Three Key Ingredients I Look for in My Landscape Photography

There are many ingredients you can mix and match to make amazing landscape photography. In this article, I share three of the most important ingredients I use in my landscape photography.

Landscape photography is my passion, my hobby, and my work. I live and breathe landscape photography, and despite the fact that I live well within a city, I cannot leave my home without turning on my inner analyzing tools. I walk down the streets, through parks, old towns, green areas, and an occasional botanical garden analyzing all the shapes, compositions, the atmosphere, and the light, like a robot from Terminator looking for its prey. Composition, light, and atmosphere: these are three of the ingredients I am always looking for. Whether I am home or out traveling, these ingredients play a vital role in all my photos.

Composition

The first ingredient I look for is composition. Without a strong, powerful, or meaningful composition, your photo just will not work. Especially in landscape photography, a strong composition is important, as we rarely have Pulitzer price-winning stories to show off that can up the value of the photo without necessarily having the strongest composition. I usually look for a focal point or subject first. I ask myself what it is I am taking a photo off. In the photo below, there is no doubt that the subject of the photo is the small church.

In another photo of mine you can see below, I introduce another element to my composition. The road works as a strong foreground and leading element, leading the eye into the background and the subject: the small island.

The same is the case for the following photo: a small waterfall leading the eye into the scene, down the valley to the small settlement Tjørnuvik, and into the background with the two iconic rocks, Risin and Kjellingen, and the settlement in combination with the rocks making up the focal point and anchor of the photo.

There are many more compositional elements you can bring into play to make a strong composition — balance, negative space, simplicity, depth, and symmetry being some of these elements.

Light

Another important ingredient is light! Light is all around us, and without it, we cannot see or make visual art. Light is as fundamental to photography as water is to fish. There are many types of light, and there are different directions from where light can illuminate your scene and subject. There is no right type of light, but different types of light yield different results, which in turn changes the viewer’s perception of the photo.

In the photos below, you can see the first photo of this article and the exact same composition from another time of the year. Despite the same composition, the light is vastly different. I want to stress that neither is a “better” photo than the other is, but for different reasons, the majority might prefer one to the other. Let me hear below which one you prefer and why.

The same is the case for the photos below. One photo is shot on a moody day with a simple color palette that makes the overall photo simpler. The other one is shot during sunset, where we had some beautiful clouds and colors. Again, it is important to emphasize that neither is better than the other before we define the premise of the photo. There is no doubt that the colorful photo is an amazing moment in time, and the less saturated is simpler and represents the typical weather of the Faroe Islands. Which one do you prefer?

Light plays a vital role to photography, but no kind of light is better. The type and angle of the light can be more or less optimal to the intention of the photo. The waterfall photo from above is arguably optimal at representing the mood of the Faroe Islands. Also, full disclosure, I obviously edit my photos. The clouds were not that dark in reality.

Atmosphere

The last and vital ingredient I look for in my photos is an interesting atmosphere. With the “atmosphere.” I literally mean the atmosphere of the Earth. All the physical particles in Earth’s atmosphere, such as rain, fog, mist, dust, clouds, snow, and how the light interacts with these particles add to the atmosphere of the photo. The vast majority of my photos have a type of atmosphere in them. Whether it is fog, rain, clouds, or just a storm to whirl the water vapor of a waterfall around, the atmosphere plays a vital role.

In the church photo in this article, we have the light illuminating all the mist in the valley, giving a warm and unique atmosphere. Combining that with a church, the photo can arguably create some strong, positive religious associations.

The atmosphere of the road photos is also very different. Where the colorful one is more optimistic and complex than the cloudy photo, the cloudy photo arguably is calmer, but also has a more brooding and ominous atmosphere.

The waterfall photo also has a dark, ominous, and brooding feeling to it. During summer, you can have the sunrise in the background of this photo, and it would make for a fantastic moment in time, but it would not have the same feeling to it.

Summing up

As we all know, the weather plays a significant role in landscape photography. The Golden Hour is often hailed as the “right time” to go and shoot, but I would argue you miss many other great opportunities for fantastic and special photos if you do not try out some landscape photography with a mix of other ingredients. There are, of course, other ingredients than what I have talked about in this article, and we are often left with the weather we get whether we want it or not. In that way, I try my best to make the conditions work in my favor. I often say you should photograph with intention, but it is just as important to edit with intention and make an edit in compliance with what you caught on camera. If you want to see me break down and analyze even more of my favorite photos from the Faroe Islands in 2019, be sure to check out the video above and let me hear your thoughts below.

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5 Comments

Michael Bottari's picture

The image of the Street without the sunrise reduces the view of the pure elements of the moment and brings out the details what the färöer makes. I this case for my the better moment the feel the wilderness and the pure nature. The Sunset image is yery good too, but it gives the viewer an other feeling.
Its important to show different images of the same place they show the beauty different faces of our nature.
The light floating images of the church gives hope and confidence, but the other shows the wilderness.
Very good images.

Tor-Ivar Næss's picture

Great video, Mads! Working with the light you have is so important

Hans Gunnar Aslaksen's picture

You are so good at emphasize the mood and light to your advantage!

Kai Hornung's picture

Nothing goes without light. Interesting read.