Capturing the Summer Landscape

From day trips to camping trips, summer is the time to get away from it all. And everywhere you venture, there will be a gorgeous landscape that begs to be photographed.

Photographing landscapes is tricky. When you hike up to the lookout point and take it all in, you are looking at a vast three dimensional space. Translating that sweeping vista into a rectangular, 2-D photo often results in an underwhelming shot, flat and uninteresting, without the breathtaking quality of the original.

The key to vivid landscape shots is composition. Every photograph is made up of shapes and lines, focal points, backgrounds, and foregrounds. Our eyes don’t consciously register these elements; instead, the photo’s composition forms a road map to the image, telling our eyes where to look next.

Here are some simple tips to get you thinking about composition, so you can take more dynamic landscape photographs this summer.

  1. Find a focal point. In real life, a sweeping landscape is mesmerizing because it fills your visual field—everywhere you look, your eyes drink in vast beauty. In a photograph, your eyes need a place to rest. Find an interesting focal point that stands out: a boat on the water, a twisted tree trunk, a red barn in a field of waving wheat, anything that catches the eye.
  2. Eliminate the details. Once you have your focal point, squint your eyes a little. The human eye searches for detail, so the larger elements of colour and shape can escape you. Look for shapes, lines and blocks of colour. How do these elements relate to your focal point? Move your camera around so the focal point is located in different spots within the frame. Where is it the most interesting?
  3. The rule of thirds. Instead of placing the focal point smack dab in the middle of the frame, consider the rule of thirds. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over your image. The four intersections of the grid are the spots where our eyes naturally rest. Try placing your focal point on one of these intersections—this simple trick makes the image more visually dynamic.
  4. Look for lines. A line can be anything—a winding road, a stream, or a shoreline. Visually, lines guide the eyes and tell them where to go. When you are framing your shot, think of how your line relates to your focal point—does it lead to it? Does it distract? Play around with framing until your elements seem balanced.
  5. Look to the horizon The horizon is a natural line that needs a little special attention. Make sure the horizon is level in your shot—you can fix this with editing software after the fact, but it is simpler to line up the horizon first. Also, remember the rule of thirds. Your photo will look better if your horizon is along the top third or the bottom third of the photo. Shoot it both ways, and see which you prefer.
  6. Have fun with foreground The foreground is an important part of your landscape photo—it grounds your image and provides a context for the rest of the shot. Try using a wide angle lens and getting close to your foreground. A wide angle lens distorts perspective, so objects that are closer to the lens appear much larger, proportionally, than items farther away. Shooting a landscape through a field of wildflowers would make the wildflowers appear bigger than the trees in the distance, emphasizing the distance between those objects.
  7. Dawn and Dusk: The Golden Hours The golden, angled light of dawn and dusk can add drama to nearly any landscape. If possible, plan your photo session so you can make the most of this gorgeous natural light.

The beauty of digital photography is that you can play with composition by shooting dozens—even hundreds—of frames. Experiment with different focal points, different framing, different foregrounds, and see what works best. As you begin to consider the elements of composition, your photography will begin to capture the feeling and mood of looking at the landscape with your own eyes.

Photobooks: Your Summer Travelogues
Photobooks are the ideal way to tell your summer stories in pictures. Inexpensive softcover books are a popular choice for sharing travel snapshots—many customers put together a book for each summer of camping trips, or devote an entire book to a special vacation. Our larger hardcover books are ideal for displaying your most beautiful landscape shots.

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