
In the above example, the situation was perfect for the use or the rule of thirds, but I broke the rule by putting the horizon line in the centre of the photo to equally capture both the water and the clouds. What stood out to me when composing this photo was all of the various elements available to capture: water, clouds, sun, flora and rock. My goal was to include all of them.
If you're going to shoot landscapes, I highly recommend a wide-angle lens and tripod. I use the Nikon 16 - 35mm f/4 and the Manfroto 190 Go! Carbon tripod and they are both workhorses that come highly recommended.
The two other key elements that I always try to think about when composing a landscape photo are: ensuring that I have a clear, in focus subject and that I've avoided distracting elements as much as I can.
In this photo "Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass," the subject was the manhole cover. I used an aperture of f/11 to ensure that most of the street and the cars were sharp and I was ok with the background being a big softer given that the early morning light was just starting to hit the bridge. Look close enough and you'll see the Empire State Building in the distance!
The distracting elements in this photo were the residents going about their morning routine. I had to time it perfectly so that no one was in the photo, which gave the illusion that I was all alone.
In another tutorial, I'll talk about focus stacking for crystal clear depth of field, but for now just attempt to get one subject tack sharp.
We live in a colourful world, and there is nothing more exciting as a photographer to find beautiful colours in a landscape situation. My goal when shooting any landscape is to allow the viewer to experience a mood or an emotion. I also attempt to use colour to allow the subject of my photo to stand out.
This was a shot at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Most people might look at this photo and notice the blues and greens, however what caught my eye was the different colour of stones: black, white, red, and purple gave this photo a different moody feel.
There are also no better colours than what you'll find during a sunrise. I hear from people all the time that they think it's crazy anyone would get up at 4 am in the summer to go and take photos, but I'm addicted to the colours. Sunsets are also beautiful, but in my opinion, they are less unique when compared to those beautiful early mornings.
This photo was taking in Wellington, Ontario in mid February. The colours did not disappoint!
Regardless of your sleep schedule, look for unique colours in your landscapes and you won't go wrong.
Photography is art, and art is inherently creative. However, by nature I'm very logical, analytical and not very creative. When I started shooting landscapes, they all looked the same to me. It wasn't until I started to experiment with different vantage points, that it all clicked. When someone looks at a photo I've taken, I want them to think "I wouldn't have looked at the scene that way." That is how I define creativity in my work.
Maybe you've been to Central Park before, or any park for that matter. Park benches aren't that exciting, until you look at them from a unique vantage point.
Low angles are some of my favourite shots. Most people experience the world from eye level, but when they look at scenes from the ground it gives them a completely different perspective. For really low angles, I use the Joby Gorilla Pod 5K. It's super versatile in a variety of environments and very easy to cary around.
Carefully compose your photographs, use the rule of thirds to get started and then experiments with variations, find a subject and make sure it's in focus, look for colour and shoot from unique vantage points.
One of my favourite photography quotes comes from a British photographer and he said
"A technical failure which shows some attempt at aesthetic expression is of infinitely more value than uninspired success." -- Cecil Beaton
In short, make mistakes, learn and have fun. Your photos will thank you for it!
Stay tuned for the next instalment where I'll discuss my three L's!