Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 Tips For Brilliant Landscapes
To get your best shots, follow the light
Reflections can add a dash of color and impressionism to an image, and can transform your photographs into something special and unique. Water is the best source for reflections. Still water can act like a mirror, producing a perfect reflection of the world around you. Moving water produces a more indistinct reflection, often nothing more than a surreal blur of color. The intensity of the reflection is dependent on the water’s clarity, depth and turbulence. A shallow pool of clear rainwater, for example, will reflect better than a deep and choppy lake. Other surfaces besides water reflect light, including rocks, ice, snow and even foliage. These surfaces are less reflective than water, so they won’t reflect an image, but they will reflect color with varying degrees of intensity. For example, reflected light is what illuminates the dark interiors of deep sandstone slot canyons, giving them their famous glow. Reflections can be used as your main subject, or they can simply provide a subtle touch that elevates your images to the realm of “high-concept” photography.
5 Unite Land And Sky
The question of what to do with the sky is often overlooked. Regardless of what the light in the sky looks like, it’s important to think about the sky in terms of composition rather than just light or color. If the sky is featureless, such as when it’s heavily overcast or clear, consider excluding most or all of it from your frame. If the sky has mixed cloud cover, especially with heavily textured clouds, it can become an important, or even dominant, element of the composition. Clouds can form shapes that relate to the landscape below—or they can form shapes or lines that distract and confuse the viewer. Pay close attention to what’s going on above, and make sure that, if you choose to include the sky, that it relates to what’s going on down below.
6 Shoot The Edge Of Light
Power is found at the edges, such as the edge between light and shadow, or when the sun peeks over a distant mountain. Drama is found at the edge of a storm, where rain, wind and clouds collide with all the intensity and fury that nature can muster. Color is found at the break of dawn or in the last faint glimmers of twilight defying the black of night. Chase the edges of light, and you’ll be on your way to making truly epic images. Although edges can occur at all times of the day, my favorite “edge” light is found at twilight, the 30-minute period after the sun has set or before it rises—a magical time when reality blends with fantasy, what I like to call “dreamscape” time. During twilight, the portion of the sky lit by sunlight striking the upper atmosphere acts as a giant reflector, bouncing a soft directional glow onto the land. It’s subtle, but sometimes surprisingly colorful. Twilight glow on the landscape is strongest facing away from the sunset or sunrise. Long exposures are necessary to compensate for the faint light; clouds, water and windblown foliage will move during long exposures, creating an impressionistic blur.
Nature photography is an exercise in finding convergences, those moments when two or more natural elements come together in an interesting or artistically relevant way. Such convergences usually are fleeting, leading famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson to describe photography as capturing the “decisive moment” in which one is able to record an essential interaction of subjects at its peak. Ideally, the moment should reveal something about the character of the landscape or capture an instant when nature’s power is at its fullest, filled with energy and possibility. Waiting for the decisive moment requires patience and dedication, but is at the core of the light chaser’s credo. If you’re not sure when the decisive moment occurs, then sit back and watch, and learn about your subject. Get to know nature and her rhythms and patterns. Develop a connection with the natural world, and I guarantee you that you’ll began to see decisive moments all around you. Learn to understand nature, and all the rest will fall into place.
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