I’ve started living in Japan a few years ago. Even with a higher cost of living and a lower pay compared to what I received from my previous company, I accepted my new job in The Land of the Rising Sun. Wanting to see more the country was the primary reason.
I’ve been living in Kanagawa, a prefecture near Tokyo. Landscape photography is such a love of my life. Whenever I came back home from work, my free time were spent Googling my next places to visit, looking for best locations for long exposure photography. I was overwhelmed by the immense information I saw on the internet. Local online forums provided images and location information. Almost everywhere in Japan is quite interesting for photography. Every prefecture has unique places to shoot at. I’ve come to realize that Japan is not only a place for great food, unique culture, old architecture, technology, modern cities, manga and anime; it’s also a place for vast opportunity for long exposure photography.
So, rest days were turned to weekend shoots. Budget for my favorite ramen and Japanese beer was saved for train tickets and accommodations. Japan is not a cheap place to explore after all. So, for two years, I had been photographing different places around the country. But I know I have only photographed a small fraction of the entire Japan but surely these places did not disappoint for every place I’ve visited sparked wild imagination. For that reason, Japan has easily become my favorite country for long exposure photography.
So, here is the main reason that makes Japan an epic location for long exposure photography.
Japan has a lot of water. With a coastline length of more than 29,000 kilometers and about a hundred lakes, the country offers vast and diverse shooting locations for beautiful blurred movement of water in your landscape photography.
Torii gates are one of my favorite subjects in long exposure photography that involve water. These unique and static man-made structures on moving water and against stormy skies are perfect elements for a distinctive and stunning long exposure capture. There are thousands of torii gates spread around the country and many of them are built few meters away from the shore. One of my favorites is the Konpira torii gate in Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido. The best time to photograph this shrine is in winter and when the tide is high. The ice that forms on its ‘hashira’ or pillars gives an ethereal feel to anyone that witnesses it in person. Getting to Shosanbetsu in winter requires driving because it is very far from the train station and taxis are quite rare in that area. However, there are other floating torii gates in more accessible locations such as Shirahige Shrine in Shiga, Hakone Shrine in Kanagawa, and Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima.
Speaking of water, sea stacks are common in many seaside areas and they are great static elements for coastal long exposure photography. Entrance to these places is absolutely free but one must keep in mind that these geologic formations like shrines and torii gates have some kind of historical and spiritual significance to Japanese people. Being quiet and discreet when shooting is an unwritten rule. Sea stacks are usually labeled and the word ‘iwa” which means ‘rock’ is attached to the end of their names. A few examples are Meoto-iwa (Married Rocks) of Futamiokitama Shrine in Mie, Ebisu-iwa and Daikoku-iwa in Hokkaido and the mysterious unusually-shaped rocks of Hashigui-iwa of Wakayama.
If you are looking for calmer waters, the seven lakes around Mount Fuji will not disappoint. They are very close to Tokyo and there are regular buses that connect the metropolitan and these lakes. The best condition to do long exposure shoots is when the water is still. Mount Fuji reflects beautifully on these lakes during clear and calm days. One must consider weather and season when including the iconic mountain in the frame because most often it is covered with clouds year-round. The best time to see the Mount Fuji is from October until March when the chances of clear days are higher. In addition, the mountain is surrounded with cameras that you can view real-time online. These cameras provide current weather and viewing conditions of the mountain from different vantage points. If you get really lucky, nature can gift you with lenticular clouds hovering over Mount Fuji in winter time. A shutter speed not more than 30 seconds and not less than 8 will be just right to soften the edges of the clouds. Exposing too long, it may dissolve totally your clouds and lose its lentil-like shape.
Also, Japan has countless stretches of rivers and waterfalls owing it to the country’s mountainous geology and wet climate. I’ve been to a few waterfalls such as Hirayu Falls in the Northern Alps, Shiraito Falls in Shizuoka, Nachi Falls in Wakayama and the icy falls of Shirahige in Hokkaido. These natural water formations create spectacular long exposure images when captured during autumn season. The use of CPL will help a lot in improving waterfalls photography by enhancing foliage colors and removing glare.
If you are into cityscapes and want to maximize your stay in Tokyo, Sumida River and Tokyo Bay offer great views of the Tokyo skyline. One of the best spots to do long exposure photography is along Asakusa where elements such as bridges, skyscrapers and rivers can fill your frame. At nighttime in Odaiba, tourist boats moving to and fro on the northern Tokyo Bay can be an appealing foreground for a seemingly endless skyline in the background. With the right shutter speed, these boats will create interesting streaking lights. The suspension Rainbow Bridge connecting Odaiba and Shibaura has captured the eyes of Japanese cityscape photographers because of its colorful light shows during nighttime. But during daytime and when it is foggy, taking a long exposure shot of this bridge can produce dreamy and mysterious-looking photographs.
There are two great things about traveling around Japan; the availability of transport and the accessibility of locations. I don’t remember any moment where I wasn’t able to arrive at any destination because of the lack of transport. It seems that there are no dead ends. Every place is connected by roads or railways. You can take a bus, a taxi, a train or rent a car for a more flexible travel. You will always arrive at your chosen destinations. For this reason, I will keep on coming back and will explore more places in The Land of the Rising Sun.
Everyday we wake up with a specific purpose. It could be a routine mission of going to work, to school or to a supermarket. Or we wake up for the mere fact that we need to get up because we cannot stay asleep 24 hours a day 7 days a week as it is part of our daily rhythm. Our alarm yells every five in the morning annoyingly telling us that we need to move our lazy asses. To many including me, not being able to put food on the table has become our daily inspiration, unfortunately. So everyday, we meet our bosses and co-slaves to dance to the tune of this entertaining song called “labor world.” Yes most of us do this and persist on doing this because we have to. Because the escape door from this tragic routine seems astronomically distant. We are miserable asses doing unhappy jobs day and night. For this reason, a hero to serve as an inspiration becomes an utmost importance. And this hero is not only for our daily lives but also for our artistic ventures.
By the way I will not discuss “inspirational life-related stuff” in this article. The above paragraph is just an introduction. So, let’s talk about the importance of a hero in photography. I hope you are not visualizing any Marvel characters when I say hero. Dammit!
In the field of photography, all of us have a champion in our hearts. Whether you are aware of it or not, surely you are looking up to somebody. It doesn’t matter if you know him personally or not. Let’s call him/her a “hero”. Hero in the sense that he/she inspires. He makes you get up and shoot early for a sunrise even though he is not an alarm clock. This hero exhibits seemingly unmatchable skills and talent. He is normally one of the “rock stars” of the craft. But hey, they didn’t get to that position over a midday nap. Like musical virtuosos in the past, years and years of practice were dedicated to the mastery of instruments and the creation of great symphonies. That’s why we can easily sense tremendous musicality on its tunes and melodies. Same principle is applied to the creation of astonishing paintings and sculptures. They are not created on the same day the artist decided to pick up a brush. They are the products of years of continuous efforts, honed talents and dedication. The best of the bests. The greatest of the greats. The pinnacle of human artistry. These artists of the past serve as unmatched heroes in the present time. They inspire generations and beyond. They will never be erased from history.
In photography, there are three persons that I consider my heroes: Marc Adamus, Michael Kenna and Rarindra Prakarsa. There are a lot of them out there actually. Even though they are complete strangers, they’ve managed to inspire me even without uttering a single word; just a showcase of great photography was enough. They’ve made me persevere. They’ve enthused me to learn more about the craft. Though, I am not as good as them they have made a better photographer in me.
Having a hero doesn’t mean being a copycat. You’re just being aware of the value of the right jumpstart. It really doesn’t matter if you try to copy somebody else’s style or works at the beginning of the path. For me, that’s being on a right track. However, do not stay on somebody else’s path too long; long enough to lose your true self somewhere down the road. Just use your hero’s marked trails to reach a good vantage point of your dreams. And from there, you begin treading your own path. Create your own style. Don’t live a photography career under somebody else’s shadows. Always remember that nothing shines on the dark side of the Moon because it is always blanketed with darkness. However, be aware that darkness is very useful for you to see the faintest of lights. Use this shadow to point which light in the dark sky you want to go. Follow this light until you’ve come face-to-face with it.
Your heroes had been to the same kind of challenge. They persisted. They persevered. They followed their chosen light amongst the billions scattered in the night sky. Like what they did, follow your own light too and reach for it. You will notice that the farther you walk towards it, the brighter it appears. As you come closer, you begin shining too. Reach for it and become one with it.
Upon your arrival face-to-face, grab hold of this impeccable light and f*cking place it in front of your trembling chest and let it penetrate the very core of your heart. Fuel it with your burning passion and pump it with your unstoppable fervor until it reaches its detonation point. Feel its flawless power as it flows turbulently in every twist and turn of your shaking veins; like a furious current making its way through a meandering river. Scream to the top your lungs and spread your arms and legs in the sky as you glow and release the chaotic power brought about by the fusion of yourself and your chosen light. Every f*cking eyes watching from a distant will be temporarily blinded as they watch you shine. Slowly, this yet-to-contain-power will calm down and contract into a crystallized glowing legend that is you. Behold the birth of a Super Saiyan. A Super Saiyan in the world of photography.
The world now is in front of another legend. You ain’t no Ansel Adams. You ain’t no Marc Adamus. You are the motherf*cking (insert your name). A hero. A legend. A beacon of passion and determination. Sounds really cool huh? Yeah. Why the hell not? Your name is the name of our new hero. Your name will echo through the years to come and your works will never be erased by the rising tides of time. Your name will be carved by the sharpest chisel on the surface of the hardest rock. Yes your name, we don’t care if it sounds awfully tagalog like Inodoro Panghi, Jr. What’s important is who you are and what you have become.
You are no longer living under somebody else’s shadows. You have become the light which others look up to. You are a hero now. You have acquired a great power to inspire, enlighten and move. You have the power to impact and influence. Use this power wisely. Guide others to find their chosen light too.
Rules are everywhere. Wherever you go, you are under the spell of “obedience to the laws”. Consequences are waiting to both ignorant and deliberate dissenters. These rules are not a bad thing. In fact they have made our society more liveable. It brings order to the chaotic. Even in writing this article, I had to adhere to writing rules (e.g. syntax, gramar, punctuations, etc.) in order to deliver a clear message. Since rules are almost omnipresent, we can definitely find it even in the world of art; photography as an example and also the focus in this article.
Given that photography is under the category “visual art”, the rules that are applied to painting and illustration can also be applied to it. The “thirds” and “symmetry” rules have proven to be visually pleasing compositions in the field of landscape photography and other genres as well. Our great organ “the brain” through “the eyes” has an innate ability to perceive what is beautiful or unattractive by sensing how the elements and forms are arranged inside the frame. Hence, we must often if not always adhere to the rules because ordinarily, we cannot trick the mind with our lower than mediocre artistic expression. In our society, there is collective taste for aesthetics where majority of the population agree on a particular definition of beauty. Using this general consensus of beauty, you will agree if I say that Richard Gomez’s yellow penis on black canvas (artwork???) is a solid bona fide bullshit, won’t you?
Similar things happen in photography surely for this discipline is considered an art, visual art to be more specific. So, we often hear the expressions such as:
You should add a bokeh in your shot. You should have shot this at f/2.8
Bro, your image is too soft. You should have set your aperture to f/9 or f/11.
Next time shoot at low ISO. Look. Your image is too noisy.
You should have included a foreground.
Let’s go back to that place and shoot during transition. We were late for the sunrise this morning.
Always follow the rule of thirds. You’ll never go wrong with that.
And the list goes on and on. You may call them general knowledge, tips or skills whatsoever but they are followed by you and me because they are the “rules” of beauty. You’ll never go wrong applying the rules. Rules that have visual consequences if ignored. I have nothing against “following the rules”. In fact I am law-abiding-photographer. I definitely know the value of following the rules. To every photographer out there especially the neophytes, OBEYING THE RULES IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. It is your manual or handouts that you get when you open the box of your first microwave oven. But the only difference is you need to read this one and the literal manual for your new appliance is doomed to be thrown to the bin of course. Photography rules are treated the otherwise. You need to store it in your brain like how you copy and paste porn videos from your perverted friends. Rules are precious. You need to know them by heart. That’s the bare-minimum, the acceptable level, the threshold level between mediocrity and excellence.
After years of obeying the rules, layers upon layers of practice and knowledge acquisition, camera shuttercounts have reached their limits; you’ll come to realize that the rules you follow are not absolute. They are simply guidelines that you need to adhere to in order to reach the door to the peak of your creativity. You’ve reached the point of enlightenment that rules can be bent if not totally broken. And anywhere you go applying the rules has become a second nature; as easy as chewing a tendered meat; as easy as speaking your native tongue. By adhering to the rules, you have become the rule unto yourself. You can bend as you wish. You can break as you please. You are the great motherf*cker who holds Thor’s hammer swinging it left and right destroying every law. And for every rule that is shattered a masterpiece comes to a rising.
By mastering the rules who have gained the ability to rise above the conventions of the common and ordinary. You have dared to be different while everybody else drifts away like identical fallen leaves on a river being carried downstream by a quiet flow of water. You have become the first flower to blossom in the field, the very first to attract hungry bees, the very first to scatter grains of pollen and turn them into seeds.
Again, I would like to reiterate that following the rules is not a bad thing. It is not the greatest thing either. Adhering to the rules is to live a photography career generally accepted by everyone. It is a good thing and can be great as well. However, sure greatness comes when you think outside the box, when you distance yourself from established conventions, when you dare to be fresh and different.
TO BEND AND BREAK IS THE PERFECT RULE. Go outside. Find new perspectives and f*cking own them. There’s no other person responsible for your photography but yourself. I ain’t telling you how to do it. I am also on the process of figuring it out. The answer is hidden amongst the wilderness. Let’s go check it out.
The Warp Tool This quick editing video tutorial shows the power of "WARP TOOL" in moving/fixing elements in your landscape photos.
Please check the video below. Thanks.
This article was written based on my opinion about mastery not only of landscape photography but of other genres or creative fields as well. There is not a chance I am claiming this title or implying that I have arrived to this state. I just want to write, exercise my mind and share my thoughts to my readers if there are any.
Before we strip naked the mind and the path of a true master, I would like to describe generally first what this path is all about. It is an infamous journey that lazies dare not tread. It is a path both great and terrible. A divine undertaking that requires complete dedication, effort and commitment. A mindset that little Johnny “The Lazy” will never ever have.
By the way, when I mention lazy photographer it refers to a literal lazyass who buys a camera and have millions of reasons not to touch it. Perhaps, the lowest form of camera owners walking on the surface of the oblate spheroidal Earth.
So let’s talk about how a master photographer does his own things.
A master’s eye is a trained eye. Due to years of experience of observing patterns, shapes, lighting, colours and shades in nature; he has able to develop a strong sense of vision. He is a very observant man. He sees between branches and tree trunks. He glimpses above mountain peaks and ocean shores. Because of that, he is not enslaved to any compositional rules. He actually shines brightest when he breaks the rules. It is Mother Nature that has trained him to see this way. The moment he opens the shutter, he is more likely sure of the outcome. He has the ability to foresee what’s coming out even before the sensor has finished recording the light.
A master landscape photographer is a great explorer. He navigates along walking trails looking for the best spots to shoot at. He even dares off the beaten tracks like a lone wolf if he has to in order to find what pleases and fills his hungered sight. He conquers treacherous summits and treads vast meadows. He dips himself in a cold flowing stream or in a shallow still lake. He even dares raging waves pounding rocks along unknown shores. He wakes up while everybody is still snoring. He sleeps when everybody is already dreaming. He wanders off ridge to ridge and shoreline to shoreline to find a rare pearl which is the nature’s splendour; a rare pearl that captures his soul. When he has finally found it, he knows that his vision has been fulfilled. He looks at his art like a master smith who has just forged his eternal blade. A moment when the formlessness that is contained inside a master has come into life, a tangible representation of his soul.
A master knows the value and capability of equipment. He honestly believes that having a better gear is a good thing. A master photographer shooting with two cameras of different specifications will produce images of equal artistry. The only difference is the technical quality such as image size, dynamic range, etc. However, he believes that equipment is never responsible for creativity. He thinks that falling into a trap of this uncontrolled gear acquisition syndrome is a dangerous predicament for somebody who is untrained and into this kind of art. When a lazyass thinks that he can take better photographs because of his latest mirrorless or full-frame; that’s the time when new equipment becomes an impediment to progress. It makes his moronic mind expect something good from the equipment held by his inexperienced hands and untrained eyes. Then, he becomes lazier and frustrated. Unless he has realized that efforts and learning are the major factors to taking good photographs, he will never be a happy photographer. This is one of the worst sins you can commit in this craft; to think that you’re good because your equipment is good. Can somebody give this stupid one a tap on the back please and send him regards for his silliness?
A master rejects too much materialism and embrace minimalism. More so in landscape photography where the weight and the volume of equipment are critical during shoots and explorations. Most people online are crazy about new stuff. I am one of them. Yeah, damn... who among us don’t like new gears? We act like free advertisement for particular brands day and night. We get this latest shit and we compete with other morons afterwards to show who has the best brands and camera models. There’s is nothing wrong with that I guess. But a master is not tricked into this kind of mentality. He has a low desire for new gears. He actually calls it needs. If a time comes that he needs to upgrade, then he upgrades to the right gears and right gears do not mean latest and expensive ones. He always thinks that great photographs are products of personal astronomical efforts, relentless studies and learning, continuous explorations and undying motivations. Deep inside, a master laughs at those moronic rookies who are only experts in latest camera specs, models and brands. Time really flies so fast and so is technological advancement. What’s considered state-of-the-art today are the obsoletes of tomorrow. In a matter of a year or 2, latest models with the latest features are always born. A master is not taking part in this culture of lust for whatever is new. He thinks that more love, time, money and attention must be given to development such as travel, learning and practice than to equipment upgrades.
A master knows how to prioritise his expenses. If buying a better gear will sacrifice more important things like trips, explorations and learning; he will wait and wait and wait for funds until he is more capable of buying equipment. He asks himself, “What’s the use of latest and new if you can only shoot around my yard?” He is as free as a bird. Most of his energy and resources are channeled to exploring the world.
A master in the field is also a master in the digital room. The moment he opens and closes the shutter, he already knows more or less how to process the image the sensor is recording at the present moment. A master is an expert of tonal and colour balance. When you look at his pictures, you will not cringe or hurt your eyes. He will connect and speak to your core. You will be able to glimpse at his soul through his vision. You will feel if not totally a fraction of what the master photographer had felt when he took the image. That’s one of the great powers of a master; to communicate without words, to trigger emotions through forms.
A master is aware that he is surrounded with people that squawk for his downfall. Anyone who takes this path will have a chorus of naysayers chanting for his failures. That’s the natural tendency of the intimidated and threatened weaklings. This kind of photographers are frightened that their fake glories only founded on online popularity and never on genuine artistry will be taken away from them as the true master is being catapulted high up to sky with shining splendour; rising above the rubble of accomplished tests and challenges. Everybody looks up in disbelief then asks a foolish question “Where the f*ck did he come from?” A master just smiles because he knows that hidden enemies are a manifestation that he’s on the right path. A master gives zero f*ck to them of course. He just actually listens and watches in laughter as they scream, stomp and whine. He laughs hard for his enemies’ tantrums have no real consequence aside from a mere entertainment for him.
A true master may come from any walks of life. He may emerge from a slum or from an exclusive neighbourhood. He even doesn’t need to have a name in order to follow this legendary path. A master’s path has no doors, it has no gates. It welcomes anyone who wishes to tread its paths as long as he has the will to persevere. You don’t have to be a f*cking ambassador or influencer to enter. There are no prerequisites. No entrance fees. Mastery knows no status and social classes. It doesn’t take any side. It doesn’t discriminate. It does not ask who you are or what kind of gears you have. It does not ask which brand you’re using. It only asks one question “Would you dare or not?” A simple question to answer for a landscape photographer in possession of a master’s heart. He fearlessly embarks the journey. He ties his shoelaces tight, puts on his backpack and rolls his sleeves up. He feels free and thrilled to step on its treacherous terrains whilst our Johnny “The Lazy Photographer” enjoys the comfort of his boring space.
Very far from where he started the journey, a master looks back. He stares at a distant southern horizon puzzled. He asks himself a question “Have I arrived yet?” He puts down his backpack on the lawn and sits on a fallen log. He lights up a cigarette and ponders on the question in his mind as he exhales smoke through his nostrils. He fixes his gaze at the northern horizon as he finishes his cigarette. It seems so wide, endless and gives no guarantee. He takes the last pop out of his cigar and keeps the butt in a small plastic bag. He puts on his bag, fixes his cap, tighten his shoelaces and resumes walking down the path with a silly smile.
He had a great realisation. He has realised that a master’s path has no destination. It is never a destination. It has become his life and there is no turning back. Only death is considered the terminal point. He does not care anymore about labels, prizes, prestige and arriving at something. If ever along the way he received these things, he is thankful. But he knows deep inside that those are not the goals. He also knows that there is no f*cking arrival happening. It is not a problem because that does not appeal to him anymore. He is now in possession of his most important treasure which is the journey; a never-ending voyage until his last god damn breath. Nobody can take it away from him.
All of us have a seed in our heart. That’s where we start the journey; right at this place, right in this moment. Follow the master’s path in your chosen field/discipline or die living a soulless life.
Thank you for reading.
The human brain is one of the greatest things that exist in the universe. It is capable of many things. One of them is the high capacity for aesthetic sense. It can appreciate beauty but can also reject the lack of it. But more than admiration of beauty is the capability to create it. Hence, the term "art".
In the process of creating something artistic, the human mind functions and in constant pursuit in order to arrive at something really desirable and tangible; a piece of art. "Is it beautiful enough?"; the question that's always asked by every artist. They don't stop asking until they've created the tangible representation of the beauty they've been hiding inside. Subconsciously, the mind of the artist is doing some sort of self-check. Whether you are aware or not, you are criticising every step of your artistic process. Yes, criticising and analysing every step of your method is part of the entire creating process. It is impossible to produce a solid artistic piece without analysing one's work. What I want to convey in this article is the exercise of self-analysis/critique.
So, let me demonstrate the value of self-analysis quick using one of my images. Below is a shot of Buruwisan waterfalls in Laguna, Philippines. Exif: Canon 60D, Canon 10-22mm EFS USM, ISO100, f/11, 5 seconds exposure time.
A lot things were running in my mind as I took this shot. Act and think too slow then suffer the consequence of losing the precious light. Should I do this composition? Why am I drawn to this rocky foreground? Should I intentionally put a leaf on top of the big rock as an anchor point? Should I do a portrait or a landscape orientation? Are there any distracting elements? Is the lighting good at this angle? Too many questions that required immediate answers within a brief moment in time. I really had no idea that I was on the process of analysing the the scene and situation. Hence, subconsciously I was exercising the process of simultaneous critiquing my vision while shooting the scene.
Not all the things your vision wants can be fixed right away in the field. The field or nature is not a perfect world in the sense that it should follow or align to your own tastes and artistic preference. So, when we go back to our digital lab, i.e. computer, self-critique automatically turns on even without our knowing. An artistic instinct automatically coming into life as we stare at our efforts projected on the computer screen.
Let me tell you the strong and weak points of this photograph.
Through the process of self-critique, we can achieve our vision that mother nature cannot give 100%. We are able to know what’s beautiful and plain-looking. What’s working and not. It pushes our hands to fix our flaws to produce quality imagery.
Let’s try to fix the image.
I fixed the vignetting using a warp tool. I just dragged the four corners out of the frame.
2. The waterfalls and the leaf are not on the dead centre of the frame.
I fixed it using warp tool also. I just dragged the centre of the image towards the right side of the frame to put the waterfalls and the leaf on the centre. Take note that the leaf and the waterfalls are now aligned also.
3. The rocks on the right mid-ground are too bright. It is a distracting element. Also notice the the burnt highlights on the water. It is too bright. It needs to be darken a bit.
Adjusting the tones by darkening it using the highlight and white sliders in Adobe Camera Raw. Tonal balance between the right and left sides of the frame are achieved.
4. There is a big rock on the bottom left corner and the bottom right corner is empty. Hence, the lower portion of the image is not balanced. The left side is kinda heavy for me while the bottom right side is empty.
This one is kinda hard to fix unless you want to lift and carry a big rock and put it at the right side. So, all I can do is dodge a little bit on the water to create a longer flow of water. Just to fake that there is going on on the bottom right side of the image.
And here are the before and after images after further editing using Adobe Camera Raw.
Thanks. Please leave a comment and share if you learned something from this one.
In simplest definition, composition is how the visual elements are arranged and put together in a frame. It speaks about the photographer’s vision, his ability to see. It’s how you present reality within the four corners of the 2-dimensional space. Viewers are not that interested in seeing a place; they are more interested in how you present it, how you saw it. Hence, we can easily tell if a photographer has a strong vision by just glancing at his images. A fraction of a second look is enough to feel an excellent or a mediocre impression. Within that very brief time frame, you must capture the attention or your photo is just another effort send down the drain. But it’s ok because you are not forced to create gallery-worthy photos the moment you begin purchasing your very first camera. You ain’t no Ansel Adams or any god damn landscape rock star out there, are you? But the good news is you can always learn and better start familiarising yourselves with compositions.
Nature is a fantastic place to practice and test your composition skills. The stillness and grandeur of scenes are a privilege to capture. Moments that display awe-inspiring and timeless visual arrangements are a feast to photographers' hungry shutter. To see nature is clearly a very important skill if you really want to become a landscape photographer who not only catches viewers’ eyes but also make them pop out of their eye sockets. So this article is entirely about learning how to see.
1. Rule of thirds
This is the most common composition rule that guide photographers of all genres. The rule basically says that your subject must not be put dead centre. If you divide your frame into a 3×3 grid, you must position points of interest in a landscape at or close to the intersections. This gives your image balance and helps those focal points to really capture the viewers’ attention.
2. Diagonal lines
Diagonal lines add visual movement to your landscape, effectively drawing the viewer’s eyes into the main subject of interest. This does not mean you need to look for real lines – it can be a flowing stream, a bridge, a line of boats, a fence, a shoreline, etc. They can emphasise the distances between objects in the foreground and add depth to your shot.
3. Frame a scene
Framing a scene is placing interesting elements to the edges of your shot. The usual way to do this is include foliage, overhanging branches, or trees as your foreground. Use this technique carefully by allowing your main subject some “breathing room” within the frame.
4. Emphasise a point of interest in the foreground
This mountain in Laguna is known for its numerous waterfalls and lush flora. You can easily find a good foreground element against a beautiful waterfall. I framed this long exposure shot by picking up a leaf and putting it on top of a rock. This creates a colourful and interesting foreground that adds depth to the scene.
In applying rule of thirds, you should not place the horizon in the centre of your frame. You should put it a third of the way from the top or bottom of your shot. This can give a breathing space for your interesting foreground or dramatic cloud formation depending on where you place the horizon.
One way to break composition rules is through adding reflections on your shot. In this way, placing the horizon in dead centre to give space for the reflections of your subject can yield appealing results. Always use CPL if you want to enhance the reflections on your captures.
7. Focal point
Focal points make a photograph interesting. Without it, photograph may look dull and will leave the viewers’ eyes wandering through your photographs. Focal points provide a resting place for the eyes. In above’s photo, the horseman serves to be the focal point but it could be anything; a tree, a hill, a barn, a flowing stream, sunburst, etc. A focal point element can be placed either on foreground or as a background. Rule of thirds is commonly followed in integrating focal points on your photographs.
8. Centre of interest
The natural tendency of a viewer’s eye is to be drawn towards the centre of attraction. And adding leading elements that will guide and point the eye towards the centre is one of the most creative ways to do it. The hut on the water in the above photo serves as the centre of interest and the mangroves on the foreground kinda lead towards it.
9. Consider the sky
Sky can make or break your landscape photo. It can make it boring and it can make it so interesting as well. If the sky is boring, let’s say cloudless, don’t let it dominate your shot and look for an interesting foreground and let it dominate. However, if you are in front of a dramatic sky with awesome colours and cloud formations, let it dominate your shot. In the photo above, the horizon is placed along the middle part of the shot to give more area for the dynamic sky.
So I hope those of you are just beginning to learn landscape photography have learned something from this one. If like it please share. My other articles can be found on the links below. Thanks.