It is only a month away from my 2019 West Virginia Photography Workshop, details HERE, and I managed to get away for a short one-day trip up to Canaan Valley for a meeting and the chance to scout a few locations. Spring rains often bring heavy flows to the waterfalls but not on this morning which is not the end of the world and actually allowed me to work on some different compositions. When you have photographed a place extensively it can be easy to get lazy with the compositions instead of stopping to really look at the possibilities - specifically new possibilities.
These three shots are new for me and represent not only different compositions but also an exploration in the forms and rendering of light. I worked to frame the waterfall against the layers of rock and use elements within the compositions to invite the viewer into the image and lead the eye to the main subject. I think it is important in a landscape shot, especially a more intimate scene such as these, to give the viewer clues on where to enter into the shot and how to explore what it has to offer. The forms within the image are an important part of this but so is the rendering of the lights and darks. Light and dark, or shadows if you want to think about it that way, creates a sense of depth and helps focus the eye on the subject. The eye will always move to the area of highest contrast first. The darks, and even the mid-tone values, help support the lights and together they inform the composition, the forms and shapes, the lines, the sense of depth, and even the notion of drama.
I enjoy these kinds of interplay’s - like notes in a symphony - that work together and contribute to the overall composition. It can be a fun cerebral game to tease out the lines and shapes and think about how to put them together. But that is only a starting point as you must include light as one of the key elements in the score. Additionally, you should think about how you plan to render the final composition in the digital darkroom. What I am alluding too is a process of deliberation, of actually slowing down to consider what is framed in your viewfinder. Think about what you are trying to say about the scene and how you can pull it all together to tell the story - and do not forget that there are multiple stories in that scene. Shoot, recompose, and shoot again. Create digital “sketches”, and study them as you hone in on the scene. Keep asking yourself questions of “what if”. What if I change positions, change focal length, change exposure time, change focus point, change color to black and white.
Foster a plan on your next outing to ask “what if”. Pick a location that interests you and make a series of digital sketches and see just how many compositions you can create. And as you are shooting think about the light that is falling on the scene. Is it soft or contrasty, what direction is it coming from, what elements, shapes or forms does it illuminate in the scene? If you do just these simple things you will begin to see the possibilities that exist and you will begin to create a more discerning eye in creating stronger images.
Thanks for stopping by today! RHC
IMAGE NOTES: All shots made with a FujiFilm GFX 50S and a Fujinon GF23mm f4 R WR lens. The images were shot in the early morning, before the sun had risen high enough to create too much contrast. All images were exposed at f11 for anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds. To achieve the longer exposures I used a NISI V5 Pro Enhanced CPL and a NISI 3-Stop Solid ND Filter.
RAW files were given minor exposure and contrast enhancements in Lightroom and were moved to Photoshop, as TIFF files, for final work. Black and White conversion, Global Contrast, and sculpting of light and dark were achieved using Joel Tjintjelaar’s B&W Artisan Pro X Panel.