• Backcountry Shutter

Tell the story through composition...

One of the most important things that I have learned through doing landscape photography is that my images and story come alive when my composition is in check. I can show up to a shoot location that yields perfect lighting, just enough breeze to keep me cool without having to overwork while capturing the flora in my image, and beautiful clouds up above as if the famous Bob Ross put them there himself; but if my composition is off, then none of that matters. Being that this is one of the most important things in landscape photography, it also means that it's one of the most difficult things to teach. Some will even say that composition can't be taught.

I like to think that an even an old dog can learn new tricks....so here are a couple of pointers next time you're out to ensure that you your final image tells the whole story, and not just part of it.

Let's take a look at both of these images -

Top image - even though my subject is the magnificent flow of water in this shot, I have to ask myself,"What am I missing here? Where's the rest of the rock?" Leaving your viewers with too much to "guess about and make assumptions" doesn't tell your story as it should be told.

Composition is key to telling the whole story

Bottom image - Wow. Being able to watch the water hug the rock gives the image an entirely different feel and even most of the moss to the right is in the frame. Being able to give viewers the whole story speaks volumes. Although you may want the focus of the image to be of fallen logs near the top of the image, people may want to relate and connect with the rock as it displays strength while experiencing constant struggle.

Corner to corner; all that I wanted in this frame is here..

Take a quick gander - every image I capture, I do the same thing before I shoot. I either utilize my Live Mode to take a look at my screen to make sure that every piece of the frame is going to be captured. Nothing gets me to scroll faster past an image than having a plant, rock, or something else of unique significance cut off at the bottom...or the top. In the images above, I wasn't able to capture the entire tree to the right of the frame, but that wasn't what I wanted to stand out in the image. It takes a second to scan your frame in Live Mode or through your viewfinder to ensure you've got your composition down. Take this opportunity also to make sure that your horizon is level. Depending on the direction of your lens, your internal level on the back of your camera may be off, but it's more so to make sure that it's level left to right than up and down. Leveling out your horizon is just as important as ensuring that all of the items are within your frame.

Isn't the missing part of the peak in the distance distracting?

Ahhhh....much better.

Sometimes it's the things that just take the blink of an eye to adjust are what are going to set your images apart from the rest. There's absolutely no reason to rush while shooting landscape photography...unless of course you got to your location late and the you're missing an opportunity to capture some epic sun bursts as the sun rises or sets. Take your time in ensuring that your composition is to the T and that your horizon is level before you hit the shutter. It'll save time in post and allow you more time to capture more images since you won't have to "re-shoot" it again.

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A Nomad-based Army Combat Veteran and Purple Heart recipient turned adventure 

photographer with a life-long goal to educate and inspire through photography.


find a Connection with my work

Fine Art Photography is a reflection of your home. It is a reflection of you. When you purchase fine art photography, you probably purchased it because you found an emotional or spiritual bond to the image. It reminded you of somewhere you've been and memories you've made....

...read more.

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