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Landscape Artistry
Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Landscape Artist

Text and photography copyright Guy Tal

3. Compose

Nature offers us an endless array of choices and infinite beauty when it comes to making landscape images. Unique images, however, require more than just pointing your camera at an interesting subject. What sets great images apart from very good ones is composition. A scene portrayed in a photograph, separate from its greater context, draws power from the arrangement of elements in the frame as much as it does from the individual elements themselves. Do not assume that an interesting subject alone can carry an image. Two important goals to keep in mind are:

  • Eliminate distractions these can be in the form of extraneous elements, lack of attention (we all know that out-of-focus branch peeking into the frame), unfavorable light, and the placement of elements in the frame or relative to each other.
  • Use elements in such a way that they enhance each other. Take advantage of lines, textures, layers, and color to group elements together or set them off. Pay attention to shapes and curves and how they can potentially complement each other.

Guidelines such as the Rule of Thirds and the use of Leading Lines are helpful to keep in mind, but do not be afraid to break them or adjust the composition to your taste.

The Creosote in the Sand Dunes image was made at a time of day that is usually not favorable the light was bright and harsh. I knew the image I wanted, but finding the perfect lone bush was difficult because many interesting possibilities presented themselves but were plagued with deep shadows, too many or too few bushes, visible footprints and other unwanted elements in the sand, etc. I was finally able to find these isolated bushes and work with it. I studied them from different angles before deciding on my final composition, applying of the Rule of Thirds, using the dune pattern to lead the viewer into the scene, and taking advantage of the distinct layers available (the sand, mountains and sky) to create interest in all areas of the frame.

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