Sunday, June 1, 2008
Focus On The Foreground
Look down to add depth and emotion to your images
On a recent visit to Death Valley, I photographed the ubiquitous Mesquite Flat Dunes at sunset. I’ve been photographing these dunes since 1979 and still love the place. As often as it has been photographed, its ever-changing nature makes it a worthy mecca for landscape photographers. Being so attracted to photographing nature’s designs, there are always new sand patterns that blow me away!
On this particular hike, I was looking for some scenic compositions I needed for clients of mine. For practical reasons, I often have to remind myself not to focus on abstract patterns! The net result in any given shooting session is that I create images for both commerce and myself.
Next, I started to photograph with the pattern as an isolated shape. Again, I worked on several different framings of the pattern. The sun was going down, and I made the Dune Pattern image with the sun low to the sky, but not yet blocked by clouds to the west.
I wandered off in search of other foreground elements, but I found nothing as exciting. While doing this, the sun went behind clouds for the evening. I waited to see if nice sunset colors would appear in the sky and on the peaks to the east. The Sunset, Mesquite Flat Dunes image captured the serenity of the evening for me. Although I wouldn’t have minded if the sunset had been more dramatic, I appreciated the peace and beauty of the moment.
The next time you make landscape photographs, remember how important it is to have strong graphic interest in your compositions. Be selective when picking your foregrounds. They need to be just as cleanly designed and well lit as any other part of your composition. Think of the foreground as providing a clear and interesting pathway into the scene. Pay attention to the shapes and forms of the foreground to see how they might relate to objects beyond. The image often can be enhanced by contrasts, such as delicate flowers before rugged mountains or by similarities like rounded beach pebbles before wave-worn sea cliffs. Most importantly, experiment and have fun!
To visit his Photo Blog or sign up for newsletter updates on his Landscape Essentials course with BetterPhoto.com, visit William Neill’s website at www.WilliamNeill.com.
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