Help me with landscapes

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Name
Ken
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#1
Well, full lockdown now. They really don't want us out and about and, ok. I been wanting to ask you guys about landscapes, but I wanted to go dig out some examples first. Found a couple to get started with. More to come, with questions (or at least observations) attached.

IMG_1535_web-1.jpg
Photography has been a big part of my life. I've taken hundreds, maybe thousands of landscape shots, and this picture is the only one I like. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

And even this one is formulaic. It's textbook rule of thirds. Rules become rules because they work, but if this is what I consider my best landscape shot, I think I have room to improve.


IMG_5230_web-1.jpg
Most of my landscapes look more like this.

Along the trail where I shot this, they put up a bench with a dedication plaque on it. I forget exactly, but something like, "Dedicated to Bob Smith, firefighter who gave his life protecting his community." And I thought, "Damn, Bob, if you have to pick a spot to spend eternity, this ain't a bad one."

But this picture has nothing of that. I feel like I let Bob down.


I'm not sure I know what I'm asking for in this thread. I've looked around in this Landscape forum and there's a lot of good stuff here. Enough to know I'm not just dealing with blind squirrels. There are photographers here who know how to make a nice image, on purpose.

If we could, maybe you could show us an image and walk us through the decisions you made while creating it.
 
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90
Name
Michael
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#2
Good morning Silver,
maybe I'll dig out an image later, but in terms of decisions I made while creating - I tend to be more of a run and gunner. It does mean that I have a relatively high rejection rate, but I do end up with some images that I'm happy with. I do like image 1, though I think I would have tried to make even more of a leading line out of the wooden fence, a line leading you into the image, otherwise it's a fairly decent composition,
Image 2 is much easier to critique for me, I can spot a couple of things that I would have avoided. Firstly, there's a lot of clutter in the shot. Try to make it more simple. Decide on a subject and make that the focus, don't try to get all the good stuff in, stick to the best stuff. The second thing that strikes me is a lack of what some people call 'separation' - keeping gaps between elements. The foreground shrubs don't have this, they project over the water and over the opposite bank.
The rules can enhance a good composition, but they can't rescue a poor one. It's not 'do this and your photo will be great', it's more how to find the best way to photograph a particular scene, or not as the case may be. Sometimes the rules should be ignored, but the image has to drive it.
The fact that you're disatisfied with your results is encouraging, you're learning what doesn't work. Let that disatisfaction drive you. If you were happy with your images you'd have no chance of growing as a photographer. But the positive is equally important. Carefully analyse some photos you do like (also from other photographers) to try to understand what did work.
My advice would be to check out a couple of the YouTube channels, some of my favourites are Nigel Danson, Andy Mumford and Simon Burn are all good composition teachers. Don't give up, persevere, it'll be worth it.
There you go, I've surprised myself with the amount of advice I've given. Maybe some of the stuff that I've been taking in over the last year stuck after all.
 
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1,349
Name
Mike
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#3
You've thought long and hard about all the elements and rules needed to compose a landscape image.

#1
I find the foreground element competes with the background.
A few steps back to get more of the fence in the image may have helped but personally, I would crop it out leaving the line of trees as a base for the mountain range beyond.
The image looks a wee bit grungy to my eye.

#2
A couple of steps to the right would have reduced the amount of shrubbery on the left which would also have placed the wee island in the empty space on the right.
Possibly, this could allow the eye to lead round the bend in the river to the bridge beyond.
An ND Grad would have helped tone down the bright sky a tad, or, bracket your exposures and produce an HDR image.
HDR images needn't be the grungy monstrosities we used to see ;)

Just my 2p worth but I hope it helps.
Good luck (y)
 
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6,636
Name
Ned
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#4
I find with landscapes, less is nearly always more.

There seems to be an infatuation with "getting it all in" (don't get me started on ultra wide lenses) and that normally ends up with a shot with no real focus.

Using #2 as an example, you've tried to "get it all in" and used the foreground to frame it (as you might read about in "how to shoot landscapes"), the thing is that the foreground isn't interesting and it rather dominates the whole picture.

Landscape is about picking out what makes something interesting and in this scene I can see a bridge, which would make a cracking shot; the fallen tree on the shore is nice too. So, if I were there I'd have my telephoto lens out and be creating a set of images that gives the feel of the place through different shots, rather than get it all in to one.
 
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7,228
Name
Ken
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#6
Yep.
No 1 looks like 2 images - each part competes with the other for attention.

No 2 just doesn't grab me- no real impact I'm afraid.

Onwards and upwards when the isolation ends!
Photography is about constant learning and not every image is a keeper. (from experience!)
 
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Lee
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#7
The first image I wouldn't have taken.

The second is better. Personally.....

I would have moved to the right. Lost that left hand foreground tree & put the 'yellow' one in it's place. That would have moved the distant bridge away from that left tree where it blends a bit too much. It would also have stopped the foreground overlapping that little island in the water. The right side would be pretty much where it is I guess. I would have used a bigger aperture to blur the foreground - just enough to pull infinity focus towards you to get the island in reasonable sharpness. The blurry foreground would have then just framed the left & bottom of the image. The sky.......? Either a grad filter (or bracketed image) to pull the detail back. Or, edit the top of the trees to blend better into the 'blown' sky & emphasis it even more......

But the choice is yours. We'd all capture & edit things differently :)

Also. Yes, I do tend to follow some of the rules of landscape photography. But at the same time, often I'll compose the image with the thought "that looks nice" ;)
 
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Martin
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#8
You read so much about 'the rules' banded about, but the best thing you can do is free yourself from them! They constrain you and make you think in the same old boring way each and every time. Shoot what you like.

The first image doesn't need the wooden structure, at all. Trees in the distance should become the bottom of the image, then add more sky. It's a nice scene spoiled by the thinking of foreground and using any old thing that's lying around.

Photography is a craft that you're always learning in, be it out in the field or in post processing, there's always lessons to be learnt.
 
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Tom
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#9
Hi Ken,

You clearly live somewhere with a beautiful landscape! I think the reason these images lack the impact you hope for is because they're very busy and have no obvious subject. they're quite cluttered. E.g. the second image would have been much better if you'd gotten in front of that line of scruby stuff. The distant trees are beautiful in their autumn colours and the distant mountain is stunning. Landscapes like that really want a long lens, 70-200 or something, to pick out the beautiful parts and leave out the 'distractions'. Also, it looks like you're shooting in the daytime. Those trees would look stunning, isolated with a long lens and bathed with 'golden hour' light. Some alpenglow on the mountains... reflections in the lake - phwoooar. Try putting lots of effort into one shot. Find a composition you think would work well and visit it during dawn/dusk when the weather is good ('good' weather is a whole other can of worms). I agree with an earlier commentor that youtube is definitely your friend. I learnt all I know about composition from youtubers! Adam Gibbs is a very good photographer/blogger and Mads Peter Iversen has lots of material on composition.

And keep posting here and take everyone's advice with a pinch of salt. maybe look at a person's own images before deciding whether or not to take their advice :)
 
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Steven
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#10
The thing with these types of images (and most others as well) is to stop and really think about "why do you want to take this picture?" When you figure out exactly what is speaking to you strongly, then that is what you take a picture of... eliminating anything/everything that is non-essential/competes/distracts as much as possible.
 
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Alf
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#11
Composition is as much about what you exclude as you leave in.

Simplifying images and shooting in good light (though the clouds and snow help the first) is what you should think about IMO

Remember that a nice view does not always lead to a good landscape shot.
 
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drsilver
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80
Name
Ken
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#12
See with one - why include the fence - its fundamentally an ugly feature in an incredibly beautiful place. Just lean over the edge and frame the view minus the fence and ease back on the clarity/structure/definition in the processing as it's a bit crunchy looking unlike the second which is processed more naturally.
You think?

I have frames without the fence. The scenery is nice, but the pictures aren't anything I'd ever look at again. Personally, I like a foreground and a background. A thing in a place. A person in a place. If I had anything that might be thought of as a style, that might be it.

With landscapes, I kind of use that as a crutch. Photo 2 up there is trash. I included it as an example of the trash I regularly produce when I attempt landscapes. Here's one I like, with a foreground and a background, but I'm not sure I'd consider it a landscape.

IMG_1207_web-2.jpg
The mountain dominates the picture, I wanted that. I primarily used the shed to hide the nasty bits that always trip me up in landscapes. But I also think the shed is a visually valid element. I shot this in a mill town up in the mountains. A thing in a place.
 
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drsilver
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80
Name
Ken
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#13
You read so much about 'the rules' banded about, but the best thing you can do is free yourself from them! They constrain you and make you think in the same old boring way each and every time. Shoot what you like.
I was a newspaper photographer a million years ago. My job was to go out and get 2 or 3 good pictures every day. And if you follow the rules, you'll probably come back with a good picture. That's the floor. I think picture 1 above qualifies as that, but nothing more.

Unless you break the rules, you'll rarely get anything better than good.

But I have a rule about breaking rules: You can only break rules on purpose.

And that has a corollary. You should know the rules. Know the craft.

Rule breaking is what moves craftsmanship towards art. I'm a proud craftsman, but I'm always on the lookout for art. Trying to figure out ways to break rules that might lift a shot from mere adequacy.
 
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drsilver
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80
Name
Ken
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#14
Composition is as much about what you exclude as you leave in.

Simplifying images and shooting in good light (though the clouds and snow help the first) is what you should think about IMO

Remember that a nice view does not always lead to a good landscape shot.
Amen.

Composition is not right until there's nothing left that can be taken away.

Shoot tight. Crop liberally. Don't be confined by format.

I just stink at applying that to landscapes.

IMG_1220_web-3_edited-1.jpg
 
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17,842
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Steve
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#16
You think?

I have frames without the fence. The scenery is nice, but the pictures aren't anything I'd ever look at again. Personally, I like a foreground and a background. A thing in a place. A person in a place. If I had anything that might be thought of as a style, that might be it.

With landscapes, I kind of use that as a crutch. Photo 2 up there is trash. I included it as an example of the trash I regularly produce when I attempt landscapes. Here's one I like, with a foreground and a background, but I'm not sure I'd consider it a landscape.

View attachment 273217
The mountain dominates the picture, I wanted that. I primarily used the shed to hide the nasty bits that always trip me up in landscapes. But I also think the shed is a visually valid element. I shot this in a mill town up in the mountains. A thing in a place.
I absolutely do think :D

I am sorry - I do not agree at all and I think the picture above reinforces my point but you think it reinforces yours....

I don't like a foreground unless it is interesting and feels part of the view - in this case the moutain is thing key feature and the other stuff - I don't need or want it to hold my interest.

I certainly do not like the "person in a place" type of picture- I go the extreme efforts to avoid human elements in my pictures and just want to go with "as god made it"
 
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Name
Michael
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#17
Unless you break the rules, you'll rarely get anything better than good.

But I have a rule about breaking rules: You can only break rules on purpose.
Ooh, I'm adding that to my list of photography quotes!
 
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7,080
Name
Steven
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#18
I have frames without the fence. The scenery is nice, but the pictures aren't anything I'd ever look at again. Personally, I like a foreground and a background. A thing in a place. A person in a place. If I had anything that might be thought of as a style, that might be it.
The problem with the first image is that your foreground "thing in a place" doesn't feed/lead into the scene. Instead it cuts off the scene; you effectively have an image of a fence and an image of the scenery/mountain... that almost never works, an image generally can't have two primary points of focus/stories.

Additionally, the feeling I get is that the fence is holding me on this side of it and preventing me from going into/being part of the scene.
 
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Nightmare
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#19
I'm going to tell you what I think is going on in these images and your process in general and I may as well be repeating a lot that's been said already.

1. I think it is an OK image, but personally I find the top part of the image is too contrasty and pushed too far. While I like the idea of having foreground this would be my last choice. I probably would have zoomed in to the tree line and make it work with that. Notably the foreground as is fences off the viewer instead of providing a lead in.

2. The light is terrible. Nothing will work in these conditions, even the prettiest place. You really need to pay a lot of attention to the quality of light in general. Secondly the bramble in front do nothing to guide the viewer and just mess up the whole image. Get to the shore, find a right composition and wait for that light.

3. Twigs all over the image. Avoid those nasty twigs at all costs. Also avoid nasty sheds. I am sure there was a decent image somewhere just around the corner. Light is OK, but you could do so much better than that.

4. Image is dominated by crushed blacks; basically again those horrible twigs dominating the whole image. Images need to have a subject and / or the focal point. Everywhere I look it is your "foreground", twigs, messy branches or outdoor loo. These are not the sort of subjects associated with breathtaking landscapes. Identify your subject and make it sing in the lead role. Foreground is only there (optional) to slightly spice things up as and where appropriate.

I hope that helps. Give it some time to think over it before quickly responding.
 
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481
Name
Tom
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#20
I really like that last one - I always like an interesting aspect ratio and you don't often see and vertical panorama, but it works here. But again, clear blue sky just doesn't really look that good. Unless you're Charlie Waite. I imagine you take your camera for walks during the day and shoot opportunistically? I said it before but I'll say it again, try putting lots of effort to get a single shot by visitng a composition you like early or late in the day, and several times before you give up on it. And as the last LLP said, try and avoid those yucky twigs: 2 and 3 are ruined by them.

Out of interest, what gear are you using? And are you using a tripod?
 
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