Friday, May 16, 2014

One simple trick

Last weekend I was taking some photographs at the observatory on top of Mt. John. I don’t normally watch other photographers but it was hard not to in such a popular scenic spot. Over the course of a couple of hours I became aware of one repeated behaviour: get out of car, walk to the edge of the car park, hold camera in front of face, take picture.

I saw no exceptions to this behaviour. It didn’t matter whether the camera was a cell phone, a compact or a big DSLR; one photographer even set up his tripod at the edge of the car park, adjusted it to face height and took his picture. I wish I had the foresight to take such a picture, so that you could see what it would include, but that only occurred to me later after I had left. Magnificent vista that it was, their pictures would have included a mountainous background with a valley lake in the middleground and NO FOREGROUND.

As humans, we experience all such views from the foreground - even if our focus is on the distance. The foreground is where we stand, it fills our peripheral vision and provides context for the rest of the scene. When you see a picture without a foreground, it doesn’t capture the experience of actually being there, and we end up feeling disappointed that the picture doesn’t reflect the moment. Unfortunately cameras don’t have peripheral vision – what’s in the viewfinder is all you get so you, the photographer, need to introduce some foreground into the scene.

Ten paces away from the car park edge there is an interesting rock. Down on one knee, rock in the frame and the picture has what it needs – foreground context, strong middle ground, and magnificent background. It’s that easy.

So that’s my one tip for your vacation landscapes; don’t just do what everyone else does by standing there and clicking into the distance – just change your position, bend a little if you have to, and include some foreground interest in the scene. That’s not a rule by the way – not every picture has to have foreground - but most landscapes will benefit from its inclusion.

1 comment:

  1. Well said David - so often a nice little detail in the foreground makes all the difference.