Composition - The Rule of Thirds
One of the most used compositional rules in photography and one that I use quite a lot is the ‘Rule of Thirds‘
It is probably one of the most important compositional rules that a photographer can learn, by following this rule, your images will be well balanced and have impact. However it is not the only rule and can be broken should the image require it, but to break it you have to understand it.
Imagine that the view finder or LCD screen of your camera is split into thirds both horizontally and vertically, creating a grid of nine squares. With the grid in your mind’s eye, now focus on the points where the lines cross, there will be four in total, upper left, upper right, bottom left and bottom right.
When framing your landscape try and place a point of interest from within the landscape on one of the intersections and the horizon line along either the upper or bottom gridline.
In the example above, the tree has been deliberately placed on the upper right intersection with the horizon line falling along the upper horizontal gridline. This has left space to the left of the tree to guide the viewers eye into the picture. Purely by chance the clump of grass has fallen nicely on the bottom right intersection.
Composition - The 80/20 Rule
Another compositional rule of thumb used by many landscape photographers, is the 80/20 rule. This equates to composing the shot with either 80% land and 20% Sky in the image or 80% Sky and 20% land.
There are many times when you will come across a great sky over a rather plain or uninteresting landscape. This is when the 80/20 rule can be used to good effect. To make the most of the great sky we’re going to give it 80% of the upper image area, whilst the rather uninteresting landscape will occupy the lower 20% of the frame.
This rule can be reversed when we have an interesting landscape but a rather bland sky. The landscape will occupy 80% of the image area with the sky only occupying the upper 20% of the frame.
Using ND Grad Filters
Neutral Density Graduated Filters, or more commonly referred to as 'ND Grads'
are probably the most commonly used filters by the landscape photographer and are a must have. Available in ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ edged transition versions they’re sole purpose is to reduce the brightness difference between the sky and the land without changing the colour temperature.
The filters are available in different strengths, in singles or in sets, a set usually consisting of a 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop, often referred to as 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9ND depending on which filter system you use.
As a rule of thumb, use soft edged ND Grads on landscapes with broken horizons i.e. mountains or trees that break the horizon line. If the horizon line is straight then a hard edged ND Grad is more appropriate.
To determine which strength filter you will require, take a meter reading of the light falling onto the land, filling the whole frame excluding any sky and make a mental note. Repeat this process for the sky. The difference between the two readings will give you the strength of ND Grad filter required.
To use ND Grads effectively, they need to be positioned carefully. The transition from dark to clear must fall on the horizon line. This is sometimes difficult to see through the view finder, so if your camera has a 'Depth of Field'
preview button, use it to stop the lens down and position the filter whilst doing so.
More tips and techniques to follow!