We’ve been talking a lot about what makes a landscape photo truly come alive lately. For those who haven’t been tuning in, there are several important elements that, when put together, give the viewer a true sense of scale and purpose. Whenever you can find something the viewer can relate to, you will undoubtedly create a compelling landscape photo. That’s what this next photo critique is all about.
First of all, I want to thank Hendrie Al Shirazi for sending in this photo. He has done a lot of things right with this shot, and it shows. I am immediately taken by the deep and lush green colors he has managed to capture. It looks just like it has just rained, even though the ground appears to be completely dry.
Use of foreground elements to create layering
We have been talking a lot about how important it is to add in some kind of foreground element in any landscape photo. You want to do this because our eyes are easily tricked if we don’t have some kind of reference point to relate everything to. Nobody really knows how big the trees, mountains, or flowers are, but we always know how big another human being is. It’s the foolproof way to add in a sense of scale without employing any other tricks.
Hendrie understands the importance of this, using the farmer and his rickshaw as a way of bringing everything into perspective. Because the farmer is there, we can immediately feel how big the flowers in the foreground and next to the man are. We imagine the landscape stretching further and further forward, and it makes some kind of intuitive sense.
You’ll also notice that the mountain in the background is a hazier lighter color than the foreground. This creates a wonderful layering effect that adds even more depth to the photo. From looking at it, you really get a sense that the lush green foreground is set apart from the mountain in the background, almost as if it is floating on top of it. The lines and patterns resulting from this effect helps to make the photo visually interesting.
If only the farmer had a little more contrast. He blends in with the green background all too well. While most of this is out of the photographer’s control, the photo might look a little better if it were taken from a lower height and closer to the farmer. That way, the farmer would stick out from the first layer of green, and the eye would be more easily drawn to him.
How to get a lush green color
The exposure and color on this photo couldn’t be better. It’s a lush green that truly brings everything to life. If you want to know how to get the same deep dark greens in your photos, try out the following technique.
First, set your camera to manual mode and pick the aperture you want to use. Because this is a landscape photo, any aperture above F11 should work just fine for getting a lot of detail and depth of field. If you need to use a tripod because there isn’t much ambient light, take the time to set one up.
With your aperture set, find a patch of green and focus on it. You will use this green patch to calibrate your camera’s onboard light meter. Adjust the shutter speed until the light meter tells you the photo won’t be too bright or too dark. If your camera doesn't have a light meter, choose the Aperture Priority mode with F11 aperture and choose 'spot metering' if you have it. You are basically exposing the photo for the green color in the grass, making certain it will be the most important color in the shot.
Once you have found the ideal aperture and shutter speed combination for the green color, half depress the shutter, and then frame the picture how you want to frame it. Don’t forget to focus on your new subject before you snap the photo. Because the shutter is half depressed, the camera will keep the shutter speed and aperture it set for the green grass making sure it's correctly exposed. If you followed every step correctly, you should have a vibrant bright green photo very similar to what Hendrie sent in.
This is a little trick I use all the time. It doesn’t matter what kind of picture I’m taking, I find a patch of color that I really like, focus on that so my camera finds the the ideal shutter speed for capturing it, and then I frame the shot again before snapping it. This ensures that my favorite color is the one most accurately represented in the photo, and it works almost all of the time.
Try this out when taking sunset photos by pointing your camera at a patch of blue, adjusting, and then recomposing. You’ll love the bright blue colors you get!
Before I wrap up, I want to thank Hendrie again for being my guinea pig and allowing me to critique his photo. I think we’re all learning something new every week. To everyone else, keep sending in your photos. I’m always looking for great photos that serve as the perfect instructional tool.
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