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02-24-2019, 03:50 AM - 10 Likes   #1
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Composition in landscape photography

Hello everyone,

how about talking about composition for a little Sunday fun?

As a Fine Art landscape photographer, I consider myself an interpreter. Nature and the landscape in front of me are the score, and my photographs are my interpretations of it. Personally, I think that mastering composition is fundamental to create your interpretation of a landscape, and sadly it's much overlooked these days. Out of the thousands images I see every day online, perhaps only a dozen or so are well-composed. Composition is the first pillar on which a great landscape photography stands, and it deserves more attention than that.

From the spatial relationship between different elements in the frame, to near-far compositions, to the compositional effects of changing shooting point, to using different focal lengths, to the compositional effect of choosing different shutter speeds and different diaphragms, the composition of a great image is the result of organizing the available elements of a scene in the best possible way.

To improve our ability to compose our own images, a vast "visual culture" is fundamental. That means studying the masters of visual arts: first and foremost, painters. Studying the masters of photography, of course, but without trying and replicate their shots; studying great cinema; and so on.

To start this discussion, let me offer 5 tips to improve composition in your photography.

1. Wait. When you arrive on location, don't start photographying immediately. Take your time to explore the location, compose first in your brain and then fine tune your compositions with your camera. Great compositions need time to organise and prepare, don't rush it. Wait, take your time. Then, when you are ready, start shooting.

2. Forget the rules. Knowing the rule of thirds, Fibonacci, Spyrals, Younameit, is fundamental, sure. Not fixating on them when you work, however, it is even more so. The rules should be working for you in the background, without taking center stage, not the other way round. They have to be there, but you don't have to apply them mechanically: that is almost surely going to result in contrived, non-creative compositions.

3. Corners and borders. Check your corners and borders: eliminate stray branches, control that you didn't cut off a piece of something that needed to be fully in, and so on.

4. Simplify. Composition, for me, is a subtractive process. Like in a good story, where you need to tell the reader everything he needs to know but nothing more, don't try to squeeze everything in your photographs: think rather if you really need all that you are framing to tell your story.

5. Experiment and enjoy. As with everything, practice makes perfect - or, at least, better. If you don't go out and photograph, it is very difficult that your compositions will improve. If you don't make mistakes, if you don't throw away images, it is nearly impossible.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Have a great Sunday, best regards

Vieri

02-24-2019, 04:34 AM   #2
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This makes a welcome change from all the gear-centric discussions. Bravo!

Inspiring website, by the way. I have been to Cornwall, Venice, Tuscany and Cinque Terre in the last few years. The Dolomites will be next year!

Last edited by Sandy Hancock; 02-24-2019 at 04:43 AM.
02-24-2019, 04:51 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by The Madshutter Quote
1. Wait. When you arrive on location, don't start photographying immediately.
2. Forget the rules...The rules should be working for you in the background, without taking center stage, not the other way round.
3. Corners and borders. control that you didn't cut off a piece of something that needed to be fully in, and so on.
4. Simplify.
5. Experiment and enjoy. As with everything, practice makes perfect...
thank The Madshutter, wonderful words
these are really good rules, but at the same time, as you said, there are no rules (but still knowing the rules makes the picture better)
composition is probably the most important thing

Last edited by Martin Stu; 02-24-2019 at 04:58 AM.
02-24-2019, 06:01 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by The Madshutter Quote
To start this discussion, let me offer 5 tips to improve composition in your photography.

1. Wait. When you arrive on location, don't start photographying immediately. Take your time to explore the location, compose first in your brain and then fine tune your compositions with your camera. Great compositions need time to organise and prepare, don't rush it. Wait, take your time. Then, when you are ready, start shooting.

2. Forget the rules. Knowing the rule of thirds, Fibonacci, Spyrals, Younameit, is fundamental, sure. Not fixating on them when you work, however, it is even more so. The rules should be working for you in the background, without taking center stage, not the other way round. They have to be there, but you don't have to apply them mechanically: that is almost surely going to result in contrived, non-creative compositions.

3. Corners and borders. Check your corners and borders: eliminate stray branches, control that you didn't cut off a piece of something that needed to be fully in, and so on.

4. Simplify. Composition, for me, is a subtractive process. Like in a good story, where you need to tell the reader everything he needs to know but nothing more, don't try to squeeze everything in your photographs: think rather if you really need all that you are framing to tell your story.

5. Experiment and enjoy. As with everything, practice makes perfect - or, at least, better. If you don't go out and photograph, it is very difficult that your compositions will improve. If you don't make mistakes, if you don't throw away images, it is nearly impossible.


Vieri
Very good advice, There are a couple areas that I have difficulty with. I'm often in too much of a hurry because I may me taking photographs from a road where there is no place to pull over. And when you are in a hurry you miss things. Another difficulty I have is boredom of an area. The area I live in is pretty flat and featureless. During the Winter when there is no snow it is very brown, and we have more gray days than sunny ones. I like to get in the car and travel an hour or tow or three to more scenic locations. But for the last couple of months I've been unable to do that because of an illness (hopefully just a few more weeks). I've been able to get out locally so all I have is flatland snow scapes, LOL.

I would add one exception to number one, and that would be if there is a special light or a rising moon you must work fast before it's gone. I mean that that special light you can get at sunrise, sunset, after storms, etc. Hopefully if you are waiting for sunrise or sunset you've got there ahead of time. But I've seen many days when I was doing something else that you suddenly see rare colors in the sky.

Another thing I would add is to not immerse yourself so much into a scene that you become unaware of what is around you and where you are. I like to go to shoot nature landscapes so I will go to places that I have to hike. A few months ago I was shooting in the rain from cliffs that were rounded. If I ventured out too far I could have easily fell or lost my tripod and camera. Be aware of conditions, rain and snow not only make rocks slippery, it's easy to have wet ground on a hillside or sloped trail give out from under you.

02-24-2019, 06:55 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
This makes a welcome change from all the gear-centric discussions. Bravo!

Inspiring website, by the way. I have been to Cornwall, Venice, Tuscany and Cinque Terre in the last few years. The Dolomites will be next year!
Thank you very much Sandy, glad you found the post interesting! Thank you also for your kind words about my work, much appreciated indeed. The Dolomites are amazing, enjoy your trip there!

QuoteOriginally posted by Martin Stu Quote
thank The Madshutter, wonderful words
these are really good rules, but at the same time, as you said, there are no rules (but still knowing the rules makes the picture better)
composition is probably the most important thing
Thank you very much Martin, glad you enjoyed the read and my tips - not rules, I wouldn't dare to offer any, just suggestions

QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
Very good advice, There are a couple areas that I have difficulty with. I'm often in too much of a hurry because I may me taking photographs from a road where there is no place to pull over. And when you are in a hurry you miss things. Another difficulty I have is boredom of an area. The area I live in is pretty flat and featureless. During the Winter when there is no snow it is very brown, and we have more gray days than sunny ones. I like to get in the car and travel an hour or tow or three to more scenic locations. But for the last couple of months I've been unable to do that because of an illness (hopefully just a few more weeks). I've been able to get out locally so all I have is flatland snow scapes, LOL.

I would add one exception to number one, and that would be if there is a special light or a rising moon you must work fast before it's gone. I mean that that special light you can get at sunrise, sunset, after storms, etc. Hopefully if you are waiting for sunrise or sunset you've got there ahead of time. But I've seen many days when I was doing something else that you suddenly see rare colors in the sky.

Another thing I would add is to not immerse yourself so much into a scene that you become unaware of what is around you and where you are. I like to go to shoot nature landscapes so I will go to places that I have to hike. A few months ago I was shooting in the rain from cliffs that were rounded. If I ventured out too far I could have easily fell or lost my tripod and camera. Be aware of conditions, rain and snow not only make rocks slippery, it's easy to have wet ground on a hillside or sloped trail give out from under you.
Thank you very much Tom, glad you found the advice useful My post today was about composition only - didn't want to put too much meat on the fire - but thank you for your light-related and security-related additions, I definitely agree with both.

Best regards,

Vieri
02-24-2019, 06:56 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I shoot a lot around home and on the commute, and because I live in a city, it's not just landscape. But it's good practice that helps with the infrequent landscape shooting I do. All points above are excellent and apply to other genres as well.
About 1. above, I agree with Tom, that I'd prefer to arrive early and have time to think, but for a variety of reasons (including hiking too slow ) I am sometimes in a hurry to not miss the light.
02-24-2019, 09:49 AM   #7
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And today every picture that is taken outdoors is called a "Landscape".
02-24-2019, 10:02 AM   #8
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Very good advice Vieri, nice to see from someone who takes images most of us aspire to but rarely get! But we keep trying. I find when I hurry, number 3 bites me and causes excessive cropping! Your rules apply to many situations and I shall attempt to keep them in mind when making images.

02-25-2019, 06:23 PM   #9
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Madshutter Have you been looking over my shoulder?

My goodness, but you know some of my faults particularly these two:

QuoteOriginally posted by The Madshutter Quote
3. Corners and borders. Check your corners and borders: eliminate stray branches, control that you didn't cut off a piece of something that needed to be fully in, and so on.
QuoteOriginally posted by The Madshutter Quote
4. Simplify. Composition, for me, is a subtractive process. Like in a good story, where you need to tell the reader everything he needs to know but nothing more, don't try to squeeze everything in your photographs: think rather if you really need all that you are framing to tell your story.
I will doing more landscapes this spring and will imprint these two rules on my mind as they address my two major failings.

Thanks!
02-27-2019, 01:40 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by aaacb Quote
I shoot a lot around home and on the commute, and because I live in a city, it's not just landscape. But it's good practice that helps with the infrequent landscape shooting I do. All points above are excellent and apply to other genres as well.
About 1. above, I agree with Tom, that I'd prefer to arrive early and have time to think, but for a variety of reasons (including hiking too slow ) I am sometimes in a hurry to not miss the light.
Thank you very much, glad you found them useful. About point 1, of course if time is of the essence then all bets are off

QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
And today every picture that is taken outdoors is called a "Landscape".
...kinda...

QuoteOriginally posted by SSGGeezer Quote
Very good advice Vieri, nice to see from someone who takes images most of us aspire to but rarely get! But we keep trying. I find when I hurry, number 3 bites me and causes excessive cropping! Your rules apply to many situations and I shall attempt to keep them in mind when making images.
Than you very much indeed for your kind words, much appreciated I am glad that you found my tips (not rules!) useful, and hope they'll help you in creating better photographs!

QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
Madshutter Have you been looking over my shoulder?

My goodness, but you know some of my faults particularly these two:





I will doing more landscapes this spring and will imprint these two rules on my mind as they address my two major failings.

Thanks!
You are very welcome, I am glad to be of help!

Best regards,

Vieri
03-08-2019, 05:30 PM   #11
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Most helpful. In an ideal world, of course, you would visit a site and pre-plan before even taking a camera along, but that is not always an option - and farmers will insist on ploughing their fields to spoil everything !

Tony
03-13-2019, 02:34 AM   #12
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T|he landscapes that I have taken that I feel good about included most of hose tips, but by accident, except the one about taking your time. Great advice and thanks
03-24-2019, 12:11 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilmfan Quote
Most helpful. In an ideal world, of course, you would visit a site and pre-plan before even taking a camera along, but that is not always an option - and farmers will insist on ploughing their fields to spoil everything !

Tony
Hello Tony, glad you found my post helpful! Of course, repeated visits to a location, whether just for scouting or for photographing and re-photographing (with different light, seasons, etc etc) are extremely helpful.

QuoteOriginally posted by Basie Quote
T|he landscapes that I have taken that I feel good about included most of hose tips, but by accident, except the one about taking your time. Great advice and thanks
You are very welcome, I am glad you found my experience in landscape photography useful

Best regards,

Vieri
10-29-2019, 10:09 AM   #14
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10-29-2019, 02:44 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilmfan Quote
Most helpful. In an ideal world, of course, you would visit a site and pre-plan before even taking a camera along, but that is not always an option - and farmers will insist on ploughing their fields to spoil everything !

Tony
Best laid plans... Sometimes no matter how much planning you do it all goes pear shaped!
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