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.
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.
The 12th Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Sense of Scale. The first thing that popped into my head when thinking about Sense of Scale is to shoot a vast Landscape like Yosemite and put myself in the frame to truly showcase a Sense of Scale.
It’s a simple but effective technique to bring dimensionality to your photos. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a person in front of a grand landscape. It can be a car, trees, rock, or any prop which allows viewers to make a connection between what’s in the foreground and the surrounding environment to get a true sense of scale.
I was looking for a grand landscape where I could do this. The opportunity didn’t quite present itself. However, I saw another opportunity to this during one of my Photo outing in the wee hours of the morning to shoot the Milky Way.
This may not showcase a sense of scale like a person standing in front of a vast landscape would but think about the real sense of scale here. It is said that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is so big that even at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to travel across it. All the starts you see in the night sky, including our own Sun, are just a portion of the residents of the Milky Way Galaxy. There are millions of stars that are too faint to be seen. That’s just our Milky Way Galaxy. Beyond our own galaxy, there’s a vast expanse of other galaxies. More and more galaxies are being discovered. It is said that there are billions of galaxies. It is said that light from some of these galaxies set out billions of years ago. Meaning, the light we see today actually originated long before there was any life on Earth.
Here’s what Nasa says about the size of our Milky Way Galaxy: “How Big is the Milky Way? Imagine that our entire Solar System were the size of a quarter. The Sun is now a microscopic speck of dust, as are its nine planets, whose orbits are represented by the flat disc of the coin. How far away is the nearest star to our sun? In our model, Proxima Centauri (and any planets that might be around it) would be another quarter, two soccer fields away. This is the typical separation of stars in our part of the galaxy.” Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STSCI/NASA); US Mint
Think about that for a minute! To me, there is no better example of Sense of Scale than this photo of me looking at the Milky Way. It may not look like much but what you are seeing is only part of our Milky Way, which is one of billions of Galaxies in our vast and awesome Universe. Our Solar System is just a speck in the Milky Way Galaxy; earth is even smaller speck. Think about how we (humans) compare to the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe.
The Challenge for this week was to zoom-in on the primary subject and eliminate everything else. When you think about Landscape photography, what immediately comes to mind is the wide sweeping landscape. One of the first things you need as a Landscape Photographer is a wide angle lens; the wider the better.
Most of my Landscape photos are wide sweeping scenes. I have noticed that going wide (or ultra-wide) sometimes distracts the viewer. I remember shooting Sunset from Asilomar Beach and I love the scene that was unfolding in front of me. It was a gorgeous Sunset and there were lot of rocks in the foreground. I took a lot of shots and felt I had some keepers. When I reviewed the photos to pick the ones I wanted to post process, I didn’t really like a lot of photos from this series. Why? The scene ended up being too confusing; too distracting. Way too many rocks in the foreground; no clear focus point; no leading line; no symmetry; no balance.
Got me thinking that no matter how beautiful a scene may me, it is up to the Photographer to focus on the right things and tell a compelling story. That’s where the different compositional techniques come in. With a wide landscape, you have to pay careful attention to where you place different elements of the scene.
One of the compositional techniques used masterfully by some of the world’s best Landscape Photographers is to zoom-in. The goal is to put the primary subject the sole focus of the image and eliminate everything else from the frame. Ansel Adams did this very well. His shot titled “Moon and Half Dome” is a great example.
When I was in Yosemite recently, I decided to try the zoom-in technique. I was shooting a reflection of Half Dome with my wide-angle lens – the 10-18mm. I loved how those shots turned out. I wrote about one of those shots – Snowy Reflections! I didn’t have my camera bag with me so didn’t have the option to go beyond 18mm. When my friend walked in with his camera bag, I borrowed his 24-105mm lens. This lens is considered a good walk around lens as it covers a wide range.
On my 7D, which has a 1.6x crop factor, this lens essentially becomes 38-168mm. I zoomed in to get close up shot of Half Dome. I tried a couple of different frames and liked this particular frame. I convered to B&W as the contrast between snow and dark shadows of the Half Dome came out clearly.
The Challenge for Week 5 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Reflection. I love reflections; especially those that occur in nature such as waterscapes. For some reason, I am drawn to reflections and love capturing them. To me finding reflections in nature is like a scavenger hunt; I try to seek out as many reflective surfaces as possible – lakes, ponds, water puddles, windows, mirrors, and on and on.
In my mind, the keys to photographing reflections is to achieve an acceptable amount of clarity in the reflection so both the main subject and its reflection are super clear. I often move around to find the perfect reflection. I try to get a clean reflection of my main subject and nothing else. This brings in symmetry as well. In some cases, I find a small rock or driftwood, or tree bark, or something in the foreground to offset that symmetry. But in most cases, my goal is to capture a mirror reflection.
During my recent visit to Yosemite National Park, I shot this reflection of Three Brothers. I have been to this particular location a couple of times before. The first few times I went to Yosemite last year, I was not able to find a good location to shoot the Three Brothers. During one of my visits to Yosemite with Sowmya and her mom, I was on the lookout for a location to shoot the Three Brothers. Not only that, I knew that there is a location in the Valley where you can get a good reflection of the Brothers.
While driving around, Sowmya found a pullout that she thought would be a good spot to park our car and walk off-trail to see if we can find a spot to shoot the Three Brothers. We got lucky. This spot was not too far away from where we parked our car. I was very happy to get the reflection of Three Brothers. Actually, that morning, almost all of my shots were reflections – El Capitan, Half Dome, Three Brothers, Tenaya Peak, Stately Pleasure Dome, and Cathedral Rocks.
During my recent visit to Yosemite, we went to this location again to get the reflection of the Three Brothers. I converted it to B&W as the contrast seemed to work very well. The water was pretty still. I was able to get this shot hand-held and still get a sharp focus on both the main subject and the reflection.