Composition is something photographers start to learn very early on after picking up a camera. It is a key part of photography and there are many different elements, to name a few; the rule of thirds, use of leading lines, use of symmetry, forced perspective and many, many more. In this post I am mostly going to talk about foregrounds and how they can be used to create a path for the eye through the whole image.
In landscape photography planning can be a vital part of getting a good composition. Prior to my recent trip to New Brighton Lighthouse where I captured the featured image of this post, I had spent a fair amount of time looking at other people’s images to get an idea of possible compositions for this location. Upon arriving on location, I spent some more time scouting out the area to eventually settle on the composition you see in the featured image. From both being on location and looking at other’s images it was obvious that the rocks in front of the lighthouse were the key to creating foreground interest.
After arriving at the lighthouse, the tide was on its way out and with some luck it left small pools of water between the rocks, this is what I ultimately decided to utilise for the immediate foreground. Unfortunately, due to the position of where the sun was going to set there was no composition that would have had more traditional leading lines from foreground to background. What I decided to do was instead create layers within the image, the second layer for the midground was the sand and rocks. As the tide had receded it has left a textured pattern in the sand just in front of the rocks helps assist the eye flow through the image. For the final layer the main focal point of the image is present, the lighthouse along with the setting sun just to the left on the horizon.
The purpose of having a strong foreground and midground is to create interest for the eye to flow through the image to the ultimate focal point. Sometimes natural formations will help with this, but sometimes you need to be resourceful and create your own foreground interest. You could do this by find a broken branch of a tree and move it to be in front of your composition, for cityscapes you could create a small puddle of water with a water bottle. Using a different lens could also be an option, using a telephoto allows you to really focus in on your focal point by eliminating the foreground if there is nothing of interest to help connect the image together.
Ultimately mastering composition will take a lot of time and practice. It is something that you can work on by analysing images by your favourite photographers to see what you like about their compositions and then applying that to your own workflow. I will continue to try get better at my own composition as this is still an area I feel there is room to improve greatly.