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Author Topic: ordinary locations - great landscapes  (Read 17511 times)
Tim_in_BC
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« on: March 09, 2006, 02:31:30 PM »
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I love to travel as much as the next person but can someone show me 'good' landscapes in less than spectacular locations.

I am looking for a little inspiration for some local shooting. I am not saying it is easy to take a great shots in an exotic location but more curious what makes an average location into a great landscape photo.  

Comments are welcome but a picture as they say is worth a thousand words.


PS. Let's rule out sunsets since I consider them to be the ordinary enhanced .
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jani
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2006, 03:23:24 PM »
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I'm not pretending to be an authority on how to do this, but here are my thoughts, anyway.

In brief, what makes a great landscape photo -- regardless of where it's taken -- is the photographer and his/her eye for the composition.  That is a matter of training, intuition and taste, at the very least.

Judging from what I've seen of other people's photographs, I'd say that recognizing the following factors has something to say in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary:

 - The rule of thirds
 - Geometry -- shapes, curves etc.
 - Contrasts -- light and shadow, or things that just don't match
 - Texture and patterns -- fractals, similarities, reflections, ...
 - Planning

Colours may or may not play a part in all of these.

When I mention "planning", it's not necessarily about planning exactly how a shot should come out -- by all means, do just that, it can give excellent results -- but it could also mean making sure that you get to the right place, at the right time, under the right conditions.  From one vantage point, you might be able to visualize how it looks from another.  Perhaps you're familiar with the landscape, knowing that at certain times of year, there will be a mystical fog around the forest floor, or the pools of water in a swamp catch the light in a particular way.  Landscape photographers often talk about the hours when the light is right, which is usually around sunrise or sunset, but can also match the conditions on an partially or fully overcast day.  It is not without reason; shadows and contrasts become more pleasing and also easier to capture within the dynamic range of film or digital.

Without making any claims as to the extraordinary nature or whatever in my own photos, I'll try to use them as examples anyway; they're taken in quite ordinary locations (sorry for the overt copyright notices).

Sometimes, you have to look away from the large, sweeping landscape views ...



... because they don't always work, no matter how impressive they look to your eye when you stand there; they're "postcard" shots. You could try looking to the closer, smaller things.  Perhaps it's just a tree stub ...



... or something else that can catch your eye.  Expect to do some cropping (for instance, to get rid of that annoying green patch in the upper left of the tree stub image) or other adjustments to give the image its proper "oomph".

I think the following photograph illustrates something about curves (connect the dots), contrasts between light and shadow, and how the rule of thirds can be used to place objects of interest so that they stand out in the frame:



This one was planned, but wasn't taken when the light was supposedly right (it was around midnight), but you can often make the light right by controlling your exposure.  So this is a 1/5 second exposure at f/10 and ISO 1600.  The reflected light you see comes from a summer sky, but of course it wasn't quite this bright to the eye.
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Jan
Tim_in_BC
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2006, 04:17:37 PM »
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All very good points and well illustrated with your excellent shots.


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I'm not pretending to be an authority on how to do this, but here are my thoughts, anyway.

In brief, what makes a great landscape photo -- regardless of where it's taken -- is the photographer and his/her eye for the composition.  That is a matter of training, intuition and taste, at the very least.

Judging from what I've seen of other people's photographs, I'd say that recognizing the following factors has something to say in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary:

 - The rule of thirds
 - Geometry -- shapes, curves etc.
 - Contrasts -- light and shadow, or things that just don't match
 - Texture and patterns -- fractals, similarities, reflections, ...
 - Planning

Colours may or may not play a part in all of these.

When I mention "planning", it's not necessarily about planning exactly how a shot should come out -- by all means, do just that, it can give excellent results -- but it could also mean making sure that you get to the right place, at the right time, under the right conditions.  From one vantage point, you might be able to visualize how it looks from another.  Perhaps you're familiar with the landscape, knowing that at certain times of year, there will be a mystical fog around the forest floor, or the pools of water in a swamp catch the light in a particular way.  Landscape photographers often talk about the hours when the light is right, which is usually around sunrise or sunset, but can also match the conditions on an partially or fully overcast day.  It is not without reason; shadows and contrasts become more pleasing and also easier to capture within the dynamic range of film or digital.

Without making any claims as to the extraordinary nature or whatever in my own photos, I'll try to use them as examples anyway; they're taken in quite ordinary locations (sorry for the overt copyright notices).

Sometimes, you have to look away from the large, sweeping landscape views ...



... because they don't always work, no matter how impressive they look to your eye when you stand there; they're "postcard" shots. You could try looking to the closer, smaller things.  Perhaps it's just a tree stub ...



... or something else that can catch your eye.  Expect to do some cropping (for instance, to get rid of that annoying green patch in the upper left of the tree stub image) or other adjustments to give the image its proper "oomph".

I think the following photograph illustrates something about curves (connect the dots), contrasts between light and shadow, and how the rule of thirds can be used to place objects of interest so that they stand out in the frame:



This one was planned, but wasn't taken when the light was supposedly right (it was around midnight), but you can often make the light right by controlling your exposure.  So this is a 1/5 second exposure at f/10 and ISO 1600.  The reflected light you see comes from a summer sky, but of course it wasn't quite this bright to the eye.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2006, 07:45:23 PM »
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I am not saying it is easy to take a great shots in an exotic location but more curious what makes an average location into a great landscape photo.

The photographer. It always has been. I am surprised you cannot find examples as there are many photographers who have done just that.
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Tim_in_BC
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2006, 10:16:48 PM »
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Tastes vary alot. Can you point me to some you like that fit the criteria. I am not out to ridicule or judge just trying to grow out of a creative dead end.



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The photographer. It always has been. I am surprised you cannot find examples as there are many photographers who have done just that.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2006, 10:22:19 PM »
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Taste is the problem. But you could start here.
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tsjanik
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2006, 02:31:32 PM »
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Hi Tim:

Use Anon’s link.  Other photographers’ work can be a great source of inspiration and allow you see familiar surroundings in a new light (pun intended).  A spectacular landscape can be more easily achieved where you live than when traveling, particularly in your case, since you’re in BC.  I say this because you know your home area and can wait for the right season, or time of day, or quality of light or any other number of variables that transform a mundane scene.  When traveling, the novelty of the sights often convinces you that you have a special shot, but in fact (at least for me) they are often just postcards.  I’ve attached 2 photos of mine that I like and were taken locally (W. New York).  The tress would be boring almost anytime of year except in the winter with a low sun.  The tulip picture is of interest to me because of the beautiful ice crystls that formed after a cold night.  You may not like these particular photos, but I think you can imagine how different they would be at another time.

Good luck,

Tom
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boku
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2006, 03:41:46 PM »
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I have faced this very issue every time I shoot. My environs are not particularly dramatic, famous, or notably geographic. This makes me concentrate and look. It has perhaps caused me to concentrate a LOT more on creating the finished product rather then recording a scene as a documentary. Good - I needed that push.

When I go out to shoot (I am bound to NE Ohio), I find small landscapes and patterns. A few weeks ago I was testing my new 400mm lens. I live on a ridge in a semi-rural (AKA redneck) area. There is an old apple grove down in the valley. I saw design and pattern. I shot this - nothing spectacular, but it shows you how you can extract something from what superficially seems like nothing. Two years ago I would have never SEEN a thing.

Calm yourself and become one with your environment. You will begin to see....

« Last Edit: March 10, 2006, 03:42:52 PM by boku » Logged

Bob Kulon

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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2006, 03:54:17 PM »
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Tastes vary.  Simple can be good.

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Tim_in_BC
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2006, 01:01:33 AM »
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I am familar with some of the photographers in the link and they do inspire. I agree we are more likely to get the most out of local surrounding because of time of years issues. I think your shots show that pattern , texture or mood can intensify a normal surroundings into something special. In the back of my mind I think I look for these things or at least see them when they present themselves but I am hoping to bring myself to have them in the front of my mind and to know when , where and what I am looking for rather than just get lucky at the right time in the right place.

Thanks for the reply.


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Hi Tim:

Use Anon’s link.  Other photographers’ work can be a great source of inspiration and allow you see familiar surroundings in a new light (pun intended).  A spectacular landscape can be more easily achieved where you live than when traveling, particularly in your case, since you’re in BC.  I say this because you know your home area and can wait for the right season, or time of day, or quality of light or any other number of variables that transform a mundane scene.  When traveling, the novelty of the sights often convinces you that you have a special shot, but in fact (at least for me) they are often just postcards.  I’ve attached 2 photos of mine that I like and were taken locally (W. New York).  The tress would be boring almost anytime of year except in the winter with a low sun.  The tulip picture is of interest to me because of the beautiful ice crystls that formed after a cold night.  You may not like these particular photos, but I think you can imagine how different they would be at another time.

Good luck,

Tom
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Tim_in_BC
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2006, 01:06:31 AM »
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I often find myself leaning towards simple seems which can be powerful.


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Tastes vary.  Simple can be good.


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OnyimBob
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2006, 01:48:06 AM »
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Simple is good.
Without the light patches in the grass echoing the clouds this would be nothing.
[attachment=326:attachment]
Its still not great, but illustrates how a momentary phenomena transforms a scene.
Bob.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2006, 11:39:09 AM »
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[attachment=327:attachment][attachment=328:attachment]It's been said that a great photograph requires a great subject, in great light, with great composition. The great subject part is a matter of taste, and great composition is a learned skill. The great light part is your secret weapon for local shooting. How many truly dull photographs have you seen taken at fabulous locations? Too many to count. Ansel Adams took fantastic photographs of Yosemite because he lived there for decades; he saw a lot of great light. Being present when great light happens is the real difference between a great landscape image and a drive-by snapshot.
So, get to know your photographic backyard. Go out with your gear—a lot—and you're bound to see a previously mundane subject come alive in perfect light eventually. Best of all, it'll be a unique image! Half-dome has been done to death, but the hidden gems in your out of the way location represent virgin territory. Knock yourself out!
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Graham Welland
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« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2006, 01:07:46 AM »
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Tim,

I'm always inspired and collect photos from Christopher Burkett. I find that he exemplifies the ability to produce stunning imagery from what might at first seem to be mundane locations.

Great light, imagination and training the eye to see beyond the obvious are what's needed to produce great images anytime, anywhere. (I wish I could do it too    ).

You might want to take a look at some of John Freeman's books like 'The photographer's Guide to Composition' for some ideas for taking a new look at familiar surroundings.
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Graham
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« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2006, 10:59:33 AM »
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Bob Kulon,

That is a nice shot that illustrates your point very well.  Well seen.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2006, 12:20:12 PM »
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Bob Kulon,

That is a nice shot that illustrates your point very well.  Well seen.
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Thanks!
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Bob Kulon

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Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2006, 09:06:53 AM »
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I'm with Bob (nice image of the apple grove, BTW!) and the others who have said that great images can be found almost anywhere if you have the patience and vision to find them. Here's one I found in a roadside ditch:



I call it "An acute case of writer's block", if you use a bit of imagination, the empty beer bottles and the old typewriter begin to tell a story...
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russell a
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« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2006, 10:15:05 AM »
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I echo all the "Support Your Local Subject Matter" sentiments.  I contend that travel is mostly the enemy of good photography.  When one travels, one is subject to the schedules of companions, itinerary, limited knowledge of the surroundings, a higher chance of encountering over-photographed scenes, etc. etc.  As noted by an earlier poster, re Ansel Adams' ordinary shooting habits*, are you going to be able to linger, return, or re-shoot on a trip?  Not likely, but you can in your local environs.  

I do all my shooting locally.

*BTW, on the other hand, my own two favorites of Ansel Adams are actually two "grab shots":  Moonlight, Hernandez NM, and Rails and Jet Trails, Roseville CA but those were the luck of a whole career worth of years and he was ready to execute when the opportunity presented itself.



http://russarmstrong.com/gallery/Master
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« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2006, 02:33:47 PM »
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Tim:  Another source of inspiration (for me) are Freeman Patterson's books 'Photography and the Art of Seeing' and 'More Photography and the Art of Seeing'.  All of his books are great, but theses ones specifically are about developing your 'eye' for what's already around you.

Mike (in BC)
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« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2006, 12:08:13 PM »
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Tim,

One approach I like is to reduce scenes to the simplest elements that I think make good photographs. These elements will be different for different taste, but for me it is color, shape, and perspective. Composition by itself is not on the list because it is too complicated and is made up of simpler elements. By itself this is not groundbreaking, but it is excellent practice to try and isolate these elements and produce photos that illustrate a single element with as few distractions from other elements as possible. It is useful for the issues you raised because it is approach that reduces the importance of the subject; it is decidedly not about the subject but about abstracted visual elements in the frame.  For instance, try to make a photo that is mostly about perspective , or mostly about shape, or color. After a while you begin to look at things differently, more creatively, which is rewarding by itself, but even more so when it begins to affect your photography. Good luck.
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