Oh, the beauty of the mountains! In a few months most U.S. staff will be headed to CSU and Fort Collins, Colorado. Many will venture off to Rocky Mountain National Park and other areas to enjoy the majesty of God’s creation there. Almost all who visit the mountains will take pictures.
My next few posts will focus on outdoor photography. This post will take a look at four basic elements of landscape photography.
Nothing can make or break a photograph like lighting. It’s been said, “Don’t take photographs of extraordinary places in ordinary light.” This certainly applies to the mountains of Colorado. The best lighting is generally within an hour or two of sunset or sunrise. With the sun low on the horizon it brings out dramtic shadows that define an object and it casts a warm quality of light that evokes pleasant feelings. To get outstanding photographs it’s critical to get out early or stay out after sunset. Some of the most dramatic images come after the sun has already set or before it rises.
A strong composition can also make or break a photograph. Look for things such as layers, leading lines, lines that create perspective, diagonal lines, triangles and examples of the rule of thirds.
This is not as important as the previous two elements, because great lighting and great composition can make almost anything look interesting. But still we want to select subject matter that will be of greater interest to those looking at our photographs. Sharper-edged mountains create more drama in an image than a smoothed mountain or hill.
This is the least important of the four; most photographs may not have a strong contrast at all.
Contrast can take several forms. Contrast of size, texture and color are some forms it can take, but for now just focus on the contrast between light and dark. Contrast is closely related to lighting, because a strong dramatic light source has the potential to create great contrast. The drama in such contrast will heighten the impact a photograph will have.
All the photos displayed in the slide show contain landscapes from Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Photo 1 gives a solid example of how getting out early to catch the morning light can create great images. I got up at 4:30 in the morning to get this shot of Dream Lake.
- Photo 2 of the mountains above Beaver Meadows shows the impact a rugged mountain photograph will have over the rounder Moraine Park landscape in photo 3.
- Photo 4 of the cliffs above Emerald Lake shows how dramatic contrast helps an image. Getting such dramatic contrast is another advantage of photographing early.
- Finally, photo 5 of Bierstadt Moraine from above Alberta Falls shows how one can use the layered look to make an interesting composition.