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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Create The Complete Outdoor Image


Whether you’re shooting landscapes, wildlife, sports-action or travel, the best, most compelling images have common traits




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Overcast conditions make for soft, even lighting and rich color in this fall image of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.
Why is light so important? It brings out intimate texture and profound detail in our images, especially when the light source is low on the horizon. It defines our images by giving them depth and dimension. Combined with contrast in color, shape and texture, light is what ultimately conveys a sense of three-dimensionality across this two-dimensional medium. People know and understand light, and that’s what allows them to momentarily forget that they’re staring at a flat surface and virtually step into the represented reality of unforgettable photography.

There are certainly some exceptions to this statement (especially with the camera technology available to us these days), but generally, if you don’t have superb light, you don’t have squat.

Engaging Subject Matter
For the most part, this is a fairly straightforward component, right? Just find something “pretty” and throw it in the frame in a decent spot, and you have your keeper, no? Were it always that simple, we would all have little to pursue and even less to perfect.

Engaging subject matter may or may not present itself at any given location. Finding engaging subject matter in Yellowstone National Park may not be a huge photographic challenge, but how about finding urban beauty when you’re traveling and working on getting interesting shots in an urban jungle?
Why is light so important? It brings out intimate texture and profound detail in our images, especially when the light source is low on the horizon. It literally defines our images by giving them depth and dimension. Combined with contrast in color, shape and texture, light is what ultimately conveys a sense of three-dimensionality across this two-dimensional medium.
Finding engaging subject matter takes an eye for the unique. It may simply involve looking at objects differently, finding different angles or, oftentimes, just waiting for the right light to highlight the subject. Many times, you must find the pieces of the visual puzzle in front of you that speak most to the viewer. A golden aspen grove in and of itself may provide adequate subject matter, but a certain section of that aspen grove, with just the right convergence of branches, leaves, spacing and light, will make for the most meaningful image.


The last rays of daylight illuminate a healthy patch of purple lupine along the Duchesne Ridge, Utah.
Subject matter can be anything under the sun, literally. That being said, for it to feel right, it must complement the image as a whole. Just as most prefer to fill their piggy bank with more than just pennies, as a photographer I search for subject matter that makes the most of the space I’m given within my photographic frame of view.

In the end, we must engage the viewer with everything we’ve chosen to include in our image. If we can do this, it will be tough for the viewer to look away.

Dynamic Composition
If superb light is our foundation and engaging subject matter the building blocks, then dynamic composition is the glue that holds it all together. I believe that composition is the rawest demonstration of a photographer’s ability to create. Subject matter is most often already existent. Light can be happened upon. Composition, however, is entirely dependent upon the artist’s intrinsic ideal. It’s the outward arrangement of an inward vision.


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