Isolate Details for a Different Look at Landscapes

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When you say “landscape” I’m sure the vision you have in your mind is a panorama of a sprawling field, distant mountains or grand canyons taken with a super wide angle setting on your zoom lens. However, telephoto zoom settings can also be used effectively for landscape photos. When you zoom in on the details of your landscape, you can bring out something special. Here, in Nikko, Japan, I captured the majesty of the not-quite peaked fall season by isolating a few brilliantly colored trees clustered together in the still mostly green landscape. The resulting picture says “fall” unlike the wide angle shot I could have taken. Next time you’re shooting landscapes, zoom in and see what interesting detail you can find: a single tree, a mountain peak, a reflection in the lake, and more. When you use the telephoto setting, you compress the distance between objects and achieve a flat, almost painterly 2-D effect.

Take a Photo that Demonstrates the Rule of Thirds

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The rule of thirds is one of the most powerful creative options you have when composing your photograph. A photo that has the important element of the photo at an intersecting point of a “tic tac toe” board, or in one of the right or left, top or bottom thirds of the photo, is one that is more compelling  than a shot with the subject centered.

_DSC4304_RT_150_wgridMost often, you don’t want to position your subject smack dab in the center of the frame. It’s boring. Although, this rule, like all rules, can be broken very effectively. That really depends on the shot. But if you start to think about not putting you subject in the center of the frame, you will train your eye to see better shots. For example, the eye closest to the camera should hit one of the intersecting points. Or the critical part of the landscape should be in the top third or bottom third, left third or right third. My shot here shows the subject off to the right slightly and in the lower portion of the frame. This gives the subject breathing room in the frame, the “white space” (which does not have to be white, but rather unimportant or non-distracting space in the frame) gives your eye a place to rest and then come back to the subject, and by positioning the subject as I did, you get a feeling of where she is and that where she is important to me and therefore should be to the viewer as well. Below is another example. This time a vertical landscape that also adheres to the rule of thirds. I added the tic tac toe board to both images also so that you can get a better idea of where the intersecting points or thirds of a frame are.
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Photographing the Windmills in LaMancha

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I travel a lot for work and get to sightsee for one day on many of these trips. While I am sometimes sad I am seeing the world without my family (I’ve created a scrapbook page called My Travels Without You), I am grateful for the chance to experience other cultures, food, history and more. Last year I went to Madrid. It’s a year already! I leave for this year’s trip to Malta next week. We visited the sight were Don Quixote “battled” windmills. This shot was one of many from different angles as we walked around the property. It’s one of the few that did not have other tourists in the background, a frequent issue when shooting on vacation. The best tip for that problem is patience! But I post this one for three reasons:

1) I am sure you are sick of seeing so many photos of my built-in model;

2) It’s a good example of the rule of thirds;

3) It’s also an example of leading lines. When taking photos, imagine that there is a tic tac toe board on your screen. Put the main interest of your subject (like eyes, or head, or Disney Castle) at one of the intersecting points, or in the upper or lower third, or the right or left third. This makes a more exciting photo than when the subject is smack in the middle. So always try to offset in some way. But remember, rules are made to be broken and sometimes the middle is the best way for a particular shot, especially if you are trying to create exact symmetry in your image. In this shot, the horizon and the windmills are positioned from middle to the upper third of the image. And the road is a good example of a leading line that guides your eye right to the first windmill and then the windmills themselves guide you right through the rest of the shot.

Look for shots from Malta next week.