Many of us enjoy self-drive sightseeing and photographic holidays. No doubt we have all come upon some dramatic scenery that caused us to pull over to create some images. This short article shares some Lindis Valley landscape composition options, and discusses the rationale behind them.
The Lindis Valley is located on State Highway 8 on the South Island of New Zealand. It is situated between the village of Tarras and the town of Omarama.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
The image above is an example of the most common approach that most of us use when we come upon some dramatic scenery when driving. Quite simply, we pull off to the side of the road and grab our camera. Typically we use the road as a leading line in our photograph and arrange other elements into a pleasing composition.
If you check the EXIF data you’ll see that I used a medium telephoto focal length of 32 mm. This provides an equivalent field-of-view of about 86 mm. I used this focal length as I wanted to compress the elements in my image to a certain degree. This compression helps to accentuate the hilly terrain. You’ll also note that I used an aperture of f/8 as I wanted good depth-of-field.
Using a wider angle focal length would have had the effect of pushing the elements in the background further away. This would have given the composition a more open and distant feeling.
Utilizing a longer telephoto focal length would have compressed the elements even more. As a result the photograph would have had a tighter feel to it. The next two images help to further demonstrate these landscape composition options.
To capture the photograph above, I hiked at a 90-degree angle from the road, up into the adjacent hills. Not finding many good options for a foreground element, I settled for some mounds of gravel. At least this gave me a textural change, as well as some colour variance. I positioned the gravel in the left hand bottom corner of my composition to serve as a bit of a leading line.
You’ll see that I used a focal length of 10 mm, which produced an equivalent field-of-view of 27 mm. This helped to push the background elements further away, giving the photograph a more expansive feeling.
When looking at the photograph above, it is important to remember that I did not move physically at all. I simply changed the focal length of my zoom lens to 23 mm from 10 mm. This changed the equivalent field-of-view from 27 mm to about 62 mm. You can see how this shift in focal length narrowed the field-of-view, compressed various elements in the photograph, and produced a much tighter feeling in the image.
The landscape composition options in photographs #2 and #3 are often utilized when there is no strong foreground element that can be used to anchor our image.
As I was hiking back down the hill I came up behind another photographer composing an image. I quickly recognized that I could use her as a foreground element to anchor the bottom left corner of my photograph, This would help create an increased feeling of depth in my image.
This image (#4) and the second one in this article were both captured at 10 mm, with an equivalent field-of-view of 27 mm. If you compare both compositions you’ll see something interesting. Even though I was down lower and much closer to the road with image #4, it has a much stronger feeling of depth than does image #2. Optically, this was caused by having a strong foreground element in composition #4.
When coming upon some dramatic scenery when driving in your car, it can be helpful to remember two simple landscape composition options. First, think about how the focal length you choose can affect the relative compression of elements in your image. Secondly, look for a good foreground element you can use to anchor one of the corners in your composition, to create an increased feeling of depth.
If you would like to read more about photographing in New Zealand, you may enjoy our eBook, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip. It is available for purchase and download at a cost of $12.99 Canadian.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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