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Nature and Landscape Photography

Lesson 26 of 27

Composition: Angle of View and Aspect Ratios

John Greengo

Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

26. Composition: Angle of View and Aspect Ratios

Lesson Info

Composition: Angle of View and Aspect Ratios

all right so why should you move the camera where there's lots of good reasons some subjects just have a better angle obviously working with light trying to get the focus right sometimes it's a better background these are all reasons why you might want to figure out a new place to shoot the subject I I wanted to shoot some of those tulips that I shoot a lot and I wanted to shoot them from an unusual angle and so what I did is I just hand held the camera and I lowered the camera into the bed of flowers so that I could be shooting straight up and this is once again with the fish islands trying to get that unusual point of view a lot of times you're gonna be choosing where you shoot your subject simply by the way the light looks on your subject in this particular case in australia I certainly did not want my shadows in the photograph and so I'm not going to be shooting it with son to my back shooting inside light works really well but it's also where it's hitting these rocks creating a re...

ally nice color on the rocks and so it's just kind of natural where I would stand in order to get that shot I like the backlighting of these ferns in the forest and so that's going to determine which direction I stand and which direction I point the camera at bryce national park they have a place called sunrise point and sunset point and I would encourage you not to go to those points during sunrise or sunset you might get some okay shots but actually sunrise point is see if I can fearing this I think it's like way over here somewhere to the middle of the right hand side and if you're over there at sunrise you were totally going to miss this whole point of view which has beautiful sidelight on it and you are not going to get anywhere as good a shot in my opinion from the sunrise point I've tried shooting it and I just haven't been able to work it out and this is another point it's called bryce point it's it's a bit of a drive around but it's well worth being out there in the morning if you do happen to go there so light was dictating where I wanted to be in the morning we talked in the macro section about how you want tohave the focal plane of your camera lined up with the plane of your subject and so I wanted to be shooting this leaf straight on so that it is all in focus is when being very careful about positioning my camera parallel to my subject I'm shooting it straight on if I want everything to be sharp and focused I'm not going to be shooting it at an angle I need to be shooting straight down and that sometimes tricky on tripods because you got the legs coming down and you have to shoot between the legs there are some tripods that are kind of neat because they have heads that come out and they stick out to the side which can make that work a little bit easier to get teo you do have to be careful about movement because the cameras extended a little bit farther from its centre of gravity but if you're photographing something straight on you want to be straight on with it so that you can get that focus evenly sharp across the entire frame you're going to be choosing locations of where you stand and where you point based on the background of your subject there sometimes where you could move all around in the composition of your subject doesn't matter but the background changes dramatically so in this example you can see the white in the background and that white in the background is attracting your eye and once again we talked about lights attract your attention and that's not the subject that's the background we don't want your eyes to go to the background so if we reposition ourselves move our tripod about four feet we can completely eliminate that brightness in the background and have it mohr dedicated just on our colors of our main subject so choosing what our background is justus important as choosing our subject we oftentimes don't have that choice it's kind of forced onto us because we're forced and locked into one position but if you do have the freedom to move around to change your position this is where you want to be using backgrounds to your advantage in this case what would cause a perfectly black background a sea stack on the ocean and so the shadows of that are very very dark and a great way to highlight that water that water is much much easier to see in front of a black background then it would be the bright sky if I was to shoot this away from where the sea stack wass all right another little example of photos collection of photos from the eureka dunes I mentioned working out here before so I'm gonna show you some more photos from this area's a great location this is in the what is it it's the north end of death valley and it requires a pretty good for wheel vehicle to get out there with and me and a buddy went out there in fact I think I think jared might be visible here is a small person in the lower right hand frame out there just to get a little bit of scale and how big these dunes are we got there at night kind of checked him out we kind of have flat lighting wasn't very good we camped and made very specific plans to hike out to a section that it looked like there was very few people going out to because there wasn't any parking lots of roads nearby is about a mile long hike to get out there and when we got out there we just kind of waited for sunrise because sunrise needed come over the mountains in the area and we wanted to get some sunlight and I didn't want to go trample over all the dunes because that's where I was going to be photographing them and so we kind of waited on the edge kind of waiting for the dunes to open you know there's nobody around but we didn't really want to go into him and so we kind of waited for the light to come around and then when the light okay crossed over the top now it's the time to get out there and start shooting and with the sun really low on the horizon we can really see these ridges in the sand and it becomes very very apparent depending on the shape of the sandhu and so as the sun went up higher in the sky I would be looking for steeper and steeper sand dunes because you could still get the's this mix of shadow and light on the steeper sand dunes as you went along but you had to be very careful about where you walked because everywhere you walked you were ruining a potential photograph and so you had to be very careful and I would walk up to a sand dune and I would think about it I want to go to that sand dune and photograph over here so I can't walk over here and I'm kind of mapping this out in my mind of where I'm going to walk and I'm gonna walk on the back side of this sandu and come around the other side so I can shoot the front side and so you're thinking a lot about where the light is coming from and in this case I was shooting the sunrise mostly inside lit situations so that I could see some texture and shadows on the dunes and the area that I was walking I walked out into this area here and one of the neat things that was going on is this hillside in the background you can see this dark shadow here and this becomes really really dark when you shoot closer up and so in the next shot was just a closer up version of this you can see how dark that background has gone just because it's in the shadows it's a natural area so I'm using that kind of as the upper border of my frame and so I'm very carefully planning my route route and I'm looking for nice clean collection of patterns here and these nice ripples were really beautiful this is one of my one of my favorite shots of it and that sidelight coming in is is just so nice now there's a lot of little tufts of grass that were growing in these dunes that I wasn't particularly fond of I suppose if I was a heavy photo shop user I would be busy for hours photoshopping out all the grasses but that's not really my style and so I'm just trying to look for the cleanest possible collection of dunes and this is my favorite picture of the group it's still got some of those tufts of grass is in there but that adds a sense of realism and for me what really makes the shot is kind of the main dune in the foreground that goes from bright and then you can see the texture and then it kind of goes into complete darkness there and has that that side lighting that really shows depth and texture and I thought that you know best told the story of that clean environment of the dunes another great place of course is yellowstone I've showed you lots of pictures of yellowstone grand prismatic spring is the I think it's the third world's third largest spring of its nature and it's not just some wonderful colors and generally the best photographs of this are going to come from an airplane but I didn't have an airplane and I was hiring one it wasn't in the a budget for this particular campaign road trip and most people of course and you should too if you go there is walk on the boardwalk and get up right nice and close to it it's kind of fun to see up close but it's a really hard photograph to get of anything because you you need to get up higher to be able to actually see end to see the colors but from the boardwalk here you can see the hills in the background and from the hills in the background you can climb up this dusty hill with no trails on it and you can get up above the trees and photograph the spring itself and on the hillside are lots of dead trees which have some very very artistic and interesting branches and they make as an excellent foreground on so this is one of my favorite little pieces and this was shot I believe with a three hundred millimeter lands and one of my favorite shots is just this one tree that's just got some barely their twigs from it but just those simple little lines with that very bold color works very well in photographs I believe I've showed a few pictures from baobab alley this is in madagascar these air the trees that they look like they're from the far side cartoon or they're upside down trees they're very very unusual in there style believe there's only about six species of these and most of them are endemic to madagascar and so I talked about using the sidelight scouting a location and then coming back when it's better light in the evening and so I was scouting earlier in the day figuring out when the light gets good what are the hot spots that I want to go to to be for that best composition this is why they call it baobab alley because you could drive the cars straight down the middle that's where the main highway goes give yourself lots of time you'll be able to play around with many different compositions stick around till after sunset get that grate color in the sky so you can get those great silhouettes we were about to head out and I wanted to get one more shot and I have one shot to get this so I set up a thirty second shot of a baobab tree and during the shot a car drove down baobab alley and with their headlights on and I thought they ruin the shot until I realized that they had illuminated the trees in a way that I had not expected and it ends up that the headlights of the car really make this shot and add a whole another element to it and I would like to thank the driver of that car if they're listening right now they went through it just the right time to make that shot just a little bit more special in my opinion so the next thing that you need be concerned about once you've chosen the best position for shooting your picture is choosing the right angle of view and one of the things that you really need to think about in this type of photography maybe more so than in many other types of photography is horizontal versus vertical how are you going to be using your images and what do you want I find it kind of interesting when I go to print a document on my computer I have the choice of choosing either a landscape or a portrait shot and I'm always confused as to what if I'm shooting a landscape that's in a portrait style is that ok am I allowed to do that because a lot of my landscapes are in the portrait mode vertical so let's kind of think about how we were working in the field so we have our wide angle lens lets take a twenty for twenty four millimeter lands and that sees seventy four degrees from side to side fifty three degrees on the short side when we shoot vertical we get much more reach from what's in front of us to what's in back of us and so if we are trying to connect two different subjects something in front of us and something in back of us we're going to be able to do that much more easily with the vertical four men and so there's a lot of reasons for going vertical of course the first main one is actually vertical subjects and there's a lot of trees and tall pinnacles and things that just look good with a vertical and a lot of people kind of forget because the manufacturers make their cameras to be shot horizontal and I wish the manufacturers would doom or things to make the camera vertical friendly my my idea which you're welcome to use is I wanted a lever on my camera that flipped the sensor in the camera so that I didn't have to turn the camera and I could just shoot vertical or horizontal with the flip of a switch and I don't know why it can't be done I mean there's some complications and moving the sensor in there but it could be done and we could have all the other readouts and displays work just is normal I like the fuji camera the fuji x t one and I think they're new x one hundred he when you go vertical in the camera the displays change so that you can read shutter speeds and apertures and you don't have to look off to the side and so shooting vertical for vertical subjects trees and waterfalls lots of good reasons but the main reason that I like it is I'm able to make a connection between something in the foreground and something in the background and this is a very common theme in a common technique in landscape photography so it's something that I do quite frequently shooting vertical shots and so think about shooting vertical shots more frequently something else to consider is aspect ratio lt's so you should be familiar with what camera you have and what sort of aspect ratio you are shooting with and what is your final product and what does that mean combined together now most all the cameras that how are full frame and the ones that are cropped framed by one point five or one point six crop haven't aspect ratio of three to two which means it's three units on the long side and two units on the short side the olympus and the panasonic's the micro four thirds is a four to three ratio which means it's a little bit box here it's not as long and narrow and so what works well in the horizontal format in my opinion three by two works is a pretty nice horizontal image I am a fan of a little bit wider more panoramic style and I do like the format of where hd tv's are sixteen by nine and this is this has been a compromise the sixteen my name if you're kind of wondering where sixteen by nine came from in the video world there's there's a very interesting video on youtube and basically it's a compromise from the extremely wide frames that they use in movies and the more squarish frames that we used on tvs that way if you chose sixteen by nine traditional tv would be cropped a little bit on the tops and bottoms and movies would be cropped a little bit on the side so it's just kind of a compromise out there but I kind of liked that slightly wider look in the image as we go mohr and more panoramic a two to one ratio I think is a great place to be for for a decent panoramic rarely do I want to go much longer than that three to one would be pretty extreme panoramic and you can accomplish this either by shooting an image and cropping it in which case you're throwing away a lot of pixels you do have to be careful about doing that or you mean shooting multiple pictures in a panorama stitch stitching them together and so another way to compare these there isn't exactly a standardisation because you could use the using whole numbers used the largest number first or either you can use one as thie first number indicating the short edge and the second number indicating the long edge and so there's some different formats his wife included all of them here because a lot of times when they talk about what aspect was this movie shot in you'll see something like one colon two point six six and so it's one on the short side and two point six units on the topside and you have to be thinking about are you printing your images what size is the paper are you posting these online where format doesn't really matter so much and so some some images work much better as white panoramic ce some don't and so one of the things you have to be considering in this is how much you gonna crop off or how much extra space do you need to leave around the frame and I know there are some times when I'm shooting I really don't like the format that I'm shooting in three by two aspect ratio and I know I'm going to crop it later but it's still frustrates me their stuff poking in on the edge that's eventually going to get cropped out now if you are going to be shooting these wider panoramic it's much better to shoot multiple frames so for this three by one aspect ratio you could shoot three horizontal frames and you could end up with the photograph that has probably two to two and a half times as megapixels as many mega pixels as your camera inherently hasn't it but if you really want maximum resolution you should shoot verticals because you'll be able to shoot more pictures and dedicate more pixels in there in this case you're probably increasing the number of pixels four to five times what you would normally have and so when you are getting those wide panoramic ce the verticals give you the most resolution but if you don't need it I will sometimes shoot horizontal panoramic just cause I know that I'm never going to need a gigantic file that it would produce now shooting verticals you can be a little bit tricky because the normal aspect ratio that I'm used to working within a camera is three by two and that's what's in most of the cameras out there and the the consensus along among a lot of well maybe more traditional landscape photographers is that in the vertical format three by two is too tall and skinny it's just it's too tight together and so this is why there's other popular formats that would be five by seven or seven by five this is where the fourth third system works quite well and the four by five cameras with a five by four cameras we're very popular they shot a muchmore boxy shape to it and it's a little bit easier to work with on the verticals it's very hard to shoot with the really tall and skinny ones so you do have to be very careful when you're lining this up because if you are planning your cropping your image there's some impact if you shoot too tight and so I have an example here where I have adjusted the image for the different aspect ratios and in this I haven't distorted the image and there is an option in photo shop where you can stretch the image and you absolutely do not want to do that you don't want to stretch an image to fill a space you can crop it that way everything stays in proportion while you were there now if I had shot this in my camera that shoots three by two aspect ratio and I decided I'm going to get close I'm going to fill the frame and I'm gonna shoot his titus possible the problem with doing that is that it's very hard to crop it into a less skinny and more boxing format and as you can see as we go off to the right hand side I'm having to crop into the rock in the foreground which I really compositionally don't want to do and so I guess the key to remember is that if you are shooting verticals that's a good time to shoot a little loose especially if you're going to shoot a second shot you can shoot a first shot maybe a little tighter but shooting a second shot a little loose in this case I have more blue sky that I really need in this photograph but I knew that I would be cropping this into some other formats or I might want to leave for text for something on the top and so shooting those vertical shooting multiple shots different tightness and looseness and so it's one of those nice areas to have a zoom lands or to be back just a little bit on not too tight on and in case somebody is wondering in the chat rooms have I ever checked to see what percent of my images are horizontal versus vertical and I did check I don't have a graph for it because it's not exciting but it's about sixty percent horizontal and about forty percent vertical and I think that's probably a fairly high percentage of verticals for the way most people shoot if you think about when you look at all your photographs how often are you turning that camera vertically and so cameras are built horizontal but that doesn't mean that's what you're supposed to shoot him all the time all right there are very few formulas that work in nature photography very seldom can I say do this this and this and things will line up and usually turn out right but this is one of those few formulas that landscape photographers have been using for a very long time and it's a very very simple concept and I've talked about it before but I will just illustrate it very clearly for you here and that is is that when you find wanna photograph those subjects in the foreground like those flowers and the mountains in the background you don't just set up your camera and go this is good enough you've got to get right down in there you got to get your knees in the dirt you're going to have to get down sit on your butt on get your pants dirty get those tripod legs nice and short spread them out so that you could get your camera right down to the ground and adjust your composition so that you can see both the flowers and the mountains in the background at the same time or maybe it's rocks or driftwood or something else and so I've been shooting a number of siri's of pictures and this is a siri's and I'm going to start with a wide angle lands and I'm trained id is this is a hard one because I'm moving the camera can't keep it in exactly the position I want but what do you look at when you look at this photograph what is your eye drawn to and let's adjust it to a twenty millimeter twenty four twenty eight and a thirty five millimeter lands and I know for me when I have the thirty five millimeter lands my eye is drawn to the lighthouse in the background but when I come back down to the seventeen millimeter lands well that lighthouse is really small and hard to see in my eyes more drawn to the wood in the foreground and so if you have something good in the foreground this is where you can use that ultra wide lens to help emphasize what is in the foreground another example this time we're going to start at thirty five and we'll zoom down to sixteen how much of the foreground do we see and how important is it twenty eight twenty four twenty sixteen look how much of that foreground takes up that seen something in the foreground has a lot of impact there where's our thirty five millimetre frame it almost looks like a telephoto lens compared to that ultra wide lands so if you do get that ultra wide lands you have to be very aware of putting something interesting in foreground if you just have blank dirt it's not very interesting and so you've got to find elements in the foreground that match up with the surroundings and the background and so once I'm out the field I'm deciding okay what's my background and I'm thinking that's the mountain over there or this hillside or something else now let me find something in the foreground that looks kind of interesting I'm not just going to pick the first item I see I'm going to try to find the best item that I confined in that environment and so this is a technique that he's used over and over again we saw this in the tilt chef lenses we saw this in the wide angle lenses I feel like I'm repeating myself over and over and over again and I'm sorry if you said he already mentioned that but it's really important down in death valley didn't get a chance to talk very much about the race track out there it's a little bit challenging oven area to get to just cause it's very rough road to get out there but these rocks tumbled down from the hillsides or at least this is the theory that we have is that they tumbled down from the hillside you can see in the background and then either it rains or freezes and then a strong wind will push the rocks over the mudflats creating this street behind it and it's a very unusual surreal place and it's a great place to go out for photography but it's a perfect element to have in the foreground with something hopefully happening in the background is just a very very easy standard technique for having a little bit more of interest in the photograph than just that distant hillside in the background and so mount rainier mt rainier mt rainier its close by I get a lot of trips down there these were actually all taken on pretty much the same trip down there it's a simple easy formula that works for a lot of different compositions all right working the composition in mesquite flats this is in death valley it's another sand dune area this one is much much closer to the campsites and there is many more people there remember pulling into the parking lot here and there was a lot of people with a lot of cameras and I was getting a little concerned because when you have a horde of photographers going into a desert there's going to be some issues on and so I said to my friend walk fast let's get out there first because this may not last very long and I wasn't quite as big a fan I wasn't finding the right light I wasn't finding the right angles that really made me happy in this particular section and there was one particularly frustrating situation where I think it might have been this shot I had set up with my camera and I had my two second self timer and I looked at the same okay this looks pretty good I hit the two second self timer and for some reason I was just looking away and then I went to go look at the picture on the back and I'm like where did he come from and basically there was some guy on the other side of the sand dune who was standing behind the san diego and right when I took the picture up he was like popping up looking out and thinking back down can it see him again plan walkable trying to get rid of the other photographers who I'm sure was just upset with me being out there and I was walking around all these ridges trying to not trample on the right side of the ridge is for people wanted to photograph and eventually I just got so frustrated I said I'm not going to be able to get the same type of shot that I got in the other type of the dunes and so what I did is I went down into the valleys between the dunes where there is little areas of mud that have been dried up and there was some interesting patterns and I was noticing that I was just kind of fun to play with some elements in there so I'm getting down really close with wide angle lands and I kind of played through this one I couldn't really make it work so I'd climb over another dune and find some more because there's a lot of them you don't just stop at the first one you've got to keep looking and find one that you really like and this one had some really clean lines in it that I liked I tried shooting some shots straight down got some kind of interesting things using that wide angle lens getting down really close to the ground and then it was just really a matter of fine tuning exactly the movement of the camera not only moved the camera about a foot or so to get this shot which was my favorite shot actually in death valley I think for that whole trip and I didn't have a big mountain in the background but I had just enough of a little wisp of a of a dune in the background that adds a nice little curve with a little bit of color back there that helps have a second element that draws your eye up to some little payoff from those lines in the foreground leading up there so that's what the wide lands now with the telephoto lens weaken do compression where we are compressing objects together that are actually very far part and so while I was in yosemite I was wanted to shoot a siri's shooting from the widest angle to the most telephoto I had which was seventeen to four hundred millimeters and so all these air of the exact same subject and I've had to move my camera dramatically in order to get the cameras in the same position and I'm trying to keep those railings in the front in exactly the same position and there we can see my buddy out there on the bridge photographing and you can see how it compresses him against those stairs it makes it look like he's very close to the stairs but if we go back to a fifty millimeter lands that is very much what it looks like to our own eyes and if I want to exaggerate the distance I can go back down to seventeen so with that wide angle you're really embracing what's right in the foreground and you're using those tele photos to compress subjects that might be kind of far apart all together and that was the technique I was using back in the sand dunes that I was talking about earlier these air dunes that are very far apart this is what you can shoot with ridge lines that are tens of miles apart with a telephoto lands I was using this in goblin valley trying to kind of scrunch up three different layers of rock formation using it in the forest if you have an open area to shoot these trees are over a large expansive area but I'm compressing it into a very tight region one of my favorite shots up at mount rainier is just looking over the hillsides and in the morning you get these beautiful blue casts and so this is that open shade that they are in

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Beautiful landscapes are all around us – they are a joy to experience, but a challenge to capture in a single photo. In Nature and Landscape Photography, you’ll learn the essential tools and techniques for taking photographs that reflect the splendor of landscapes and the captivating details of nature.

In this class, award-winning photographer John Greengo will use illustrations, animations, and photographs of destinations from around the world to teach you the thought process behind great nature photography. You’ll learn which gear is suited to the environment you want to shoot and how to plan for ideal light and composition. John will help you master exposure and focus so you get a better shot in camera and improve your edits by taking you through hands-on photo critiques.

From complicated cameras to challenging environments, several obstacles stand in the way of you taking a photograph that reflects the landscape as you see it. This class will help you take nature and landscape photographs that reflect your unique perspective.

This course is part of the landscape tutorials series. 

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Composition Keynote

Equipment Keynote

Exposure Keynote

Focus Keynote

Light Keynote

Subject Keynote

Timing Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Thomas Hamlin

Most of nature's beauty has been photographed by lots of people over the years. However, nothing compares to actually visiting famous places, buildings, mountains, etc. and taking your own photographs. John Greengo provides the necessary equipment information, photographic principles, and techniques in a manner which inspires you to put in the extra effort to take the best nature photographs that you can with the gear that you have. His unique illustrations, actual real life photographs, and easily understood explanations are top notch. I highly recommend this outstanding course. I have several of John Greengo's photography courses, and I highly recommend them all. His vast experience with film and digital photography, gained through traveling and working with some well known photographers, gives his courses a unique perspective.

a Creativelive Student

I love this course, John. It is one of my all time favorites. First of all I loved your effort scale. I knew as soon as you went through the scale that you are a guy that I want to listen to. To me, the effort part IS the fun part of photography. When you asked the question about one wish ... the first thing that came to my mind was that I wish I had more time for photography. I like the technology, but I do not wish for any special powers. To me, that would take the challenge away. Photography is wonderful because every subject challenges the photographer to get the angle right, the light right, the settings right ... I love that challenge. I think you do too, John, and that is why this course is so special. The attention you pay to every detail comes from the drive you have to meet the challenges with every thing you've got. That is why your class is so special. Your work ethic is exceptional. SandraNightski

a Creativelive Student

While delving more thoroughly into Nature and Landscape photography in a smaller format, John Greengo provides us with an amazing companion to his outstanding courses Fundamentals Of Digital Photography and Travel Photography. Here he gives us another necessary treatise to study before packing our gear and heading out in a car, a plane, a boat (or just for a long hike), and it’s as entertaining as the others. Thank you again John Greengo and Creative Live for these expert and brilliantly illustrated programs. I just hope you keep finding more subjects to photograph and provide the instructions for.