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John Einar Sandvand

How I play with compositions in landscape photography

Compositions in landscape photography. Photo: John Einar Sandvand
PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: For me landscape photography is all about two things: Light and composition. Here is an example of how I try to experiment with different compositions in the field.

I spent last weekend in Ålesund, a beautiful city on the Western coast for Norway. With a rental car and my camera I had a wonderful time driving around in the area looking for landscapes to shoot.

Coming back from the fascinating Haramsøy island in the evening I suddenly noticed a lighthouse at the end of a long molo. As I often do when driving around like this, I turned my car around and drove down to the molo.

It was Lepsøyrev lighthouse, with a history all the way back to 1879.

The light was intriguing and the clouds were finally opening up after hours of heavy rain. The sunset was approaching.  Although I was eager to get back to my warm hotel room, I decided to stay for some photos.

Vary the composition!

I always try to take several variations of the same photo, changing my positions, angles or compositions.

In this article I show you four different variations of the Lepsøyrev lighthouse. It is essentially the same photo, but the composition and how I use the landscape and the molo is different.

You will be surprised how taking only a few steps to the side can dramatically change a landscape photo.

I usually try to follow two basic and well-know composition rules.

Composition rule 1: Rule of thirds

The main object in a photo, be it in landscape photography or other types of photography, should rarely be placed in the middle of the picture. Instead you should divide the image in three horizontally and vertically and place the main object in one of the four points where these lines cross.

Here is a Lightroom screenshot from when I cropped this image. You see the lines dividing the image in three horizontally and vertically. Notice how the lighthouse is placed in one of the crossings.

Compositions in landscape photography.
There are of course lots of exceptions to this rule, but I find it is almost always the best starting point if you want to have an interesting composition.

Composition rule 2: Use lines in the landscape

Take one more look at the image – and notice how the molo leads your eye towards the lighthouse.

That illustrates composition rule 2: Try to find lines in the landscape that lead the eye towards the core part of the image.

In this case it is easy: The molo leads the eye towards the lighthouse more or less however you try to compose the picture.

But also in natural landscapes you can often find lines that will lead the eye. It can be a river, a hilltop, cloud formations or other things. Often you have to look for it, moving your camera to the side or up and down.

Three more compositions

In this article I am showing you four variations of the same photo. Which is the best is a little up to your taste.

For the main photo I stood slightly to the right of the molo.

Here is a second alternative taken from the same position. In this case I have let the clouds be more prominent – and the lighthouse has been place in a different crossing according to the “rule of thirds”.

Compositions in landscape photography. Photo: John Einar SandvandI then moved myself to the left of molo. The position was only a few meters away from the first position – but switching to the other side still gave a completely different perspective.

Here are the two photos taken from this position:

Compositions in landscape photography. Photo: John Einar SandvandCompositions in landscape photography. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

About the author: Communications officer, journalist, author, digital strategist, photographer, traveller…and more.

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