Give your landscape and nature photographs more emotional potency by creating a narrative between a single subject and its environment.

 

Landscape photographers face a unique challenge in trying to simplify their images when there is an infinite amount of subject matter to try and compose in a single cohesive image. A great way to focus your pictures into well composed and poignant works of art is to establish a primary subject and capture the role your subject is playing in its surroundings.

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The single surfer in the water facing the large rock creates a story. In an image like this, it’s easy for the viewer to make an emotional connection by imagining him/herself as the surfer. This example works well because there is a human subject used, but the same principle can be applied to just about anything.

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I chose not to zoom in close on this seagull. Instead, I gave the bird plenty of room and placed him resting surrounded by plenty of sky. I prefer the feeling of a free bird over a caged bird and by giving the primary subject plenty of space to breathe, the desired feeling was conveyed in this photograph.

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A leafless little tree isn’t the first thing that pops in your head when you’re thinking of ideas for nature or landscape photography. Here I composed around a single leafless tree that is wedged in a coastal rock. By itself, the tree wouldn’t have given much of a narrative. However, shown here growing out of rough and lifeless rock, the viewer can see the persistence of life; a young tree starting life with a strong and solid foundation.

Challenge yourself to find these narratives. Having a story or an analogy in mind when shooting a photograph will make you grow as an artist. A technically sound photograph will always be admired, but the image that makes an emotional connection will be remembered.

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

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