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on Jul 12, 2011 in Landscape Photography

Get Your Rocks Off!

You have any idea how many disappointed viewers are coming to this site today because of that title? heheee. In landscape photography, rocks or boulders are often an essential element in our photographs. Now there are ugly rocks, purty rock, round rocks and boring rocks and each one can make a great photo. How do you do that though? There are actually a number of things you can do make the photograph better. Let’s start out with of course light.

In these top to images, you see rocks in real soft light. Everything looks great is soft light. Can you see the difference in the two images though when it comes to the shape of the rock? The top image, the rock looks round because of the overall shape of the rock captured by the fisheye lens. The next image, shadows give the rocks shape. Shape gives the rock character and character makes the viewer look at your rocks (does that ever sound bad). But that’s the game, getting the viewer to look at your….(you were thinking I was going to say rocks there, huh) your image.

Now we change the quality of our light and the shape of our rocks change as well. Here, with light just a couple of hours old, the edge of the shadow is very hard. Now we’re more dependent on the actual shape of the rock to communicate its shape rather then using the suggestive quality of soft shadows or lens selection. And that’s OK, we can make those work for us as well. Do you see how?

Putting the “subject” rock against a background and then using the hard edge of the shadow helps to make the shape and rock stand out. Now in all of these examples, the rock is the subject and the landscape is just the stage filling in the blanks telling the story of where the rock lives. The next problems many have photographing rocks is thinking they are dead and while technically that’s the case, that’s not how we should think about them in our photograph. It’s up to us to give them life and when we do that, we give life to our entire photograph.