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Foundations of Photography: Composition
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Composing landscapes


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Foundations of Photography: Composition

with Ben Long

Video: Composing landscapes

Landscapes of course are great subject matter, you can make an entire career out of shooting landscapes. For the most part, your compositional concerns when you're shooting landscapes are no different than they are when you're shooting anything else. You at least want to consider your four essential composition elements: Subject background, a good sense of balance. You want to think about a good point of view, and you want to work to simplify your image. That last one, simplifying, can be particularly difficult with landscapes. Invariably, you find a great landscape and there is a telephone wire running across it, or there is a fence in the way or a parked car or something like that.
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  1. 12m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. Using this course
      7m 27s
    3. What you need to know
      2m 50s
  2. 2m 47s
    1. What is composition?
      2m 1s
    2. All form, all the time
      46s
  3. 12m 34s
    1. How your camera is not like your eye
      2m 52s
    2. Looking vs. seeing
      2m 25s
    3. Vision and attention
      2m 13s
    4. Dynamic range
      1m 59s
    5. Seeing exercises
      3m 5s
  4. 36m 48s
    1. What all good compositions have
      1m 8s
    2. Subject and background
      3m 5s
    3. Balance
      7m 20s
    4. Point of view
      3m 22s
    5. Simplicity
      2m 59s
    6. Finding and capturing a good photo
      2m 11s
    7. Working the shot: Why one is never enough
      6m 41s
    8. Practicing
      3m 24s
    9. Why black and white?
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Practicing the fundamentals with points
      4m 17s
  5. 41m 48s
    1. Lines
      7m 7s
    2. Analyzing lines
      6m 35s
    3. Exploring a town
      4m 7s
    4. The Franklin Hotel
      2m 7s
    5. Shapes
      10m 13s
    6. Repetition: Arranging the elements
      1m 37s
    7. Rule of threes
      1m 36s
    8. Perspective
      1m 47s
    9. Symmetry
      1m 10s
    10. Focal length, camera position, and depth
      2m 27s
    11. Intersections
      1m 41s
    12. Exercise: Practicing fundamentals with geometry
      1m 21s
  6. 10m 38s
    1. Working a shot, revisited
      3m 21s
    2. Understanding the photographic impulse
      2m 58s
    3. Warming up
      2m 16s
    4. Exercise: Get your feet moving
      2m 3s
  7. 35m 7s
    1. Thirds: How rectangular frames are weighted
      2m 20s
    2. Tonal balance
      3m 52s
    3. Content balance
      1m 20s
    4. Squares: Weighting the corners
      2m 24s
    5. Composing people
      3m 42s
    6. Composing landscapes
      3m 53s
    7. Sometimes you can't get the shot
      1m 12s
    8. Practicing thirds with points and geometry
      1m 45s
    9. Practicing squares with points and geometry
      1m 12s
    10. Image analysis: The work of Steve Simon
      13m 27s
  8. 19m 6s
    1. It's the light
      1m 50s
    2. Direction of light
      8m 30s
    3. Texture
      2m 7s
    4. Shadows and negative space
      1m 19s
    5. Exposure concerns
      2m 44s
    6. Keeping one eye on post
      58s
    7. Light as subject
      1m 38s
  9. 18m 59s
    1. Introducing the workshop location and instructors
      1m 2s
    2. Assignment: Finding light
      5m 17s
    3. Shooting the light
      3m 14s
    4. Critiquing the light assignment
      9m 26s
  10. 22m 11s
    1. The basics of color
      1m 4s
    2. When to shoot color
      3m 56s
    3. How to shoot color
      2m 47s
    4. Practicing color composition
      1m 4s
    5. Image analysis: The work of Paul Taggart
      13m 20s
  11. 16m 48s
    1. Entry and exit
      5m 41s
    2. Framing
      2m 17s
    3. Examining the composition of this set
      2m 28s
    4. Narrative
      1m 55s
    5. When the scene doesn't fit in the frame
      3m 13s
    6. Guiding the viewer's eye
      1m 14s
  12. 13m 36s
    1. Assignment: Foreground and background
      3m 4s
    2. Shooting foreground and background relationships
      2m 19s
    3. Critiquing the foreground and background assignment
      8m 13s
  13. 34m 24s
    1. Planes
      5m 13s
    2. Controlling depth
      4m 54s
    3. Juxtaposition
      2m 58s
    4. Fear
      4m 3s
    5. Layers
      55s
    6. Image analysis: The work of Connie Imboden
      16m 21s
  14. 41m 21s
    1. Recomposing an image with the Crop tool
      7m 23s
    2. Resizing an image
      8m 9s
    3. Tone
      8m 54s
    4. Altering the perspective in Photoshop
      4m 38s
    5. Changing composition through retouching
      6m 16s
    6. Vignetting to drive attention
      6m 1s
  15. 10m 22s
    1. Workshop wrap-up and exhibition
      3m 13s
    2. Workshop students' final thoughts
      7m 9s
  16. 1m 0s
    1. Final thoughts
      1m 0s

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Foundations of Photography: Composition
5h 29m Intermediate Dec 22, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Composition can make an interesting subject bland or make an ordinary subject appear beautiful. In this course, photographer and author Ben Long explores the concepts of composition, from basics such as the rule of thirds to more advanced topics such as the way the eye travels through a photo.

The course addresses how the camera differs from the eye and introduces composition fundamentals, such as balance and point of view. Ben also examines the importance of geometry, light, and color in composition, and looks at how composition can be improved with a variety of post-production techniques. Interspersed throughout the course are workshop sessions that capture the creative energy of a group of photography students; shooting assignments and exercises; and analyses of the work of photographers Paul Taggart and Connie Imboden.

Topics include:
  • Looking versus seeing
  • Understanding when and why to use black and white
  • Analyzing lines
  • Arranging the elements into lines and shapes
  • Working with perspective and symmetry
  • Changing focal length, camera position, and depth
  • Dividing rectangular frames into thirds
  • Weighting the corners in square pictures
  • Composing photographs of people
  • Composing landscape photos
  • Working with light: direction, texture, and negative space
  • How to shoot color
  • Guiding the viewer’s eye
  • Controlling depth
  • Improving composition in post-production
Subjects:
Photography Photography Foundations
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Ben Long

Composing landscapes

Landscapes of course are great subject matter, you can make an entire career out of shooting landscapes. For the most part, your compositional concerns when you're shooting landscapes are no different than they are when you're shooting anything else. You at least want to consider your four essential composition elements: Subject background, a good sense of balance. You want to think about a good point of view, and you want to work to simplify your image. That last one, simplifying, can be particularly difficult with landscapes. Invariably, you find a great landscape and there is a telephone wire running across it, or there is a fence in the way or a parked car or something like that.

So, a lot of times that's going to be the thing you're wrestling with the most when you're working with landscapes. And of course, once you found a good location, in addition to those four things, you'll still be able to consider lines and shapes and shadows and negative space and all of the other things that we've talked about. It's very easy, that's a whistling windmill right out there. It's very easy when you come out to a landscape and see it and it's really pretty, particularly when you got a nice sky. It's really easy to go wow! I need the widest angle lens that I can, so that I can take all of this in and only on rare occasions does that work.

Remember, as you go to a wider angle lens, all the details in the distance are going to get really, really small. And then you may get confused about, well if I can't have the whole landscape and everything is really small, I'm not sure what to do. That's when you start trying to work smaller details, more up close to evoke the landscape that you're in. And I don't mean that you have to get right on top of things. But while I have this whole landscape here in front of me, I am going to focus on that windmill and the fence around it. That mix gives me a good subject, that gives me something to anchor in my composition.

And I've got these nice big poofy clouds moving through. I'm also of course thinking about light. I'm trying to come out here when I've got good light because light that's casting more shadows is going to give me more of a sense of depth. It's going to give me more detail. Shooting landscapes in flat light is almost always a pointless activity, because you simply have no sense of depth and there is no texture in the image. Something that you have to consider with landscapes that you don't have to consider with other types of shooting, is the importance of the horizon line. You've got this really strong horizontal line running across your image, what are you going to do with it, where are you going to put it? Are you going to put it right in the middle, or are you going to let it go up, you're going to let it go down? Here are a few different options, shooting this windmill with the horizon right across the center of the frame gives me equal sky and equal ground, equal foreground, and I still have a shot of the windmill and the fence around it.

Look what happens though, if I tilt up and include more sky. I get an image with a very, very different feel. Now I have this wide-open sky. On an image where the sky is particularly attractive, this might be the best choice. Maybe I am really wanting to feature the sky and I'm using the foreground more as an anchor for that. It's interesting though to tilt the other direction and put a lot of foreground into the front of the shot. There is a tricky exposure situation there. At that point I need to start thinking about depth of field. All of the stuff that up close to me, I need to be sure that it's in focus. So I'm shooting with a small aperture to get deep depth of field.

I am choosing my point of focus very carefully. These have different weights to them, having the horizon line up very high with not a lot of sky and having all of this heavy foreground down at the bottom has a very different feel than having a lot of open sky and this sense of empty space up above. I am not going to put a value judgment on any of these. I think it's pretty obvious how different they feel, and you're going to need to think about those sorts of things when you're out shooting. Obviously the easiest way to handle this, if you're unsure, sure is to do what I did just here and try it in different ways.

Very often your main task when you're working your shot with a landscape is trying different positions of the horizon, in addition to trying to simplify and find the right angle. Again, landscape shooting is something you can study for the rest of your photographic career, but you will want to start by following these basic compositional tips that we've covered here.

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