Why the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge?

There are quite a few Photo Challenges out there. Most of the ‘Challenges’ you find out there will be just a simple list of ideas. There are few that truly push your Photography to the next level. One such Challenge is the famous ’52 Week Photography Challenge’ from Dogwood Photography. There’s actually two versions now – one from 2016 and a new one for 2017. For more information on these challenges, please go to:

2016: https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge.html

2017: https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge2017.html

I tried the 2016 version of the 52 Week Challenge and I definitely learned a lot. It clearly showed me that I enjoy shooting Landscapes more than anything else. Several years back, I was only interested in Portraits; specifically, Fashion/Glamor. I definitely had a lot of fun and learned quite a lot. Then I moved to Wildlife, which is still a huge passion of mine. Unfortunately, I don’t get to spend as much time Photographic Wildlife as I would like to.

Over the course of last year and half or so, I have primarily focused on Landscape Photography. There is so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface. One of my primary goals is to not only understand the different compositional techniques but master them so I know when to use certain rules, when to avoid them, and in some cases when to break the rules.

To learn Composition, I watched tutorials, took some Photography classes, read online articles on Composition, and read a dozen or so books. What became clear is that in terms of Compositional Techniques, there isn’t a whole lot. Everything I learned kept coming back to a definitive list of Compositional Techniques.

I can say with confidence that I know what those techniques are but purely from a theoretical stand-point. A book I read in grad school comes to mind. It was called the Knowing Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton. I definitely was in the Knowing Doing Gap when it came to Compositional Techniques. Even though I knew the different Compositional Techniques, when I went out on the field to shoot, I forgot most of them. I wasn’t consciously thinking about the techniques while on a Photo Shoot.

After coming back from my Photo Shoots, I would look at my Photos and think that I could have used a particular Composition Technique. I have said to myself numerous times that next time I am on a shoot, I should remember to visualize and take shots using Compositional Techniques that I already know. But most often, I just shoot. Whatever Compositional Techniques that are ingrained in my mind gets used naturally. The ones that I have to think about never gets executed.

I was looking to see if there was a Photo Challenge that focused primarily on Composition. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one. The two 52 Week Photo Challenges from Dogwood Photography definitely included elements of Composition; actually, to a large extent. But it wasn’t fully focused on Composition.

When it comes to Landscape Photography, there is so much to learn and master. Composition is one attribute or component of Landscape Photography. In my mind, Composition is a way of guiding your viewer through your image in a specific order. Using the 52 Week Photo Challenge from Dogwood Photography as an inspiration, I decided to create a 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge. My goal is simple: Go out and shoot photos using specific Compositional Techniques so I can tell a compelling story with my photos. As Ansel Adams said, “There are two people in every picture: The Photographer & the Viewer.” My goal is to learn the Compositional Techniques so I can convey the emotion, the feeling I had when I was taking the Photo.

Ansel Adams also said that “There are no Rules for Good Photographs. There are only Good Photographs.” I completely agree! In order for you to break the rules, you need to know what the rules are. This 52 Week Challenge will help you learn the different Compositional Techniques specific to Landscape Photography.

I created this 52 Week Challenge primarily for me. But, if you feel that you can benefit from this Challenge, go for it. Use it as is or make modifications as you see fit.

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Why Focus on Composition?

One of my goals in 2017 is to improve the overall quality of my photos by learning and mastering different aspects of Photography. My Photography has definitely grown leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. However, I have only scratched the surface there is still so much to learn. One of the first things that I want to focus on is Composition. Why Composition?

Composition, by no stretch of imagination, is a new concept. Go back in history and look at some well recognized piece of art – Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Night Watch, you’ll notice strong compositional techniques. Nothing was done or placed in random. Everything single thing was well thought out.

The Masters of Art from the beginning of time to some of the recent Masters of Photography clearly understood the power of Composition. They purposefully arranged different elements in the frame to guide a viewer’s eye seamlessly across the frame. Few topics are more important in art and in photography as Composition. It can make or break your photos.

Once you are familiar with some of the Compositional techniques, you’ll start noticing it all great works of art. As a matter of fact, several books/articles I have read and several tutorials I have watched, all recommend that you look at some of the best pieces of art (some that I have listed above) to learn how the masters have used the different compositional techniques. Most of the techniques are universal. You’ll spot them everywhere.

Composition is one of the first qualities of a photo that catches your viewer’s attention. A photo with great composition is easily identifiable. Viewers are naturally attracted towards photos with solid composition. Your composition has the power, if done right, to create a feeling far greater than a photo that was taken of the same location without any thought to composition. Where and how you place various elements/objects in your frame can significantly impact the viewer’s reaction.

What I have realized is that Composition is not one of those things that you either have or don’t. It can certainly be learned and mastered. Some people have it naturally, others understand and develop compositional techniques easily, and for others it may take deliberate practice and persistence. Bottom-line, Composition is a skill that can be learned and honed through deliberate practice.