Take pictures on purpose. Let me back up. Compose your pictures on purpose. Let me back up further. Arrange the elements of your composition on purpose-then compose-then take the pictures. It is easy to become enamored with a dominant feature in a photographic composition and miss the opportunity to create something on the next level.
There is nothing that captures the imagination like a full moon. When one of these babies is hanging in the sky above you it becomes an irresistible force in your composition. So much so that the lone moon in the empty sky often becomes a photographer’s initial capture. There is a temptation in photographers to let the moon become the dominate force-often placing it proximately in a darkly silhouetted landscape.
One of the concepts I always preach is depth and maximizing it to create more dynamic images. The image above makes use of a sky backdrop with a moon floating pleasingly on a Rule of Thirds/Rule of Fifths intersection. In contrast to the silhouette image mentioned earlier, this image has depth There are three distinct layers of landscape before the moon. Giving more thought to the foreground can make the image into something more. Nature laid out the scene before us-what can we do to add to it?
Drafting a fellow photographer as a foreground element, we can start to see what a deliberate and purposeful foreground looks like. We have our same sky backdrop with our anchoring moon and the same multi-layered landscape but now, we have added a figure into the scene. The figure and the moon are connected by the actions of the photographer. The difference between the last two images was a movement of a few feet to my right. I was fortunate to have a photographer at hand to give my image the additional interest. Sometimes, however, you have to create your own fortune.
A group of Wild Turkeys was wandering around the formations. The turkeys were reacting to the photographers’ presence by scrambling away in a very leisurely pace. As I trailed the group of turkeys, I realized I had a moon in the sky and formations above. A little careful ‘herding’ put the birds on a course up the formation and into the scene with the moon.
- We saw the moon. We captured it.
- We saw a landscape with a moon above it. We captured it.
- We saw a foreground element with the landscape and the moon. We captured it.
- We maneuvered a foreground element into a landscape with the moon and we captured it.
- What is the next step?
The next step is planning the shot in advance. During my latest Badlands Workshop I brought my group of photographers to the western edge of Badlands National Park to photograph the American Bison. After shooting the bison,we were hurrying back through the delicious light to get in a good place to shoot the sunset. I commented to the group in my car that, “The next shot we should try is to line up a bison with the moon.” When I said it, there was a moon and there were distant bison but nothing that resembled a good photograph presented itself.
We searched until we found a bison in the good light and with reasonable proximity to the moon. The moon is much less prominent in this shot. It is a photo of a bison whose backdrop is the sunlit landscape of a moonrise at Badlands. This is the essence of the purposeful foreground. Carefully framing, we created a composition that is far greater than its constituent components. This becomes our step 5. Visualize the shot you want and make it happen.
We Visualized. We discovered and created the concept. We captured it.
Rikk Flohr © 2011