How to Find a Composition Within a Fraction of a Second in Woodland Photography

Do you struggle with finding compositions in woodland? Over the years, I have developed a strategy that helped me to succeed. Sometimes, I even see one composition beside the other without even looking.

In my latest woodland photography vlog on YouTube, I was driving on a mountain road in deep winterly conditions, looking for a parking place. On a road that was approximate six or seven miles long, I found around 15 amazing compositions, just while I was driving. And I found them although I saw them just for a fraction of a second. Is this enough to find a compelling composition?

Unfortunately, it was not easy to find parking places with winter service in the early morning, so I was able to visit only one of the spots. To be honest, I did find it quite hard to find the spot again, as distances feel different when you are driving. I walked up to the road to find the same perspective as while I was driving. I was definitely at the right spot, but I wasn’t able to find the composition again. What happened?

The Power of Natural Intelligence

Have you ever looked into the face of a person that was looking out over a scenery? The eyes jump from one point to another like a chicken head. They seem to “scan” the landscape. This is simply because human eyes don’t see like a camera. The angle of view our eyes see sharply is very narrow. When we are looking at a landscape, the eyes see just a couple of fragments sharply, and the rest between is either blurry or missing. The final image is put together finally in our brain. 

While I was driving in my car, I saw just a fraction of the scenery. I was blown away, and at first glance, it looked like a finished composition. But a fraction of a second is simply not enough. We need to engage with the scene, to see more of reality and less of the result of our brain, less from our fantasy.

This Is How I Succeed

The trick for me is not to rely on what I see. I mean that: don’t trust your eyes. But it is good that we get attracted to spots. Something was appealing, something brought me to park at a parking place without snow service, risking getting stuck there, and I took the effort of hiking multiple miles in the deep snow to get to the spot. You don’t do that when there is no chance to get rewarded with a great photograph, right?

I don’t rely on what I see, but I do rely on what I feel. When I am attracted to something and I have just a fraction of a second to look at it, which doesn’t allow me to engage more deeply with it, I just return there without any expectations and I try to find out what it was I was attracted to.

In that case, it was those amazingly cute baby conifer trees on the ground and the snow coverage of the barks of all the bigger trees due to a snowstorm of the night before, all the textures, and that enchanting softness in the distance due to the snowfall. Based on that, I was able to build up fantastic compositions while I enjoyed just being out in nature.

Is it possible to find a composition within a fraction of a second only? Usually not, but within such a short time, it is possible to find out if it is worth to return, to think about compositions that are different from that you have seen before but that support the story you have seen. Many more tips and the whole adventure are revealed in the above-linked video.

Christian Irmler's picture

Christian Irmler is a passioned landscape photographer from Austria who comes from a line of artists.
He engages already his whole life with the compositions of the paintings of his family. In 1990 he began with photography and started to implement all his knowledge from painting into his photography.

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