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Landscape Sin #7: No Foreground Object

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LOCATION: LAKE LOUISE, BANFF NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA, CANADA

If your shot doesn’t have a strong foreground element, it’s pretty much sunk. That’s because one of the basics of landscape composition is that for a landscape shot to really work, it has to have three things: (1) something strong in the foreground, (2) an obvious middle ground, and (3) the background. This one has two out of three. It has a middle ground (the lake and the mountain). It has a background (the sky behind the mountains, although some might argue that the mountain and the sky are background elements, but it doesn’t really matter because neither one of those is the problem here). What’s missing is the strong foreground element, which is why this image looks so flat. If there were some large rocks at the bottom of the frame, or the tip of a canoe, or the shore, or a dock, or anything to show the depth of the image and lead the viewer into it, this shot would then have all three elements. It’s kind of like a novel. If you skip the first few chapters and then jump in and start reading, you’ll be missing key parts of the book, and you won’t enjoy it nearly as much. You’ll know you’re missing something. Landscape photos are the same way—you shouldn’t jump-in in the middle of the photo (or, in this case, the middle of the lake). You should start in the foreground and lead the viewer’s eye throughout to the background. It’s what gives landscape photos real depth and that big, epic feel. Don’t start your photo in the middle of the lake, or the middle of the ocean, or in a flat, open desert. Find some object to include in the foreground and your composition will be much stronger.

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