Week 25 – Get Low

The 25th Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to Get Low. The goal was to look at the world from a different angle and shoot a landscape from a low point of view.

This was a challenge that I knew I’d be able to easily meet. I take many of my landscape photos from a low angle. When I started with landscapes, I used to always take photos from one angle. I then started experimenting with different angles. I was amazed how much of a difference changing just the angle makes. Everything else remains the same including the frame but changing the angle completely changes the representation of the scene.

Every location I go to, I try different spots, different angles, different heights, and different frames. My goal is not to necessarily get something unique. I know that’s what a lot of Photographers are aiming for; to get something unique. I know many Photographers don’t like shooting together as they don’t want to end up with the same photo as the Photographer next to them.

To me, there’s only so much you can do to avoid getting similar or identical frames. Think about a scene like Tunnel View at Yosemite, which has been shot by thousands of Photographers. I am sure hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of photos have been taken from that location. How much different can your comp really be? I am not saying it’s impossible to get a unique comp but it is difficult. In my mind, where you can truly show your uniqueness is not just in the comp but in your post processing as well. What set apart Ansel Adams was not just what he captured but the hours and hours he spent dodging & burning his photos to get to a level that he was satisfied with. That’s what makes his work unique.

Here’s a photo that I took at Almaden Lake Park for this challenge. I went there knowing that there will be some cloud action and some color in the sky. I have shot Almaden Lake so many times; the challenge was to see if I can find a different comp. I was walking around and I saw a bunch of driftwood by the lake shore. I tried different comps with the various driftwoods that were there but nothing really worked. So, I decided to create my own comp.

I moved one of the drift woods into the position that I wanted and went really low to the ground. I tried crouching low to the ground to take the shot but that didn’t quite well. So, I sat on the muddy floor with all sorts of insects and bugs. The shots sitting down were closer to what I had in mind but still not quite what I wanted. So, I lied on the floor next to my tripod to take this shot. Was this the lowest I could’ve gone? No! I could’ve shortened my tripod even further and could’ve got a shot from a slightly lower angle. I didn’t think that was necessary for this shot.



Week 24 – Contrasting Colors

The 24th Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is ‘Contrasting Colors’. One of the first things I learned during my research into Photography Color wheel is that colors opposite to each other are called ‘Complementary’ Colors and colors next to each other in the color wheel are called ‘Analogous’ Colors.

The challenge for last week was to shoot a scene with complementary colors. As part of the write-up for that challenge, I went into details about the Photography Color Wheel so I am not going to go into the same details here. The goal for this week is to do the opposite; meaning, shoot a scene with analogous colors.

I have already mentioned that Analogous colors are located next to each other on the color wheel. Which means that Orange/Yellow colors are analogous and so are blue/purple. I mentioned in my previous post that complementing colors bring contrast to an image and make it dynamic. Analogous colors, on the other hand, have the opposite effect. Meaning, analogous colors create a more soothing look; it can give photographs flow, harmony and an easy to understand color theme.

I was looking for an opportunity to shoot a landscape with analogous colors. Many of the posts that I read online about Analogous colors had Sunflower as an example. I knew my photography friends have been talking about heading to Davis area to shoot the Sunflower fields. So, I was waiting for that to happen.

The opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it. Going in, we knew that there would be no clouds and the sky would be colorful but we still wanted to head out before the Sunflowers season ended. The moment I saw the first Sunflower field I immediately realized why they are used time and again as an example for analogous colors. The yellow flower with green leaves work really well together.

Similar to complementary colors, analogous colors can be found plenty in nature. Now that I know what complementary and analogous colors are, I am going to consciously look for more of these color combinations to create unique perspectives.

Week 23 – Complementing Colors

The 23rd Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Complementing Colors. The goal was to get familiar with the Photography color wheel and shoot a scene with complementing colors.

What’s the Photography Color Wheel? Here’s one that I found online that is a good representation of the Photography Color Wheel. A traditional color wheel is composed of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and each color serves as the complement of the opposite color across the wheel.

Analogous Colors In Photography

Some examples of common color combinations that work as complementary colors include Orange/Blue, Yellow/Purple, and Red/Green. Nature is full of complementing colors. These are called complementing colors as they do just that; they seamlessly complement each other.

Here’s a good visual representation of ‘complementary’ colors that I found online. Lacie Lynnae

Since nature is full of complementary colors, looking for the right colors in our composition may help us broaden our range of shots. My goal with the 52 week Landscape Composition Photo challenge is to do just that. Instead of keep falling to the comp techniques that I am very comfortable aka Rule of Thirds or Leading Lines, I wanted to add more comp techniques to my tool belt. Understanding how to use colors effectively will be a great way to look for unique perspectives. Since complementary colors are easily found in nature, I don’t have to create it in post-processing.

The featured image in this post, in my mind, is a good example of complementing colors – blues & oranges. I shot this during Sunset at Alviso Marina. The predictions weren’t necessarily high that day but it turned out to be a spectacular Sunset. Since complementary colors occur in nature, you are naturally drawn to it. That’s exactly what happened here. The moment I saw oranges and blues, I started firing away. I went with long exposure to smooth out the water and make clouds wispy.

Here’s another example of complementary colors – Purple/Yellow. This was shot during Sunrise at Santa Teresa Park. A beautiful Sunrise where colors brilliantly complement each other.

One of the things I learned as part of my research on Photography Complementary colors is that 1) colors opposite to each other in the color wheel complement each other and 2) complementary colors create contrast in image and makes it more dynamic.

Complementary colors is definitely something I am going to consciously look for going forward.

Week 21 – Extreme Subject Placement

The 21st Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Extreme Subject Placement. When talking about subject placement when it comes to Photography or art in general, the rule of thumb is to never center the subject or place them in extreme positions. The default composition technique or the one that is used most often is what’s called the Rule of Thirds. That was one of the first challenges in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge.

Anyone looking at my portfolio will easily see that the Rule of Thirds is a comp technique that I use quite often. No matter how often it is used, I feel that it is still a very effective comp technique. Something that I will definitely continue to use no matter how many techniques I learn. Another of the placements was to put the subject dead-center. This to me was relatively easy and lot of scenes naturally lend itself to centering the subject.

This week’s challenge was a bit more difficult. Unless the scene calls for it, how do you put the main subject of the photo in an ‘extreme’ location within the frame. I didn’t want to place my subject in a particular location within the frame just for the sake of this challenge. To me, that would defeat the purpose of my challenge. The goal is to learn different composition techniques so I know what comp to use when.

As I was looking through my shots, I found one from my trip to Walton Lighthouse that I didn’t flag for processing before. The photo looked good so I wondered why I didn’t flag it the first go-around. I realized that on both sides of the frame, there were distracting elements, which would prove to be a challenge to remove in PhotoShop. I liked the colors in the photo; so, I decided to give it a shot.

I processed the photo using my usual LR & PS Workshop and loved the colors but the sides were still distracting. The only way to make this photo was to crop the photo to remove the distracting elements. When I was doing my crop, I realized that I’ll have to put the Lighthouse in the extreme right for the crop to work. This also pushed the light source to the far left.

The moment I placed both subjects – the lighthouse and the light source in the two corners, the comp seemed to work. At least, I liked it a lot. Once the crop was done, I also realized that this satisfies the challenge for week 21, which is extreme subject placement. I know one of the challenge is to crop a photo to achieve a desirable composition and I think this would also satisfy that challenge. Well, I am sure I’ll have other photos that I’ll have to crop to achieve desired outcome.

Week 20 – Horizontal Line

The Challenge for Week 20 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Horizontal Line. What I realized when I did some research on Horizontal Line in Landscape Photography is that we use horizontal lines in our photography more than we (at least I) realize. There’s most likely at least 1 implied horizontal line in most landscape photographs – the horizon. Other than horizon, there are other examples of horizontal lines – fallen trees, waves, oceans, sleeping people, etc. All these subjects somehow show a sense of stability, rest, and timelessness.

Horizontal lines tend to indicate a sense of homeostasis (lack of change). Horizontal lines can be used when you want to impart a sentiment of timelessness or lack of change to an image. The horizon is stable, dependable and immovable, and for these reasons, horizons become the ultimate example of horizontal line. Horizontal lines are also relaxing and quiet.

When I thought about horizontal lines, I knew I’ll head to the beach and use the horizon as the horizontal line as well as use waves as horizontal lines. When the opportunity to go to Capitola Wharf presented itself, I knew I had the chance to use the Wharf as another horizontal line.

So, after taking several shots from different locations using Wharf in the Foreground, I decided to move to a location where I put the Wharf horizontally across the frame. I see multiple horizontal lines in play in this photo – waves in the foreground, wharf, horizon, and the mountains in the background. I thought this would make a good example of Horizontal Line for this week’s challenge.

Week 19 – Center the Subject

The challenge for Week 19 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to center the subject. Anyone that has read a book or read an article or watched any tutorials on Photography Composition knows that one of the first things ‘rules’ of Photography is to ‘never’ place your subject in the center. One of the first ‘rules’ of composition that you’ll find in any Photography Book is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds have worked extremely well for a very long time. The masters of art have successfully used the Rule of Thirds effectively. And, the Rule of Thirds works wonders in Landscape Photography. But, should the Rule of Thirds be used in every single photo you take? Are there times where you place your subject in the middle of the frame? Of course, there are.

For example, anytime you are taking reflection, where symmetry is key, one of the things you have to do is put the horizon in the middle. Not doing so will actually make the photo look out of whack. The bottom half of the image mirrors the top, creating symmetry which makes the photo pleasing.

We have heard this before. Rules are meant to be broken. However, you need to know the rule well enough to know when to break the rules. Not centering your subject is generally a good idea unless centering your subject will actually enhance the subject, make it easy to convey your key message, and improve the overall composition. Reflection is one perfect example where putting the subject and the horizon in the center makes sense. There are many other. It is up to us a Photographers to decide what makes in a particular situation.

For this week’s challenge, I took this reflection of Walton Lighthouse during Sunrise. I have shot Walton Lighthouse from multiple angles. I have shot reflection of Walton Lighthouse from different angles as well. This particular shot, I purposefully decided to put the Lighthouse and the Horizon in the center of the frame. The reflection naturally called for centering the subject and horizon but I did try multiple comps and this is what appealed to me the most.

Week 18 – Urbanscape

The Challenge for Week 18 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Urbanscape/Cityscape. Over the course of last year, I have done some cityscapes. I definitely enjoy shooting cityscapes. Somehow the city lights portrays the hustle and bustle of the city life. Even though I have tired shooting SF Cityscape a couple of times, I’d say I have not been very successful. I did get one shot during a sunrise visit to Embarcedero but my trip to Treasure Island wasn’t very successful.

When I thought about this challenge, the first thought that came to mind was to head to SF to shoot the beautiful skyline. Another thought was to shoot the Boston Skyline.  The challenge was Urbanscape so I decided to do a bit of research on what is a definition of an Urbanscape. What I have realized is that Urbanscape; at least Urbansacpe Photography is a bit difficult to define as it sits between a number of different genres of photography – cityscapes, architecture, street photography, etc.

So, I was looking for a creative way to take on this week’s challenge. When I wen to Sierra Open Preserve in San Jose, I knew that the city lights will come on right after golden hour. I knew I wanted to take a shot of the hustle & bustle of Silicon Valley from the top of the hill. Although, I didn’t know what my comp would be.

For the majority of the time while at Sierra Open Preserve, my goal was to find a good comp for Sunset. After the Sun set behind the horizon, I started looking for comp ideas for the Urbanscape challenge.

I saw this scene where the sky was burning on one side and beautiful colors were happening on the others. The foregound was beautiful greenery and middle-ground was the Silicon Valley citylights. Not a ‘textbook’ definition of Urbanscape but to me, this definitely fits the bill. The busyness of the city can be seen from the hill top, where it was so peaceful and serene. It not only shows the city life but also that calm and serenity is just minutes away. I liked the yin/yang relationship here.


Week 16 – Foreground

The challenge for week 16 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Foreground. The goal for this week is to shoot a scene with a strong foreground element. The moment I saw Cala Lilies, I knew it would make a perfect example of a strong foreground element.

One of the things I have learned about Photography Composition is that a grand landscape can be divided into three sections: the foreground, mid-ground, and the background. Not all photos need to have all three elements to be successful. However, thinking about the three elements and placing them properly will definitely yield better results.

The scene in front of us is three-dimensional but the photos we take of that scene are not three-dimensional. They are two-dimensional. The challenge is to bring three-dimensionality into the two-dimensional photos. One way to create depth is to use a strong foreground/mid-ground/background elements.

What I have started doing is to pay attention to not just the grand landscape that I am shooting but also to everything that’s in the frame. Are there any foreground elements that are distracting? Or, conversely, are there any foreground elements that add to the photo by adding a sense of scale? So, I have made it a goal to always check the entire frame to see if there’s anything that I need to eliminate. I also review the scene to see if there’s anything I can include.

What I have learned is that good foregrounds (or good photos for that matter) don’t just happen. We have to deliberately look for it and decide whether or not it makes sense to include in the frame.

For this week’s challenge, I shot the Calla Lilies and decided to put 3 lilies in the foreground as the main subject of the photo. I did take several shots of the overall valley showcasing the hundreds of lilies. For this particular shot, I wanted a few lilies to be the primary focus. There is a mid-ground, and a background. But in this photo, they become more of supporting elements. One could argue that the Foreground, Mid-Ground, and Background all add equal value in this photo. But to me, the primary subject is the lilies in the foreground.


Week 15 – Symmetry

The Challenge for Week 15 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Symmetry, which is often considered one of the hardest compositions to pull off. Symmetry, in Photography (and art in general) refers to a line (called the line of symmetry) that splits an image in half, either horizontally or vertically, and if both sides of the image are mirror images of each other, then the image is said to be symmetrical.

Visual balance is a key compositional technique that can bring harmony and stability to an image. An unbalanced image on the other hand can make an image feel dynamic. Not all photos can (or should) be balanced. It i up to the Photographer to decide what he/she is trying to achieve with a photo. The scene also determines whether or an image can even be balanced.

One of the easiest ways to achieve balance in a photo is to shoot a symmetrical scene. Symmetry can be found easily in nature; mirror-like reflections of a landscape on water is a good example. If you read articles on Composition, you’ll see that symmetry is listed as one of those compositional techniques that works extremely well but is not easy to achieve. A slightest misalignment can lead to a distracting image.

For this week’s challenge, I took this shot of the beautiful ‘painted’ hills at Carrizo Plains National Monument reflecting in one of the lakes. The moment I saw this scene, I knew I had to shoot a balanced reflection for the Symmetry challenge. This wasn’t an easy shot to achieve for multiple reasons. One, there were lot of distracting elements in the foreground. Second, the foreground was wet and muddy so standing in one place for more than 15 seconds resulted in wet shoes. Finally, from a composition stand-point, it was difficult to figure out the best way to achieve symmetry.

Well, my shoes got completely wet and muddy but I got a shot that I was able to work with. In my mind, a good example of Symmetry in nature.



Week 14 – At least 2 Comp Techniques

The Challenge for Week 14 of my 52 Week Landscape Photography Composition Challenge is to use at least 2 comp techniques. One of the primary reasons I embarked on this 52 Week Photo Challenge is to add Compositional Techniques to my shooting arsenal. Pun, of course, intended 🙂

My Landscape Photography has significantly increased over the course of last year and a half. However. many of my photos use the same set of Compositional Techniques – the rule of third, leading line, and in some cases framing. I try to use balance & symmetry where I can but most (if not all) my photos will use the rule of thirds in one way or the other. I try to have a good Foreground, Middle-ground, and Background on all my Landscape Photos but it doesn’t work out all the time.

I try to use what I am comfortable with, in terms of comp techniques. My goal with this 52 week challenge is to make sure I learn many more comp techniques so they become second nature and I have a wide array of techniques I can use in my photos.

For this week’s Challenge, I took this Sunset scene at Alviso Marina. I saw how the Sun Rays formed a leading line. I saw a driftwood lying on the shore and I lined it up with the Sun ray to extend the leading line. That’s the first comp technique used here. The second is Rule of Thirds; actually, that is used in multiple ways – 1) horizon is on the third 2) Sun is on one of the points 3) Leading lines are on one of the vertical lines as well.

The Sun may actually be in the ‘golden’ spot. which would satisfy the golden ratio comp technique as well. But I don’t know enough about that technique to say for sure. Still ways to go before I get to Golden Rule.