Skip to main content

photo & video

Nature and Landscape Photography

Lesson 19 of 27

Elements of Design

John Greengo

Nature and Landscape Photography

John Greengo

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

19. Elements of Design

Lesson Info

Elements of Design

well so far we've been talking about subjects different mountains and lakes and everything else that you can photograph and so I'm gonna jump into kind of a different way of approaching some of the same things and that is through the elements of design and these air just good graphical things that work in photographs as well as a lot of different types of our artwork and the first of these elements is lying all right and so one of the things that were drawn to our lines these air kind of handrails for the eyes you might say and so any time we have nice clean lines that's often going to be the good element of a photograph and so look for these when you're out in the world this is from yellowstone in the winter in yellowstone in the summertime and there are lots of places where there are a great natural nice clean lines and so I'm very much trying to have a very clean look to my photograph with you know just the elements that I want in there there are different types of lines that you co...

uld have and they have slightly different impact the diagonal line has often a little bit more impact than the horizontal line which could be a little bit more static nature we kind of expect things to be either exactly vertical or exactly horizontal like the horizon and when lines were at an angle they're just a little bit more dynamic there's a little bit more action you might say these lines as I had mentioned in previous section and I will mention again when we get to the composition section our eyes in this case leading us into the frame into the mountain and just you know as a side note I'll jump off topic every once in a while I'm using the split neutral density filter here to balance the light of the bright sun on the mountain versus the shaded areas that these two logs are actually it's just I think it's just one log and two branches coming directly at you so diagonal line I think I have another shot in here of it just a vertical shooting straight through the middle and it seems very stable and balance and this is a little bit more dynamic having it run from corner to corner and then having the curved line one of the favorite features that we confined and they're not easy to find is that s curves in the river in front of this one albeit a man made river but that s curve is really nice tohave in the desert the line of the sands here and if I ever have a siri's on numbers this's the number two I have a lot of numbers to go through to finish up the number sequence here but this is a nice number two nice little curve in the line here and so leading line lines lead you to a direction and so your eyes tend to want to follow these handrails for the eyes as I've mentioned to your subject and so in this case using the boardwalk at yellowstone to lead your eyes into the found in here now this is kind of one of those places where everyone thought I was nuts because why you standing way back there really low to the ground if you want to see old faithful you've got to get up nice and close in front of everybody and sometimes standing behind people you could get interesting shots to add that human element so using those lines in the rocks to lead your eye up to the tree kind of an unusual case of leading a big blank area right in the middle but those eyes drying you straight back into the depths of the horizon down at mount hood using the trees and the branches those white elements attract your attention and bring your eyes up to the mountain at the top of the frame next element is shape and our eyes and the way we see the world we can very quickly look at shapes and kind of understand what they are this is out at second beach and to me this just looks like a thumbs up side so I think that shape really stands out and is very distinctive especially against the colors of the setting sun this is a sand dune down in oregon and for me this just looks like a hip looks like someone's hip lane on their side having those shadows that sidelight really accentuates the shape and texture of it shooting from an airplane in australia showing the nice shape of this waterway showing lines of a tree so shape is a great element tohave when you add shape on top of shape on top of shape you get a pattern and any time you can have a nice clean pattern I consider that to be the photographers best friend I mean any time there is a pattern around I'm looking at trying to get a nice clean simple shot of just that pattern there and there's lots of great places that you're going to find patterns one of my favorite places to go is goblin valley state park down in utah it's this very unusual surreal environment when I looked at this wall of weathered rock and dirt it just it looked like goblins and I could see faces in the wall there so it's a very fun place to go because there's a lot of different these usual pattern areas there famous spot if you want to go meet a lot of photographers in the morning you go to zabriskie point in death valley very famous place I actually found it hard to find anything I liked but there is some great colors and great hills very nice place to go one of these classic locations of the landscape shooter when you have a pattern it's kind of nice to every once in a while break that pattern and for me it seems like flowers or the things that are constantly breaking up that pattern and so you have a pattern of rocks and that flood those flowers or that one element that kind of don't nixon there it's the one element that's a little bit different but the skagit tulip festival every once in a while you get thes one oddball flowers on it these air always kind of fun to photograph because it's that one odd one that's in there that's growing out and seems to happen quite frequently and so using the long telephoto lens the shallow depth of field to really highlight that one that stands out next element that you should look out for is texture and this is essentially a pattern but for me it often conjures up further feelings of texture what does this feel like is it hot is it cold what does it feel like to the touch and this could happen on many different scales from large scale down to macro levels that moss very different texture than the water actually one of my favorite photos from yellowstone in the winter is this shot here and you know it's a man made shoveling of snow cleaned up with a nice fresh layer of fresh snow and this is one of the things I'll talk about when I talk about shooting in snow is getting out early in the morning and getting out right after the snowfall I know here in seattle we get maybe one good snow per year and if you want to go out with photograph and you got to get up first thing in the morning before everyone starts going to work and start trampling over at all because the first thing in the morning it just transforms the landscape that we'll do that pretty much anywhere you go another concept to embrace is space and simplicity and this is one of the things that I really like in a photograph I feel like we live in a very cluttered world and every once in a while it's nice to have a big open expanse of just color and nothingness in some ways and so you could say that this doesn't have a strong subject in it it's just a horizon line but it's got a lot of nice color and seeing that nice open space gives you a feeling that this is a nice big open environment and so having lots of space around a subject or having a subject that's very small in frame is perfectly ok to do from time to time I don't know that I want all my photographs to look like this but having that extra space is really nice if you were into commercial photography you would be talking about leaving space for text and titles in here and I'm doing it for just artistic reason but there are lots of other financial reasons why people leave lots of extra space in their photographs and so in general I like to get the tight shot first but then I'll often try toe loosen up and get a second shot just to give me a different look and a feel to the photograph leaving a big blank open sky that I usually would normally say you shouldn't be doing that and so this is one of those rules that's really just a suggestion that you can feel feel free to break using the rule of thirds placing this little spit of land in the lower left hand corner with just enough exposure to maintain some texture in those clouds down in antarctica there is a hillside that had just this very blue slope on it and these clouds were coming around the back side of it it just it looked really unusual very graphic and very very simple doesn't tell a big story but it makes a nice little simple statement as you have seen throughout the talk there are a number of cases where I have turned my images from color to black and white and of course landscape photography has a long history with black and white images that simplifies and really shows the graphic nature of particular places that you're at and black and white is a great way of showcasing that in some cases you just don't have a lot of great colors and turning them black and white really changes the feel for him in some ways it adds a little bit more mystery to the photograph because I mentioned before I mentioned in the past several times leaving something out of a photograph can often add mystery and so leaving out that color leaves you wondering a little bit about what colors air there because you're seeing the world in a way that you don't normally look at it with your own eyes which enables you to see the ones to see it in kind of a new manner and I can't show black and white photographs without showing mudflats you gotta have mudflats anytime you show black and white photos and looking for that texture so you're looking for really contrast areas this is one of the few times that you can shoot with the sun because contrast in middle of the day shooting actually can work with black and white photography quite well so let me give you a few of my tips on black and white I'm by no means a master of it but I do I enjoy doing it and this is where that contrast he seen actually helps out normally we're trying to avoid the contrast he scenes because they don't work row well in color but they can work much better in black and white dramatic or strong light is a good element to have here that could be very tough to work with in color photography but in black and white it's good mohr often of the time as I said before a good way to shoot this is to set your camera to black and white and shooting brought the same time this will enable you to see on the back of the camera or if you have an electronic viewfinder right in the viewfinder as you're composing the shot what it looks like in black and white and having that is a positive feedback loop you get to see exactly the way it's coming or see the way it's going to turn out and that's going to possibly change and improve the way you compose your shot and set it up and so I really liked that feature about the new camera's been able to see in black and white because before that we're always kind of guessing I hope this looks good in black and white and you will need to make some adjustments in post processing so whatever program you use photoshopped light room you're going to need to go in and adjust the contrast levels you're going to need to be able to go in to the color channels and you'll be able to grab the blue channel and you can make it darker or you could make it brighter and this is what we this is the new version of adding color filters if you shot black and white in the past you probably have a whole collection of yellow and orange and red filters that you would add to add different contrast level and the beauty in digital now is that you don't need all those filters you could just shoot it straight in the field and then add and subtract of those types of filters later on and you could have multiple versions of the same image which is excellent way of controlling it so that's black and white now of course what are eyes drawn to what do we look at us humans we look at a number of different things we'll talk about mohr this in the composition section but of course we're attracted to color so any time we have bold and vibrant colors that is a good element to look for and so a lot of times when I'm looking around for things to photograph my eye is looking at whatever is the most saturated colorful object out there and so keeping the camera really low in this case I've kept it very simple red green and blue and all of them are very saturated clean colors in this case fall time is a great time to be shooting were going to talking about wind to be shooting photos and what type of photos to look for so of course fall time with the trees changing colors is an excellent time to go out this is a japanese maple here in the arboretum in seattle now there is one color that does hold special significance and it's not that it's my favorite color might be but it's red and humans really have a special affinity to read it stands out in a very very special way and so those red elements really seemed toe pop out it's something that I think is bred into us from blood to blood red skies and I've used this in the past and so when I went to iceland we very specifically bought red pan years for our bikes that they would photograph better on camera when I was climbing on mount rainier I had a red coat that would stand out in contrast to the blue skies and the white snow mountain biking and have red jerseys and so they could stand out you can really see them when we bought our canoe for a couple of canoe trips we bought a red canoe and it had to be a red canoe we looked at some other canoes but we knew that a red canoe would stand out with the blue waters very very easily it just photographs so much better and I've heard a number of stories about landscape photographers I think that maybe this is more in the seventies when the color film really hit the mainstream about nature photographers taking red canoes and hauling them up to mountain lakes so they could get a shot of someone on a red canoe out in a mountain lake and it discuss it pops so easily I find it quite funny at lake louise in bam alberta they have a red canoe out there and it's just for being photographed it's tied down out of the middle of the water just so that you can photograph it uh so I couldn't resist throwing one of those in here another type of color that I really like we saw a photograph earlier I talked about the graduated color I love color that kind of changes from one color to the next in a natural way and you're going to get this a lot at sunrises and sunsets whether it's changing from one color to the next or kind of changing in density and darkness it adds another layer of interest and shading to the photograph and so loved this picture down in australia with the different shapes in the water but that color going from a dark blue and purple teo ah yellowish orange love that changing of the colors it's almost adding a little bit to the dynamics of the photograph the opposite of that of course is very good and that is monotone color finding subjects that are all very similar in tone ality and color some grass is just in a local park here in seattle just had a very vibrant green and orange to them really had a nice little palate that I like but our skeleton scheduled to a festival the saturated colors up there or just the leaves of fall simple little shapes with a very monotone color to him

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

Related Classes


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.