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Being primarily a landscape photographer, I am always trying to push my images to the next level of attention to create dynamic photography landscapes. Like most, I have this thought in the back of my mind anytime I head out for a shoot, hoping for some magic. Here’s my photographic process. We all spend some time flipping through photography magazines, or scanning through social media photographs until one stops us in our tracks. After a while, you’ll notice that a few of these images have common compositions that tend to pull your eye in and hold it for a moment. You’ll also notice certain patterns and visual references begin to appear. These images always seem to appear whimsical and dynamic. That’s just the beginning of creating a dynamic photography landscape.
What makes a dynamic photograph?
Elements of many of my own personal photographs, landscape or otherwise, involve some sort of what I call a forced perspective element. I’ve been seeking this for years and its become my personal style as the situation presents itself. I’m always a seeker of leading lines, movement, and an interesting perspective with extremely strong foregrounds. This type of composition is hopefully paired with interesting mid-ground and backgrounds as well. This along with great light is a great recipe for a dynamic landscape photograph when it all comes together. This is not always possible and it takes time and experience to recognize and seek these elements, whether out on my own or teaching one of our landscape photography workshops. When a perfect storm comes together with nature and light, it’s an experience that stays with me always.
It’s important to remember, not all dynamic photographs need all of these elements to be successful. Landscape photography is a fine balance between understanding the pulse of nature and the technical and creative parts of our brains and a solid understanding of the photographic process.The more you practice and the more you surround yourself with mentors or instructors in the field, the more you’ll be able to help you recognize these factors and prepare yourself when nature’s elements come together for something really great! The photographs here are a few of my own personal landscape photographs showing one or more of these dynamic elements employed when magic moments presented themselves.
So many landscape photographers tend to shoot from the line of sight standing position. I’ve learned over the years that the lower I went, the more dynamic my images became. I’m always telling my landscape photography students to get low!
Make certain your tripod’s center column can be removed in order to spread their tripods legs out and get down to the ground. Wider lenses are also great in forced perspectives. Conversely, hiking up high and shooting down opens up a whole new world as well! But for the most part, I tend to go for the low angle approach using my super wide lens.
Converging or Leading Lines
One of the best ways to draw attention to your landscape photograph is to use converging or leading lines.
Leading lines create the illusion of depth. Photos with rivers, piers, or roads make successful subjects and are always the simplest way to get started in creating a dynamic landscape photograph. Its difficult for our eyes to resist converging or leading lines.
Great dynamic images almost always have strong foreground elements. They will also have many complimentary leading midground elements as well as colorful or cloudy skies. Think about your classic sunrise or sunset photograph. The ones we always see on social media. Certainly, they’re colorful. Golden sunset light is beautiful on its own. But there is nothing to lock in the viewer’s eyes and your attention to these photographs leaves quickly.
Good dynamic photographs require what I call an eye-locking feature. That would be an interesting stone, branch, leading line or contrasty formation in the foreground. This could also include repeated elements such as drifting sand ruffles. This will draw your eye into the composition. Building a compelling composition is critical.
Interesting Background Elements
When I first approach any landscape, I’m first drawn to it by the obvious expansive beauty. That’s why I teach photography workshops in places like Yosemite Valley, Iceland, Big Sur, Eastern Sierra, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
All of these places have great dramatic beauty and provide dynamic backgrounds. When I first arrive at any of these locations, I seek strong foreground features knowing these amazing backgrounds never fail to stand on their own. I then move my vision deeper into the frame, adding or subtracting elements as I go. I always seek simplicity in my own style of landscape photography. Once I’ve locked in my foreground element to complement my background, I feel I’m ready to take the shot.
Now the most difficult part comes. That would be waiting for the light. This would be what is commonly known as the golden hours of pre-dawn or just as the sunsets. This is the time the many newcomers to landscape photography fail, by not waiting for the light to completely fade at dusk or missing the predawn light. This is the time clouds will bring to light in reddish gold and bluish hues depending on location and time of year. We have no control of this of course, but we always hope for the best!
California Central Coast “Big Sur Arch” ©MarkJansenPhotography.com
Motion blur is a classic tool for creating a dynamic landscape photograph. There are many ways to use this technique. Of course, you can use slow exposures, as well as high shutter speeds. Each can provide striking effects. The classic effect is misty water flows in streams or tidal pools as water wraps around solid objects such as ice and stones. This technique is also great for moving clouds using neutral density filters of various stops of light from 3 to 10 stops.
So when it comes to creating one of those dynamic landscape photographs you see now and then, it’s not that simple. But with a little practice and awareness of your landscape environment, you can begin to create more stunning and dynamic photographs.