Dawn and part of a frozen waterfall in Zion National Park. 16 mm., 1.6 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100
Sometimes you have just one opportunity to get a shot. You have to whip that camera up and shoot. If you’re not ready the moment is gone. But more often there is time to capture different versions of the same subject. Since landscape photography is so applicable to this, and because I do a lot of it (I’m not alone!), I’m going to use landscape photography to illustrate ways to create alternate versions of an image.
There are several main ways to vary a landscape shot. Let’s look at those that change the composition but keep the same main elements of the scene the same.
- Format. Changing between horizontal (or landscape) and vertical (portrait) formats is the easiest way to create alternate versions of an image. Normally a vertical emphasizes the height of things like trees and mountains. It can also give a greater sense of depth. Horizontals emphasize a sense of space and can lend a serene feel to a landscape. I usually try to get both unless the picture definitely lends itself to one or the other.
- Point of View. Point of view (POV) can be changed in many ways. I did a mini-series on POV that explores this very important subject. One of the most common ways to vary POV is by changing camera height. Depending on how close the foreground is, changing height will also change the distance to that foreground, which can greatly change the look of an image.
Vertical of the image at top. I lowered POV, got closer to the foreground and thus emphasized the ice and sandstone while reducing the apparent size and importance of the background mountains and sky. 16 mm., 1.3 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100.
- Proportion of Sky vs. Land. Changing POV in turn can change this variable. It involves changing the relative amount of sky vs. land in the image, a very common thing for landscapers to do. For example, simply tilting the camera down or shortening your tripod legs takes you from an image dominated by sky to one dominated by the landscape below. The possible variants are nearly endless. For example you can change from nearly fifty-fifty to almost all land with just a sliver of sky. You could even shoot with the horizon in the middle, but that works well only in certain situations.
- Distance from Subject/Foreground. As long as you don’t exclude a main element (in which case it’s a different picture), you can change the feel by simply moving closer to or further from the closest element in the frame. Try doing this without changing any of the variables above. It’s hard to do, isn’t it?
A rainbow and a tall fir tree frame Vista House in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. 35 mm., 0.4 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100.
As just mentioned it can be tough to change just a single variable when you’re taking multiple shots of the same thing. Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to one variable. And you shouldn’t. We’re not doing science experiments, we’re shooting pictures. But if you’re curious and want to see more clearly what the effects of changing a certain variable look like, go ahead and control the other variables. Play scientist for awhile.
Next time we’ll look at a few other variables you can change to create alternate versions of your landscape images. Thanks for reading. Have a fun weekend, one filled with laughter and plenty of pictures!
Which version do you like, this horizontal or the vertical above? By changing format & using a slightly longer focal length, the tree and top of the rainbow are cropped off. The light has also changed slightly. 50 mm., 0.5 sec. @ f/13, ISO 100.
The rolling pastureland near Corbett in northwestern Oregon just begs to be ridden horseback.
I recently visited this lovely place not far east of town at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge. With the injury I can’t do much hiking, horseback riding (of course) or even the gym. Long drives are a bad idea too. So I’ve been going up to my favorite little photo spots nearby. This is one of those spots.
To get there from Portland. drive east on I84 past Troutdale, east of Portland, Oregon. A few miles from Troutdale you will take the Corbett exit. Drive up the steep winding hill and at the top continue east (left) on the Historic Columbia River Highway. You pass beautiful pastureland with stunning views of the mountains on the Washington side of the river. Not far down the road you’ll see a sign for Portland Women’s Forum Park. This is a simple pull-out on the left that allows a view of Crown Point and on up the Gorge.
A view up the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, with Crown Point and Vista House overlooking it all.
This view is justifiably popular with photographers, especially at sunset. The low sun often spotlights Crown Point and the iconic Vista House on top. Vista House was constructed, along with the Historic Highway, by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help get Americans back to work during the depression. The rock-work and rails are very well built and very picturesque as well.
The landmark Vista House at Crown Point, Oregon, settles under a dusk sky.
You can continue along the Historic Highway past Crown Point and down along the river. You will pass many waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls. I wrote a recent waterfall post, so check that out for photos of some of the cascades in the Gorge.
The Vista House at Crown Point at the western end of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.
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The largest river in the American West is the Columbia, which in this view from Crown Point rolls westward towards the Pacific at dusk.