Picture of the Month Landscape

By NYIP Staff on August 29th, 2011

Photo by NYIP Student Mei-Min (Zoe) Peng

Picture of the Month: Landscape

I have heard some ignoramuses say that there is nothing to a landscape photograph. Find some pretty scenery, aim your auto-everything camera in that direction, and that's all you have to do except press the shutter release. The absurdity of the remark should be painfully obvious to anyone who has struggled, usually much more than once, to make a good landscape photograph. Come along with me on a nature hike, bring your camera and a peanut butter sandwich, and together (you and I) we'll explore this complex problem of scenic landscape photography. And I promise that we'll be back by nightfall.

But before we start our hike let me remind you again of the three well known NYI Guidelines: strong subject matter, focusing attention on the subject, and then simplifying the picture by eliminating all that is unnecessary and keeping all that is important. And I'll be referring to those Guidelines as time goes by. If you want to learn the comprehensive background and applications of these guidelines, it's worth checking out our online course to perfect your skills. Our online nature and landscape photography course is the perfect way to get started.

The photographer in this case is NYI Student Mei-Min (Zoe) Peng. The image was taken near the the city of Taichung, Taiwan.

The principal subject, the general subject, is the beauty of the land on this particularly lovely day. But a case could be made for the people on the pathway being the subjects of the photograph. Also, it is possible to consider the horizon extending from the gazebo on the left to three houses on the right as being subject matter. In other words, it is not really clear as to what the actual subject is. So, let me put a little bug in your ear - not tarantula size but a little one. Could you be the subject and the life around you be the things to which you react? It's a possibility; at least, some food for thought.

Since I have not been able to name a precise subject in this picture suppose I direct your attention to some of the techniques used to focus attention on any subjects shown here. Remember that focusing attention is your second NYI Guideline.

Look at the horseshoe-shaped pathway that extends from the gazebo in the left center to the lower left corner By itself, the pathway is an interesting line and a good photograph could have been made just depicting the path and the gazebo and little else. But there are two people in the lower right center of the path and there are two more people barely visible a bit to the right of the gazebo. These are all legitimate subjects, of course, and maybe one couple knows the other couple and maybe not. But there could be a relationship.

Halfway from the gazebo to the couple in the right center is a diagonal line that runs from the path itself down to the lower left hand edge of the picture. It looks like another path that bisects the horseshoe-shaped one. It creates a kind semi –circular island and calls attention to the couple in the lower right center.

Now let your eyes drift upward to the strong diagonal horizon line extending from the gazebo to the several buildings in the upper right center at the top of the hill. There is a line of trees, possibly poplar ones, that seem almost like pilgrims ascending to a shrine. And if you look very closely you will see some real people, two of them, also ascending toward the buildings. I don't know about you but I seem to hear a rhythmic chant, a mantra that might sound like those of Buddhist priests in Lhasa, Tibet.

Picture of the Month: Landscape

Look at the clouds now. The spacing between the clouds seems to have a resemblance to the "pilgrim" trees and to the people climbing the hill. This kind of repetition of forms is a phenomenon that should not be overlooked when you are photographing a scene. Look carefully not only at your subjects but also at nearby terrain and sky for similar natural formations. The act of repetition will always strengthen your pictures.

You should consider the size relationships here between land and sky. As interesting as the sky is it still is the less important part of this picture. That will not always be the case, of course. There will be times when the sky clearly should dominate the scene, the land playing subordinate role.

If the photographer Mei-Min Peng had accompanied us on our little hike perhaps we could inquire how the photograph might be simplified. Frankly, I'm not sure. Are you?

In any case, I hope that you'll agree that bringing along the peanut butter sandwich was a good idea.