Interpreting the Landscape

The Three Brothers reflecting in the calm winter Merced 2007

Some of the best landscape photographs are not created from the luck of being in the right place at the right the time. They are sculpted from the raw landscapes that we see time and time again. Our experienced eye helps us compose the scenes we stand in front of right before the light begins to get at it’s best.

Our photographic vision is developed each and everytime we are out. Have you ever not just settled on any composition? Struggling with composition is completely normal. Everytime we head out and the light is mediocre, we have the opportunity to exercise our composition skills and get more closely in tune with the ecosystem we are visiting. In light that isn’t so luring we can practice refining our technical skills so when the light is great we can photograph subconsciously and not think so much about the technical aspects of how to work the camera in the field.

Our imagination generates beautiful well composed scenes worthy of any landscape photography prize but it’s how we connect our imagination and composing skills in the moment of being there. We need to check to see if we have the light we need for our subjects in mind or do we need to make adjustments, maybe change our subjects completely and adjust to the quickly changing light. Other questions that may arrise could be, does our specific land forms follow a cadence from front to back or how will exposure affect the balance of light in the histogram? Are blocked up shadows more powerful to the scene?

Developing a clear mental picture in your mind and precisely connecting with it through the lens is only part of interpreting the landscape.

The scene above was taken years ago after I had recently upgraded cameras, wanting to have the same scene as I had previously photographed with one of the first very popular digital SLR cameras, the scene I had come home with was completely different due to nothing more then varied clouds.

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9 Responses to “Interpreting the Landscape”

  1. Frank Damon Says:

    A very tranquil and peaceful image with wonderful colors. I love your wise words too.

  2. Glenn Mills Says:

    Beautifully done Steve! The light is perfect. I love your philosophy – make the best of what we have. Glenn

  3. Gene Stachowiak Says:

    Wonderful shot Steve. Appreciate you explaination of composition. Gene

  4. Hélio Cristóvão Says:

    Hi Steve. Great shot. Can I ask you something? I received this entry trough e-email WordPress newsletter, I´m searching for newsletter plugin/service for my website, and this of yours looks great! Can you share how you made it?

    I noticed you a subscription option, is this a wordpress plugin? Thanks.
    Helio Cristovao

  5. Eric Leslie Says:

    I can really attest to this wisdom because I often go out shooting on my lunch breaks when the light is usually less than epic at midday. It really challenges you to find great comps. With enough practice, it because second nature and you don’t really have to think about your camera, just visualizing the photograph.

  6. Steve Sieren Says:

    Thank you Frank, Glen, and Gene.

    Helio, you find the email subscription tab in the appearance section of your wordpress site. It’s in the widgets tab, all you do then is just drag and drop it into the side bar. You should really link to your own URL if you can. You can direct them where to go instead some other website directing traffic towards their own interests.

  7. Steve Sieren Says:

    Eric, yes and you can always come back to those great finds again and again. All the time spent out there is usually rewarded in some way or another.

  8. David Leland Hyde Says:

    Beautiful photograph. I also did some clicking around on those links at the bottom. I never would have been so into technology, but I think some of those tools can be very helpful. I am not attracted to finding out what position the moon will be in to plan a certain photograph months ahead of time, but I love the idea of being able to scroll through the California coastline to find interesting features. This is similar to what my father used to do with studying maps and geological information before he went on trips.

  9. Steve Sieren Says:

    David, when I say years ago you probably chuckle. You’re a history book. I’m not that moon nuts either, most of the time it just shows up. It is nice to know where it will be on an evening or dawn shoot so you know what to deal with in case you don’t want it in your visualized composition. I think you dad would of really liked google earth and the way we can use it today.

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