OP Home > How-To > Shooting > The Power Of Three


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Power Of Three

Reaching beyond the basics of the Rule of Thirds for more dynamic landscape photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom
The Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Often, when shooting layer images, I feel that more is better. Six ridges of the Smokies, for example, might show three dimensions and the expansive nature of the landscape better than four ridges. Frankly, with that many, who's counting? Showing layers of differing content, however, is one of the prime ways to show three dimensions in a landscape with no foreground, especially in an image like this one where perspective doesn't work. Without the layers, the Grand Teton is too large a subject to recede into the background. Choosing three layers with this more complex material is a great way to simply and pleasingly portray depth and distance: clouds as foreground, the peak as the second placeholder, and the distant blue landscape and sky complete the scene.

Goegap Nature Reserve, South Africa
The three kokerboom trees add a solid, firm structure to the chaotic forest of agaves surrounding them in this African desert image. Use the power of three as a way to add stability to an image with other complicated elements. The perspective of the trees also creates a diagonal line, which gives the three trees more power. Anytime you can arrange to have your three subjects create a diagonal line is a plus. As with most of the images included in this collection, I've also worked to use sidelighting and have some kind of cloud cover.

Monument Valley, Arizona
Nature provides lots of subjects in threes, like the three classic buttes of Monument Valley. The area also has the Three Sisters, three stunning spires, which carry the same name as three rock formations in Australia. Arches National Park has the Three Gossips, and the list goes on and on. Spotlighting, very common during stormy periods in the Western United States, is a favorite tool of mine. Having just one of the Mittens lit by the dying sun makes a stronger statement to me.

Ofu Beach, National Park of American Samoa
Just to show how every facet of an image can work in threes, this image contains deep blacks, bright highlights and midtones. Though deep black is often avoided now in digital photography, Ansel Adams was certainly a fan of it in his work. Also, I find that this wide range of tonal values gives the image a "film" look, which I sometimes want to return to, and, of course, the black subject wouldn't be as effective if it didn't have a strong shape. The combination of the strong lights and darks is another example of chiaroscuro lighting. Here, the third element, the medium-toned water and forest, balances the very strong light-dark effect.

Go to www.tomtillphotography.com to see more of Tom Till's landscape photography.


Add Comment


Popular OP Articles

  • Lighten Up!Lighten Up!
    How to choose and use light-hiking equipment and philosophy to make your photography forays more enjoyable, comfortable and productive More »
  • Beyond The ObviousBeyond The Obvious
    When packing your camera bag, here are some not-so-obvious items to include More »
  • Modern Printmaking Part OneModern Printmaking Part One
    In this first of a series on the fine art of photo printing, we consider the value of prints in the digital age More »