Last week I posted under the somewhat ambitious title How to Shoot Landscapes. I mentioned that landscapes come in all sizes, so this week we’ll look at the small scale world of landscape photography. Most of the photos here are of this type, what I call intimate landscapes. But a few straddle the line or are definitely the more typical large-scale landscape. I like sharing recent images with you here on the blog even if they don’t match the topic precisely. But I also think they help to illustrate the difference between the two kinds of images.
No clear dividing line exists between the more photographed grand landscape and the less common intimate variety. The same goes for the lower boundary between intimate landscape and macro photography. In general if you’re shooting something less than the size of a football field/pitch (often much smaller), but you’re including more real estate than a typical macro photo (and not using your macro lens), then you’re shooting an intimate landscape.
HOW TO SHOOT AN INTIMATE LANDSCAPE
- Which one to shoot? Let your unconscious be your guide, but realize it’s easier to miss smaller, intimate landscapes. When a grand landscape inspires you, shoot that. But always be on the lookout for smaller scenes as well, and photograph those when they interest you in some way. Try not to go out with the goal of shooting one or the other.
- Composition is still king. The same things that make large landscapes work well (subject off-center, sense of depth, use of leading lines, layers, tone and color, and balancing elements) will strengthen your intimate landscapes.
- Strong subjects help. Of course a strong main subject helps any landscape image, but in smaller more intimate scenes, where all of the elements tend to appear the same size and are usually lighted similarly, a good strong subject is even more important. Remember a striking color contrast can also make for a strong subject.
- Issues of light and sky. Oftentimes intimate landscapes are more appropriate when the sky is overcast and the light is even (image above). Typical small-scale landscapes don’t include much (if any) sky. But those aren’t rules! Now we know that great light, whether it’s strong & directional or filtered & reflected by clouds is perfect for grand landscapes that include a lot of sky. But that light is also great for intimate landscapes, even when you don’t include any sky (image below).
- Careful with clutter. This point is closely related to the one about strong subjects above. It’s important to be careful with clutter in all landscape photos. But when your landscapes are composed of elements that are all close to you, it’s even more important to simplify compositions as much as possible. With big wide-angle landscapes, more distant things tend to look small in the frame, so are not as likely to distract the viewer. When everything is close, that stuff may easily distract.
- Images with a sense of depth. Shooting near to far compositions (one good way to lend a sense of depth) are more challenging when working on smaller scales. But it’s possible. You may be focusing very close to the lens, so choose a lens that has a so-called “macro” setting. It’s not truly macro of course (marketing). Always wide-angle with fairly short focal lengths, these kinds of lenses open up a lot of possibilities for intimate landscapes because they can focus very close, in some cases less than a foot away. Getting down low can also help add depth.
- Sky and depth. While we’re talking about a sense of depth, here’s something to try. After shooting an intimate landscape that excludes the sky, zoom out a little or shift the camera up a bit and include just a small bit of sky, not much. Compare and see if that doesn’t add more depth to the image. The image above makes use of both this and the above tips on adding a sense of depth.
So next time you’re out photographing your favorite landscape, try to find more intimate scenes. It adds variety to your portfolio and can yield some of your favorite images. Tune in next week for Friday Foto Talk for some tips on focus and depth of field when shooting intimate landscapes. Have a great weekend!