Trees Water Light

an image from the earthrise gallery

Landscapes are ubiquitous, but how to take an image that stands out from the crowd?  Its not just about travelling to remote and undocumented places (though it can help!).  A well composed image in your local park with good light is worth a hundred mountain tops taken in average light and poorly composed. It’s all about encapsulating the mood of the moment and communicating your personal reaction to the viewer, and this you can do anywhere.


The Rule of Thirds makes a good starting point as always. Placing a handy tree or a convergence of curves in the landscape at the “golden spot” will improve the visual appearance of your image.

Another standard is the 80:20 rule.  Here the horizon is placed either 20% from the top or 20% from the bottom of the frame to give a pleasing result.

Rules are there to be broken though, so, if you have reason to, go for it and the image may be more innovative for it.

Be original, sunsets can be delightful and everyone should have one in their collection, but a red sky at night is not a ticket to a good landscape on its own.

Before pressing the button check all of the scene in your viewfinder to make sure you’re happy with all the elements in the frame, just to make sure that the pesky litter bin didn’t creep in a spoil the shot.

Look for a different viewpoint. Crouch down and include a foreground element that balances the scene. Or find a higher vantage point so you can look down on the subject.

Light, Light, Light

Images are all about light, and dawn and dusk are the traditional times to take landscapes. The soft warm light and long shadows will add atmosphere to the simplest of compositions, but don’t neglect midday entirely. With the strong light and deep minimal shadows you can get some interesting graphic effects. A simple tip: don’t take a picture of the view before you, instead capture the light and the way it falls across the scene.

Depth Of Field

If you can control the aperture setting on your camera try experimenting with different values to those you’d normally use. Wide open it can give emphasis to foreground objects as the background fades to a soft blur. Set the aperture small and it will produce an image with crispness and clarity throughout which will make it distinctive.

Panoramic Crops

Not a type of GM food, but a way of adding impact to an image. If an image is relatively empty at the top and bottom considering cropping it to “letterbox” (16:9) size or even panoramic (3:1).

And Finally…

All said and done technique is a means to an end. Take the time, be patient and let the moment come to you. Its hard to say what makes a landscape special, but when it is, it feels right. As has been said:

“In the final analysis, all technique is there to serve a purpose. When photographing wild landscape, my aim is to reflect its raw beauty and emotional power and, hopefully, honour the earth through photography.” – Joe Cornish


~ by Alan Humphris on October 30, 2009.

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