Composition : Creating depth with visual separation

As a photographer are gifted with seeing in 3 dimensions, but the images we produce only ever exist as flat 2 dimensional representations of reality on either paper or a screen. Our spatial awareness we had when capturing the image, of the relationships between object A and object B or C is missing for our viewers. Consequently this places a massive onus on us as photographers to create that sense of depth in our composition; something we can achieve through visual separation.

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Composition : Don't Cut Your Corners

A photograph is essentially a strictly defined a view of the world, whose edges exclude everything else. However, these borders and corners can be much more than simply 'the beginning of the end' of our image, they can have a critical role as a component part of the whole composition and can add dynamism and flow helping to underpin the overall structure of a composition.

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Crimes Against Tripods

Our second most critical piece kit as landscape photographers, aside from our camera, is a tripod. You’ll achieve nothing in landscape photography but unsharp images without one. Yet why do so many landscape photographers misuse and abuse this critical piece of kit?

Legs go up. Legs go Down

Tripods are not fixed in height. I see many people arrive at a location, fully extend the legs, and never adjust their height till they wrap up for the day.

How about exaggerating that foreground? Get low down. Get on your knees, or better even lower? More dynamic and visually arresting compositions come from the angles we don’t see everyday. Not from the everyday perspective of standing up straight, which is not say that no interesting compositions cannot be had at this angle, just not every shot taken!

Tripods = cable release

A tripods primary purpose is to minimise camera shake to achieve perfectly sharp image. If you’re serious about landscapes, then you should be doing everything feasible to maximise sharpness throughout your image. There is no point setting up your tripod, mounting the camera, composing the shot then hand pressing the shutter?! You’ll transfer motion to the body of the camera. Sure, the fact it’s mounted will dampen the effect compared to being handheld, but why not eliminate it all together with a cable release?

Personally I weigh my tripod down, even shielding it with my own body against prevailing wind. Basically, anything to make sure there’s no additional motion transfer in that few seconds the shutter is open.

Put the tripod away

What is to be achieved from walking around a landscape location holding a fully extended tripod over your shoulder as we walk viewpoint to viewpoint? Nothing. It’s lazy attempt to save time setting up, but it’s a false economy.

Quality tripods are heavy and cumbersome, they are a distraction if you are carrying them around, it just closes down your vision. The tripod also ends up leading the composition, not your eye leading it. Pre-visualise. Frame it in your mind or in the camera handheld. Then with a viewpoint in mind, bring the tripod to you, maneuver it to support the camera at your chosen spot.

I’ll admit this mean longer multiple set ups. But it forces you to slow down and take more time evaluating what it is you’re about to commit to emulsion or SD card and that will mean better compositions.

Ansel Adams was so passionate about the role of the tripod in photography he dedicates 2 entire pages to it in his book The Camera. Talking at length about a methodical, precise  approach to setting up the tripod before ever touching the camera.

I can only presume people commit these crimes against the tripod in haste, by freeing up our tripod time we make way for more photography time. But it’s to the detriment of our photographic results, the tripod is an extension of the camera, don’t fight it.

Paul Marsden

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Advanced Sharpening Techniques #3 : Luminance sharpening

Sharpening images is the endpoint of the photographic workflow, be it for print or screen. However, as a process it is always a trade-off between the level of desired contrast and artefacts. However, we can reduce the compromise with a technique called luminance sharpening, which only sharpens an images detail -- known as the luminance data.

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Advanced Sharpening Techniques # 2: Selective Sharpening

All Photoshops’ sharpening options have a common weakness, they apply sharpening values equally across the entire image. However, through selective sharpening, we can selectively control the degree of sharpness to any area of the image, applying and fine tuning different degrees to different elements.

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