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Layer your composition to create more interesting landscape pictures


  • ©Sean Cayton / All Rights Reserved
It’s not every day that the Garden of the Gods Park is covered in snow. Last week, I dropped my kids off at school and took a walk through the park. A snow the night before covered the red rocks and pine trees creating a lovely texture to the park. It helped that the park was nearly empty of visitors, too — another thing that doesn’t happen every day.

I used a single lens, a 24mm Sigma Art Lens, and photographed the Garden with a nearly wide-open aperture. Photographing landscapes is not usually done using a wide open aperture. But I was trying this lens out and wanted to see how it handled.

Usually when a lens has a wide-open aperture there is quite a bit of vignetting — a darkening around the edges of the frame. In this case, though, the lens performed wonderfully.

When you’re photographing landscapes like this it's important to layer your composition to lead the viewer into the frame. With a wide-open aperture you also must decide on a point of focus. If  you’re practicing layering that means some parts of the image will be out of focus.

I love this using this technique when photographing landscapes.

A straight-on shot from a long distance is not nearly as exciting visually. It also places more demand on the photographer to look carefully at the landscape in order to create a pleasing composition. Forcing your eye to consider every detail, from foreground to background, makes you better.

Next time you’re out and about, take a camera and wide lens and see if you can create layered compositions of a landscape that excite you visually. Especially on a snowy day, when you can use the snow to provide contrast and texture to the scene. 
Happy shooting!

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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