Composition - The Heart of the Photo
Composition is the heart of the photo. Composition leads to the work of art that begins from inspiration. Inspiration begins when you disconnect with the internal battles of everyday life and free the spirit to experience the world around you. Experiencing nature and truly being in the moment links you with all around you.
It might seem like meditation, but knowledge of your surroundings without hindrance of ideas that are external clears the mind and sharpening your senses. Pictures seem where you didn't see them. The components begin to align and art emerges.
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Joseph Cornell in his book 'Listening to Nature How to Deepen Your Awareness of Nature' had this exercise. Walk into an area that you would like to photograph. Rather than setting the camera up and shooting. Sit down. Wait. Relax. Be still and sense the moment. Very gently become conscious of nature. The Native Americans called this 'quiet hunting'. You personally will be spoken to by nature, but you have to be quiet. Nature talks softly. Nature will show herself to you, if you're patient. And unbelievable pictures will appear.
There are numerous times that I've entered the woods with camera in hand and not found anything that I needed to photograph. It could be that I was not prepared or nature did not wish to reveal herself. That day, maybe she did not feel photogenic. Scenes appear as if by magic, other days. If you can't find anything to shoot on any given day, so do not be disappointed. Use that time to scout the area for future chances and revel in the truth that you've got an opportunity to be outdoors.
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Choose this as the opportunity to plan for future shots. At these times think, what if the light was coming from an alternate direction. A better image may be produced by coming back in the early morning or late day. The landscape changes. Maybe shooting together with the foliage in brilliant colours, in the autumn, or winter with a fresh layer of snow would create the photo that you want.
Do not hurry yourself when seeking that image. Time with nature is a delight all by its own self. If you don't find anything to shoot, the sheer pleasure of being one with the outside is worth the encounter.
For today's photo trick, lets talk a little about landscape photography hints and techniques. This will definitely be a review of things we've discussed before, but a lot people have not actually attempted using them. Set as a target for this particular weekend to get out there and use these landscape photography hints and techniques to create something you can take pride in!
Light - with a portrait, we have total control. We can adjust the light levels, we can place our light where we need, we can set modifiers in front of it - like umbrellas, scrims, diffusion substance, gobos and so on... We can do pretty much anything we desire to get the image our mind has conjured up!
With cityscape and landscape photography, we are pretty much stuck with what nature provides us. There is not much we can do.
Or is there? With some preplanning, we can almost guarantee a gorgeous shot!
In an outside, landscape setting, there isn't much we can do to modify or correct the light, but we can become hyper aware of what light does at various times of day - and in various weather conditions.
First and foremost to achieve success as a landscape or cityscape photographer - you have to really have a desire to lose sleep.
What am I talking about? Glad you asked! There is really only two times of day to shoot, if you intend to start getting those dramatic landscape pictures with all the beautiful colours - at dusk and at dawn.
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However, for a photographer, morning and dusk are a bit more expanded than it may seem. About twenty minutes before the sun first peeks over the horizon in the morning there's a 'bogus' dawn. This time of day will give you those intense cobalt blue colours you see in contest winners, but have not been able to find in nature!
As the sun gets nearer and closer to the horizon, the colors will start to get pinker. The colours you see at dawn AREN'T the same as the colors you see at sundown. (They're more red and orange.)
So, pull yourself out of bed a couple hours before dawn so that you will have sufficient time to grab a cup of coffee (so you're awake enough to focus) and make your way to your predetermined place, get set up and start shooting during the false dawn.
See what I mean about wanting an urge to reduce sleep? Hereis the great thing, most of your buddies as well as camera club contest will be snoring away while you 'get the shot!'
Incidentally, there's a sunset that is fictitious about 20 minutes following the sun goes down. You're not spending that time watching TV are you?
Along with the excellent colors, you also get great light angles!
Think about the last photo you saw of a body builder... Where was the light? I'd venture to guess that it was to the side. Actually about 90 degrees to the camera - model axis.
This glancing side light causes heavy shadowing around the muscles making them appear more defined and actually larger. The light causes some specular highlights too - which makes the difference between highlight and shadow even more striking.
Now think of your cityscape or your landscape as a muscle bound version. The shadows due to the glancing sunlight will help accentuate and define the forms.
Next look for an intriguing scene! Use foreground elements to attract the eye into the photo. Make use of the rule of thirds, leading lines, diagonals and other compositional methods to attract the viewer's eye to the 'star' of your photo. (Be sure you have a well defined 'star!')
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Ultimately, throw in several clouds to reflect the sun's colours and add some visual interest to the sky and you'll be well on your own way to winning photo competitions!
Do all of this at daybreak - then do a picture of the same scene at midday. Ultimately, do it again at sunset and compare all your results. I believe you will rapidly start to recognize just how significant rules, techniques and all the photo tips we have been discussing actually are!
Take note of these landscape photography hints and techniques, and make it a goal to USE THEM this weekend! Check back tomorrow for more...