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 10 – Movement

The goal for Week 10 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Movement. Photography, is a all about capturing a moment, which essentially means you are stopping motion and freezing the frame. Even though we freeze the frame with our photos, we have multiple options when doing this. We can freeze a fast moving race car with a 1/1000 of a second or higher. Alternatively, we can keep our shutter open long (or even ultra-long) to let in more light; say to capture the night sky.

When talking about movement in Photography, there are multiple ways to do it – fast shutter speed, slow shutter speed, panning, motion blur, lens blur, etc. Shutter Speed is what determines how you capture the movement of your scene.

I love long-exposure shots. Every time I am near a waterbody, I try to show movement by going with long-exposure as I like the smooth water rather than fast shutter speed. Somehow, the though of elongated time makes the scene look ethereal.

For this challenge, I didn’t want to do a long exposure. Definitely, not an ultra-long exposure. I have seen some photos online where the waves are frozen. Not a fast shutter speed nor a very slow shutter speed. Something that just freezes the wave in the air. When I was in Garrapata State Park, I tried to do this. After a few failed attempts, I got a shot where I froze the wave crashing the sea stack. Since I was shooting at f/22, I was able to capture a starburst of the setting Sun as well.

I thought this was a good example of capturing movement.

Week 7 – Long Exposure

The challenge for week 7 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Long Exposure. The goal for this week was to slow down the shutter speed, significantly. When you hear Long Exposure, one of the first things that come to mind is a waterscape where the waves have been smoothed while keeping some element in the frame sharp like foreground rock or bridge. However, Long Exposure can basically be anything. As long as you slow down your shutter speed to show motion, it’s considered long exposure. There is no clear definition of what Long Exposure is.

Long Exposure Photography portrays time; at least, that’s the intent. Moving clouds or waves or light trails or even star rails all portray time or passing of time in your photos. For a photo to be considered long exposure, you don’t necessarily have to use a certain shutter speed. As long as your intention is to capture moving objects with a shutter speed and exposure time longer than ‘necessary’, then it qualifies as Long Exposure. Some people use Long Exposure in a busy street to blur people and create a ghostlike feel. Some people take it a step further. If they are in a busy monument or natural attraction and they don’t want people in their photo, they use a ultra-long exposure and anyone that does not stay stationary for a long time disappear from the photo.

Here’s an example of Long Exposure that I shot for this week’s challenge. This is a shot of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline shot from Treasure Island. This was well past Sunset and my goal was to use a Long Exposure (about 2 minutes) to capture all the lights from the Bay Bridge as well as the Skyline. Not what you think when you hear Long Exposure but definitely fits the bill for this week’s 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 foreground 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