Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Jeep

The Jeep
The Jeep

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creating an Illusion of Depth

One of the most effective compositional tricks in photography is to create the illusion of depth in your images.  There are about as many ways to accomplish this as there are photographers who do it.  No one way is better than another as they all have their own merits.  What's important is being able to recognize those subtle ways to add another dimension to your images and to transform the ordinary into images with power and impact.

Lets look a some examples.

Create that Layered look:  Often the way the landscape rolls toward the distance can be used to generate that Layered look.  By its nature, the further away a hill looks, the lighter it becomes.  When you have multiple hills that dip and roll in front of each other, then a natural layered look is created by the effects of the atmosphere.  An effective way to take advantage of this layering is use Spot Metering.  By switching to this metering mode, you can select the degree of the layering by placing the metering spot on the layer that appears to be a middle tone in value...then locking in the metered value...recompose the shot and let the rest of the scene fall where it may within the set exposure.

Reflections:  Reflection on a calm body of water can provide some of the most dramatic illusion of depth for photographers.  Capturing this kind of photograph begins well before the opportunity presents itself.  To really take advantage of it, you should identify potential locations where a great reflection could materialize under the right conditions...then watch the weather reports and plan your outing on one of those calm mornings.  One thing to remember is that reflections are usually one to two stops darker than the object being reflected whether it is the sky or an object...so be sure to carry and use a one or two stop graduated neutral density filter to help even out the exposure for both the sky and water reflection.

Include Something in the Foreground:  Too many times I will see a great landscape and shoot the scene from eye level...then when I really take a close look at the image I realize too late that it lacks depth.  To remedy this, I try to remember to get down low..close to the ground...and include something of importance in the foreground.  Using a small aperture (f/22) will increase the depth of field where the foreground and background remain relatively in focus at the same time.  Adding something to the foreground not only helps to create that illusion of depth, it add interest and dynamics to the image.

Raise or Lower the Horizon:  Take advantage of the situation and recognize that generally speaking most landscapes do not look good if the image is split down the middle evenly between sky and ground.  For an open expanse like a prairie region use a wide angle lens and add more landscape in your composition with just a sliver of sky to create that sense of distance.  For big sky shots, use a thin base of landscape to open up the sky with wide angle.

Use a Zoom Lens:  A zoom lens will create an effective illusion often used by artists to generate a three dimensional effect on a two dimensional plane;  Foreshortening.   A zoom lens is very effective at bringing distant objects closer and condensing the depth of field.  This condensing action is what adds a sense isolation and depth.

Use Light and Dark to Create Depth:  As in every image, light is the key ingredient.  Dark can be used to make Light look brighter...and Bright light can make darks look darker.  The contrasts between the two is what creates mystery and is an effective way to add depth and mood.

Use Leading Lines:  Leading Lines are great depth indicators and can be used to guide the viewer into the image.  Leading lines can come from just about anything including roads, fences, tree lines, crop rows, even the suns rays and shadows.  One thing to remember, leading lines should lead INTO to the image...and not out of it.

These are only a few of the more common ways to create an illusion of depth in you images.  Thinking within the context of depth and mystery and mood, is when you as a photographer start looking beyond the obvious, and start being able to see photographically.

Keith

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