Summer Photo Tips #8: Some Final Tips and Thoughts
Earlier in this series we looked at different techniques for helping compose photos to guide the viewer’s eye and to help add interest to photos. In this final installment we’ll look at some ideas to use that can help in planning and making outdoor photographs.
1. Watch Out For Busy Backgrounds
A distracting background can ruin what might otherwise be a great photograph. We’ve all seen photos where its background included so many elements (trees, flowers, people, etc.) that the main subject was hard figure out. The deer in the photo below for example is even difficult to see because of a busy background filled with trees.
A similar problem happens with competing background objects—one or more distracting elements that draws the views’ attention away from the main subject. Often, in landscape photography, these competing background distractions are man-made such as power lines running through a forest, a discarded soda can on the ground, or a radio tower soaring into a pristine sky. The image below includes a soda can floating on the water (lower right) which I noticed after making the first photo then retook the shot after stepping a few feet to the left.
After selecting your subject and before pressing the shutter, try remembering to look carefully at the background for possible visual distractions. Often, simply moving the camera to the left/right or closer/farther away can help eliminate or minimize the background problem.
2. Don’t Forget to Look in All Directions
When photographing in nature it’s easy to find a subject that grabs your attention, make a photo of it and then move on in search of the next subject. Over the years I’ve found there are often many subjects to photograph in one location other than the one that initially caught my eye. After making that first photo a good idea is to turn slowly 360 degrees as well as look up and down for other subjects. By doing so you’ll often discover even more interesting subjects, lighting or perspectives than the one which first caught your attention.
The photos above, made in the same location at Rocky Mountain National Park help demonstrate this tip. The image on the left was made just moments after sunrise while the image on the right was made one minute later after turning 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
3. Practice the Art of Silence
In landscape photos I try to share not only the beauty of a subject but a sense of its environment as well. And, the sooner I can come to know its environment the sooner I can understand how to include it in the photos. To help do that, whether I’m driving from home or leaving an airport in a rental car, I always travel in silence to a photo shoot. For me this means not playing the radio or listening to CD’s and turning off the cell phone to avoid mental interruptions. I find that the quiet helps to clear my mind so I can pay attention to the changing landscape and begin adjusting to that new environment long before I arrive.
While this usually makes for a longer trip, it’s often more scenic and provides more visual cues to help adjust to the new location. If you’re use to traveling with music playing this “quiet approach” may seem strange at first, and, it may not be for you. But you might also find, as I have, that it can help you to slow down and also begin adjusting your mind to a new landscape long before you arrive at the destination.