Finding the Small Landscape

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A camera, tripod and a wide-angle lens are the staple tools of a landscape photographer. This is landscape photography 101. Hidden in those photos of epic mountain ranges, valleys, and canyons lie more than meets the eye. It is what I call, for lack of a better term – the small landscape. A more common term mentioned is the Intimate Landscape. A term that I have never been that fond of using since it implies an emotional connection between the subject and the photographer. That often is not the case. It’s the landscape within the landscape. Either term describes a sperate composition within your photo that can be found anywhere from the base of your shoes or distant enough to require a long telephoto lens.

Finding a small landscape requires you to slow down and observe all the finer details. These tight compositions require more time to realize but once discovered can be easier to photograph. The absence of extreme dynamic range from bright skies and dark backgrounds is not present. Utility Poles/wires and crowds of people should not be a problem either. The chaos associated with some wide-angle images is minimized when viewing a small area. Your subject matter can be limited and compositions a little tougher. With that in mind, there are a few helpful tips to make it a little easier and more accessible.

Seek out abstracts such as water reflections

Take lots of photos – work the scene. Move your tripod around.

Look for natural patterns, shapes, lines, and texture. These are the building blocks of composition.

Sometimes color alone can be the subject of a photo. The opposite is also true. Removing color can remove distractions.

Play with Scale. Small Landscapes often lack a reference point. You can use that to your advantage.

Get Close, either with a long lens or your feet. Stay in the shade to keep your light consistent.

Use a tripod. Sharp photos are important to a successful small landscape image.

Small (or intimate) Landscape images can be powerful, visually interesting and make great prints. They don’t require long expensive trips to hard to reach places, they often can be obtained close to home. They are a simple and easy exercise in helping you find ways to think differently about how you create images.

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