Teasing the Viewer – Landscape Photography   4 comments

Mount Rainier peaks out above Mowich Lake as the dusk deepens.

Mount Rainier peaks out above Mowich Lake as the dusk deepens.


I rarely post on photo how-to, since I find it a little boring.  Much better to go out in the field and interact one-on-one with people and their cameras.  But this little tip I’ve discovered is as far as I know not discussed by your typical workshop leader.

In fashion and boudoir photography, although this is not my thing, I am certain that most photographers and models know how effective it is to leave something to the imagination.  If you show everything, that might be the last picture the viewer sees.  It is much better to tease, to leave the viewer wanting more.

I have found that this often works well with landscape and nature photography as well.  A tiger nicely screened by beautifully out-of-focus vegetation, an action shot where it is not at all certain if the predator will capture the prey, and similar photos leave the viewer wondering what happens next, or wanting to see more of the animal.

Even in landscapes, leaving a mountain or other spectacular feature partially hidden can work to create a sort of tension in the photograph.  As long as you don’t totally frustrate the viewer, where not enough of your subject is shown, it is perfectly fine to compose your subject so it is partially hidden.

That’s the case with this photograph.  I admit to feeling a bit of frustration at only seeing part of Mount Rainier from Mowich Lake when I arrived last fall to camp.  I planned to hike up to a higher lake (Eunice) where the full glory of Rainier is on display and reflected in a lovely alpine lake.  But I had arrived too late to Mowich, and so had to be content trying to find good compositions with a partly-obscured peak.  The above shot was one of my last, a long exposure during blue hour after the sun had set.

The next afternoon I did hike up to Eunice Lake and got the shots below.  I included two from Eunice Lake; the second, during blue hour, is for easier comparison with the above shot.  Perhaps with some cloud cover in the sky these would be better pictures than the one from Mowich above.  But as it is, I prefer the first shot to the second and third.  And it is partly because the mountain is not in full view that I think it works.  Which do you prefer?

Mount Rainier in Washington rises above Eunice Lake.

Mount Rainier in Washington rises above Eunice Lake.

Whichever shot is your favorite, it is true that you’ll strengthen your collection if in some of your pictures you leave the subject partly hidden, or the story partly untold.  I believe this holds in all types of photography, not just those where the teasing aspect of this technique is more obvious.

Blue hour at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Blue hour at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.


4 responses to “Teasing the Viewer – Landscape Photography

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  1. Gorgeous!

  2. I see your point and like the first one better. I will have to keep that in mind for the future. Appreciate the advice with the visuals.

  3. What great advice. I like the first the best, but wouldn’t have been able to articulate why before I read your post. Now I see that there’s a sense of action, of anticipation, in the first photo that isn’t there in the other two. Cool!

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