Because photography is the art of turning our very three-dimensional world into a flat, two-dimensional image, you need to use elements in a scene to establish a sense of depth. Photographers accomplish this by using the contrast of light and dark, and including different and distinct spaces for the eye to focus on: a foreground, a middle ground, and a background. By using these three spaces, you draw in the viewer and give your image a three-dimensional feel.
You don’t have to travel around the world to practice creating depth in your images. Growing up in northern Michigan, I spent a good part of my youth traversing dirt roads with one goal in mind: to get lost. Now, 20 years later, I’m still attracted to the notion of the unknown, and for that very reason I’m attracted to photographing dirt roads with vanishing points (Figure 4.8).
Figure 4.8 A vanishing point is an easy way to create depth in an image.
ISO 125 • 1/80 sec. • f/16 • 24mm lens
Creating a Vanishing Point
Converging lines make for great vanishing points, and when used with a wide-angle lens, they can create a sense of depth by distorting distance. In Figure 4.7, I placed the road in the middle and bottom third of the frame. This tells the viewer that the road is the focus point, and the road starting in the bottom third of the frame allows the eye to follow it all the way through the frame. This composition was further assisted by adding a bit of dynamic light, splitting the sun in the arch of a tree, and creating a sunburst effect by using a higher f-stop (at least f/16). All of these factors helped give the image a sense of depth (Figure 4.9).
Figure 4.9 Notice how the converging lines create a vanishing point.