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 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 12 – Sense of Scale

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.

 

Week 11 – Texture

The eleventh Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Texture. I have seen some outstanding photos where texture was used brilliantly to convey a message or portray a story. I have been awestruck by some of the photos where the use of texture has made me feel like I am there touching what’s in the photo.

Photography is a visual medium but the use of texture in images can suggestively invoke other senses. The point of any photo is to convey a message and draw the attention of your viewers by using key compositional techniques. By cleverly using textures you can bring a tactile dimension to your photographs and make they come alive; become three dimensional. When light hits your subject at interesting angles, all the textures come into play.

Photographing Texture can often be quite challenging; you not only have to consider the texture you are working with but also how light, contrast, depth, and patterns work in conjunction with texture. I definitely have and continue to struggle with effectively utilizing texture in my photos. To be honest, I haven’t gone to places where I could have used texture as a primary compositional technique. I am sure I will before the end of this year and I may add few more photos to this challenge.

The goal this week was to experiment with different angles and use texture as this week’s primary compositional technique. So, for this week’s challenge, I took this shot at Four Mile Beach. It was a tide pool and the texture was very interesting to me and drew my attention. I decided to use it in my foreground while taking this seascape shot after Sunset. I don’t think it’s the best example of texture but to me, looking at this photo brings back memories of me standing in this tide pool and waves constantly hitting me.

Week 8 – B&W

The goal for Week 8 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to shoot Black & White. I love B&W Photography. I have always been drawn to B&W photos. Ansel Adams is one of my favorite Photographers. What he was able to do with his photos as well as Photography in general is unbelievable. I take a lot of inspiration from Ansel Adams as well as several Photographers from that timeframe who primarily shot in B&W like Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and many others.

Black & White Photography is extremely rewarding to me. What I have seen is that even people who aren’t into Photography are usually drawn to a great B&W image. My friends, many of whom are not into Photography, are drawn to my B&W shots more than color.

What I have learned is that images that taking a Photo and merely processing it to B&W may get you good results but often times, you’ll be disappointment. To get best results with B&W photos, you have to not only think about post processing but also deliberately think about B&W while shooting a scene. You have to assess a scene to see whether or not it would work well in B&W. You’ll have to look at things like Tonal Contrast, Texture, Pattern, Lines, Shapes, Forms, among other things.

I have seen a lot of people say that they convert their photos to B&W if lighting is bad. This may work but unless you look at things I mentioned above and deliberately shoot a scene with the intention to convert to B&W, the results are not going to be optimal. Don’t get me wrong, B&W does ‘soften the blow’ when you are dealing with bad lighting but there’s more to B&W than just converting to B&W in post processing.

To be honest, I do both. Meaning, I deliberately look for scenes that will be good in B&W as well as convert shots that don’t look good in color to B&W to see if turns out better. I have definitely had better results with the former approach rather than the latter.

One of the places that I look to capture in B&W is Yosemite National Park. How can I not think about B&W given that some of my favorite photos of all time are Ansel Adams Yosemite series? Yosemite definitely screams B&W, especially during winter. I have several shots from Yosemite where I shot with the intention of converting to B&W. A couple of shots in this Photo Challenge series are B&W shots from Yosemite.

This particular shot was taken during my recent visit to Yosemite. We didn’t have fresh snow during our recent trip but all the mountains and peaks were covered in snow. We went to Tunnel View for Sunrise and I zoomed in on the Cathedral Rocks with the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls and decided to capture that with the intention to go B&W for multiple reasons: 1) the tonal contrast in the scene 2) the snow capped Cathedral Rocks with dark rocks 2) the bright Bridal Veil Falls and 4) B&W was basically the only option that day as the weather wasn’t ideal.

Definitely not the best B&W I captured but I think it turned out well. The best thing was I went with the plan to shoot B&W and executed my vision.

 

 

Week 4 – Framing your Subject

The fourth Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Framing your Subject. Framing your subject is one of those compositional techniques that can work wonders or completely ruin photos. This is a compositional technique that I have struggled with a lot and to be honest, still struggle with a lot.

I want things to fall naturally within a scene and feel like it’s forced or manipulated. For some reason, Framing your Subject feels to me like forcing things. In some cases, it works really well but the key is to figure out when it works and when it just distracts more than it adds.

So, one of the things I have started doing is to constantly question whether I am putting in my frame is something that adds or distracts from the main story. Sometimes, many of the compositional techniques that have been tried, tested, and proved before, it may not always work. Framing your subject is one of those things that can just add clutter to a shot and make it feel very cramped. What you think adds a natural frame can actually be seen as distracting elements by others. As Mr. Adams famously said, ‘there are always two people in every picture: The Photographer and the Viewer.”

Based on what I have seen, framing can be just about anything from shooting through a window, tunnel, arches, doorways, branches; they can be natural elements, architectural elements, or anything in between. I have seen some very creative ways other Photographer’s have used frames. I have tried to learn as much as possible but what I realize is that there is a long way to go.

Here’s a photo that I took during one of my trips to Yosemite. I did not think about this framing. I have seen this before and drew inspiration from the composition. I think this is a good example of framing your subject. But to me, it does feel a bit forced.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been looking for a good subject that is a good example of framing your subject. Maybe that’s the problem. I shouldn’t be looking for a subject to force a compositional technique. If the scene naturally calls for a comp technique, that’s what will add to the photo and not feel forced.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been looking for a good subject that is a good example of framing your subject. Maybe that’s the problem. I shouldn’t be looking for a subject to force a compositional technique. If the scene naturally calls for a comp technique, that’s what will add to the photo and not feel forced.

 

I went to Shark Fin Cove for Sunrise recently and I knew there was an arch there. I wanted to see if I can use the Arch and shoot the Shark Fin using the Arch as a frame. I realized that wasn’t possible because of the angle. I was able to frame this other seas stack perfectly within the frame. Does it look forced? Maybe! But this is the best example of framing your subject. At least, for now. I may be able to find a better subject and scene, If I do, I’ll update this post. But until then, this is my pick for the 4th challenge of my 52 week Landscape Photo Challenge.

52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge

Overview: This is my version of a 52 Week Photo Challenge solely focused on Landscape Photography; specifically, learning and improving Landscape Compositional Techniques.

Goal: Go out and shoot photos using specific Compositional Techniques so I can tell a compelling story with my photos

Ground Rules:

  • There is no specific start date for this challenge. However, challenges are ordered in the form of complexity. So, going in order may be helpful.
  • Have to take new Photos for this Challenge. Can’t use Photos from the past.
  • Tackle 1 Photo Challenge per week or try multiple Challenges. But the goal is to learn each Compositional Technique well enough that it becomes second nature.
Week Challenge Challenge Parameters
Week 1 Rule of Thirds We start this Landscape Photo Challenge with one of the most used Compositional Techniques and something that works extremely well – the Rule of Thirds. Go out and shoot your favorite scene using the Rule of Thirds as the Primary Compositional Technique.
Week 2 Leading Lines Lead your viewer through your scene by using Leading Lines as your Primary Compositional Technique for this week.
Week 3 Panorama This is a great opportunity to explore panorama stitching and create a wide sweeping landscape. Capture multiple images and stitch together rather than using an ultra-wide angle lens for this challenge.
Week 4 Framing your Subject Another classic compositional tool is to frame the subject within the frame of the image. Look for natural frames so you can ‘frame’ your subject this week.
Week 5 Reflection For this week’s challenge, go find a perfect reflection. How can you use Reflection to convey your story?
Week 6 Zoomed in Put your telephoto lens to use this week. Instead of shooting a wide sweeping landscape, try to zoom-in on your subject today and eliminate everything else from your frame.
Week 7 Long Exposure The goal for this week is to slow down your shutter speed, significantly. Go for an exposure longer than 30 seconds. Time to use the bulb mode on your camera. Try a waterscape or even a busy landmark to see the magic happen.
Week 8 B&W Look for a scene with great contrast that will make a great black and white. Use Mr. Ansel Adams as your inspiration for this week.
Week 9 Simplify The goal for this week is to simplify. Simplify the scene to make your primary subject stand out.
Week 10 Movement How do you show movement in a 2D medium? That’s the goal for this week. The goal is to showcase movement in your landscape.
Week 11 Texture By cleverly using textures you can bring a tactile dimension to your photographs and make they come alive; become three dimensional. When light hits your subject at interesting angles, all the textures come into play. Experiment with different angles and use texture as this week’s primary compositional technique.
Week 12 Sense of Scale Bring dimensionality into your photo. One way to achieve this is to include compositional elements that provide a sense of scale in the picture. Use objects of known size so the viewer can make a connection between them and the surrounding environment and get a true sense of scale.
Week 13 Geometry Rectangles, Circles, Triangles, Polygons, Arches, Parallel & Converging Lines, etc. It doesn’t matter what Geometric shape you use, the goal is to make the geometric shape the primary focus of your photo this week. Can you combine multiple geometric shapes in a photo?
Week 14 At least 2 Comp Techniques Shoot your favorite scene but use at least 2 Compositional Techniques.
Week 15 Symmetry Often considered one of the hardest compositions to pull off, Symmetry. Challenge yourself this week by shooting a symmetrical landscape.
Week 16 Foreground The goal for this week is to shoot a scene where you showcase a strong foreground element.
Week 17 Left to Right There is theory that says we ‘read’ an image from left to right in the same way we would read text. For this reason, it is suggested that any motion portrayed in a photograph should flow from left to right. So try to capture a scene where there is story that goes from left to right.
Week 18 Urbanscape The goal this week is to shoot an urbanscape/cityscape.
Week 19 Center the Subject One of the key composition guidelines is that we not center our subjects unless doing so enhances the subject or benefits the composition. There are many situations, however, when centering your subject is appropriate and necessary. So, for this week’s challenge, put your main subject in the center.
Week 20 Horizontal Line 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.
Week 21 Extreme Subject Placement For this week’s challenge, try to place your main subject in what would be considered ‘extreme placement’; far left, far right, top corner, bottom corner; it doesn’t matter. Try extreme placement.
Week 22 Balance Balance is the compositional technique of giving each area in a scene equal visual weight. You can achieve balance using color, tone, or juxtaposed subjects. Whatever technique you use, the goal is to show a clear sense of balance.
Week 23 Complimenting Colors Time to get familiar with the color wheel. Search for Photography Color wheel as it’s different. Shoot a scene with complimenting colors.
Week 24 Contrasting Colors Last week you shot a scene with complimenting colors. This week, do the opposite. Shoot a scene with contrasting colors.
Week 25 Get Low Time to look at the world from a different angle. Shoot a landscape from a low point of view.
Week 26 Get High Everything looks different when you are high. Find a high perspective to shoot this landscape. Drone, Helicopter, Tall Building, Hilltop; it doesn’t matter. Get High.
Week 27 Fast Shutter Speed This week’s challenge is to shoot a scene with a fast shutter speed. At least 1/500 or higher.
Week 28 Deep DOF The goal for this week is to get everything in your photo to be super sharp; from the background to the middleground to all the way in the background.
Week 29 Shallow DOF Last week’s goal was Deep or Large DOF. This week try the opposite. Shoot a scene and showcase Shallow DOF.
Week 30 Diagonal Line Diagonal lines can convey a sense of action or make an image more dynamic. For this  week’s challenge, use Diagonal Lines to make your image look more dynamic.
Week 31 Cropping Although our goal is to capture every shot perfectly, it doesn’t always happen. Cropping can help you get to the right composition even if you didn’t shoot it that way. This week, take a photo of your favorite scene and crop it in different ways to see which crop you like the best.
Week 32 Positive/Negative Space Negative space, sometimes referred to as white space, is a concept that’s been used in art, design, architecture, and sculpture for hundreds of years. It’s equally useful in photography, and can be used to turn an average photo into an outstanding one. Put simply, negative space is the area which surrounds the main subject in your photo (the main subject is known as the “positive space”). For this week’s challenge, shoot a scene where you clearly use Negative Space to emphasize the main subject of your photo.
Week 33 Camera Position Photographing from a different viewpoint or camera angle can often add drama and excitement or even bring out an unusual aspect of a subject. This week try changing your viewpoint or camera angle to capture something different.
Week 34 Foreground/Middle/Background Try to capture a scene where the Foreground, Middleground, and Background are clearly separated and showcased.
Week 35 Rule of Space The rule of space relates to the direction the subject(s) in your photo are facing or moving towards. Shoot something to showcase the Rule of Space. Meaning, give your subject room to move.
Week 36 At least 3 Comp Techniques Shoot your favorite scene but use at least 3 Compositional Techniques.
Week 37 Perspective How you shoot a scene determines what kind of story you want to tell and what kind of mood you want viewers to feel when they look at a photo. The power of perspective is beyond the consideration of your photography subjects; it is about the angle of your camera, your proximity to the subjects and what you include in the frame that plays an important role in your final image. For this week’s challenge change your perspective. Shoot the same subject from multiple perspectives; get low, get high, shoot up, shoot down, shoot from the Hip, shoot through another object, frame your subject. Experiment and find a subject that you can shoot from different perspectives. Or, shoot different subjects in different perspectives.
Week 38 Jagged & Irregular Lines Jagged and irregular lines take us one step further on the continuum of emotion and feeling. While diagonals move us into the area of the dynamic, jagged and irregular lines often impart a sense of unease, tension, or fear to the viewer of the image. Shoot a scene where you showcase Jagged and Irregular lines.
Week 39 Juxtaposition Juxtaposition is one of those compositional rules that seems tricky at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Juxtaposition happens when there are two or more elements in a scene that either contrast with each other, or one element contributes towards the other to create an overall theme.
Week 40 Contrast & Tone Tonal contrast is created when light tones and dark tones lie alongside each other. Images with strong tonal contrast tend to work well in both black and white and color. For this week, shoot a scene with strong tonal contrast. Process in both color & Black & White to see which one you like.
Week 41 Golden Triangle You have mastered the Rule of Thirds. Now it is time to experiment with a new Compositional Technique; the Golden Triangle. What is it? Well, you’ll have to do a bit of research. But its pretty straight-forward. I promise.
Week 42 Figure to Ground Another important but often overlooked compositional technique is what’s called ‘Figure to Ground’. Pretty much that means to have a good contrast between your subject and background. That means, have a dark figure against a light background. Or a light subject against a dark background. One way you can create a strong ‘figure-to-ground’ in your photograph is to shoot a silhouette of a subject. Experiment this week and create a strong figure to ground image this week.
Week 43 Colorful Shoot a landscape that packs as much color as you can find into the scene.
Week 44 HDR HDR is the technique of combining several photos of the same scene but shot at different exposures to create an image with a High Dynamic Range. Shoot your favorite scene but bracket your shots and create a HRD image.
Week 45 Pattern Get inspired by the rhythm that patterns bring to your images.
Week 46 Distractions The goal for this week is pretty simple. Avoid distractions! Eliminate anything that is not necessary in the image or doesn’t add to your story. Practice the art of subtraction. Keep only things that are absolutely necessary.
Week 47 Rule of Odds The rule of odds states that images are more visually appealing when there is an odd number of subjects. This week try shooting something where there are odd number of subjects.
Week 48 Form Line, shape, and form are three building blocks to add depth and interest to your photos. The goal is to try to bring the 3rd dimension to your photo. Use sidelight; Use reflection; go close to the subject and use wide angle lens. Regardless of the technique, the goal this week is to show form.
Week 49 At least 4 Comp Techniques Shoot your favorite scene but use at least 4 Compositional Techniques.
Week 50 Golden Ratio/Rule The Golden Ratio has been used as a powerful composition tool for centuries. The reason for this is simple, the Golden Ratio allows for a composition that is perfectly balanced from a viewer’s perspective, creating a photograph that is most pleasing to the human eye. We naturally prefer to look at an image that is balanced and harmonized, and the Golden Ratio provides this. It’s time for you to use the Golden Ration in your Photography.
Week 51 Focus Stacking Focus stacking is similar in principle to HDR. However, with focus stacking, images are captured with different focus points, and later combined in Photoshop, to create an image with more DOF than would be possible with a single exposure. For this week’s challenge, experiment with Focus Stacking to create an image where everything (or almost everything) is in sharp focus.
Week 52 Break the Rule Congrats! Hope you learned a thing or two by participating in this 52 week Landscape Composition Challenge. More importantly, hope you had fun. Now that you know the rules, it’s time to break em’. For your final challenge, break one or more of the ‘rules’ to put your artistic signature. As Ansel Adams said: “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
Special Thanks to Dogwood Photography for letting me use his 52 Week Challenge series as an inspiration to come up with my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge. You can find his challenges at:
2016 – https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge.html
2017 – https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge2017.html