Viewfinder Episode 2: Weather and Landscapes

It’s an exciting time for me. I have been listed on an international blog and I received my first email from India by Mr. Mitesh Patel:

I am sending you some photos which I snapped …in monsoon days, but the camera is not good so it might be not looking good in zoom ….please… give comment on it.

Well this brought up an interesting thought, How does one get good weather and landscape pictures? Well it’s a combination of skill, timing, and mostly luck. I’m going go through some steps to take to get a good landscape shot which will result in people saying, ” WOW!”, Well maybe not wow but definitely them remembering your picture.

First lets take a look at Mr. Patel’s photo’s.

Copyright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

Copyrightright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

Now the biggest issue here is that there is no dominate foreground subject, except in the last shot. The clouds are very dramatic and do make for a good scene but without a foreground subject (i.e. cityscape, a road with car lights streaming on it) there’s nothing to give the viewer the feeling of how vast the storm clouds are. This is what makes landscapes tricky. Without the foreground subject the story of the picture is lost. What does the image say to the viewer?

What I would suggest is have the bottom 1/3rd of the frame (either in landscape or portrait orientation) be a subject on the ground. This can be a city skyline, a nice beach and ocean, the vast beauty of the land stretching out into the distance or any other subject that can fill the frame on the bottom. A key point here is to have the camera up higher than ground level. With a higher vantage point your composition is much more dramatic and you can see further into the distance.

After you have your foreground now compose the background which takes up the rest of the frame. See if there are any tall objects that distract from the scene, such as the tower or light pole in pictures 2 and 3. How does the sunlight effect the color of the clouds? It is a rare occurrence when the weather actually works well with human timing, but if you can get a shot just as the sun is on the horizon, the colors on the clouds are incredible and really make the shot memorable. Make sure the horizon line is level by using a tripod or by bracing yourself against something sturdy. If your horizon isn’t level in a landscape it wont matter how good the composition is, people will feel there’s something off with the shot.

Now, take your picture. Once it’s done take several more just to make sure you got a good shot. Move slightly from one spot to another, change the viewpoint some, or even, if you have enough time, go to a location across the street and set up again. The different angle might make a better composition; You can never tell until you do it.

I think the best shot of the group was picture 5. It has a strong foreground with the two building sides showing and an interesting cloud formation above it. The thing here, and this is not Mr. Patel’s fault but rather the camera, is that the picture contrast is flat and hazy.

Here, however is where the digital world helps. Import your picture into any photo editing program. Next you’ll want to deepen the shadows a bit to bring out the clouds and the shadow side of the building, so just lower the brightness a few points. Next adjust the contrast up a little to separate the building from the clouds and remove the haze and there is a very nice and dramatic photo of monsoon clouds. Here’s what it looks like:

Copyright 2010 Mitesh Patel All Rights Reserved

I hope this helps Mr. Patel, thank you for reading and I hope you come back to see more. Practice will improve your skills with the camera and train your eye to see the composition better. Keep a camera with you as much as possible and use it often. Have a great time with your photography.

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About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

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