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 3 – Panorama

One location that I have been meaning to go for a long time was the Sierra Open Preserve. I have been there long time back with a couple of friends but I didn’t have my camera with me nor was I into Landscape Photography during that time. Ever since I got into Landscape Photography, this has been one of those spots that within striking distance but I never got an opportunity to go. Without traffic, it’s about 20 minutes from home.

Finally, we decided to head to Sierra Open Preserve as the conditions for Sunset was predicted to be good. When we got there, we started walking one of the trails to get to this lone tree atop a hill. The hike was pretty easy. When we got there, the wide sweeping views of green rolling hills were definitely worth the trip.

I remembered that Panorama was one of the challenges on this 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge. The landscape in front of me was calling for a Panorama. I had my tripod with me but decided to do hand-held as it gave me more freedom to be in a spot that was difficult to setup my tripod.

I took 7 shots in portrait orientation trying to cover as much landscape as I could. When I came back home and merged the first 7 shots, I realized that the setting Sun that I included in the first 2 shots was actually distracting. I did process that 7 shot Pano but decided not use that shot. I had a 2nd set of 7 shots but this time I decided to skip the first 2 and go with a 5 shot Pano. Even with 5 shots, I had to crop a bit to avoid distractions.

This is a 5 shot blend of the photos that I took hand-help and merged in Lightroom.


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.