Finding Impactful Foregrounds for your landscape photography is one of the most important aspects in order to create strong images that will turn heads! In my never ending quest to find beautiful nature scenes, I love to find little details that are, most of the time, invisible to a lot of people...those details can be as subtle as a piece of dead tree hanging on the ground or even a little creek. If those elements are pointing towards the main subject, they can definitely create some epic foreground interests! What else should you also be looking for? Try to look for beautifully textured and colored rock arrangements or even some cracks in between rocky formations… During the winter season on the other hand, truly is generous with texture and you should definitely try to find some lovely icy patterns or snow flowers.
USING AN ULTRA-WIDE ANGLE LENS
People who have been following my work for a while know that I love to shoot wide! I’ve been using an ultra-wide angle lens for quite some time and my lens of choice for most of my landscape photography images is a Canon EF 11-24mm f4.0. Can you imagine how wide 11mm on a camera with a full frame sensor is? It’s wide! Really wide! I have to admit that I very rarely go all the way to 11mm…but I find it very useful in some situations! For most of the time I am using this lens, I will shoot in the 12mm to 20mm. Shooting ultra-wide angle does give me the ability to include a lot of elements in my compositions. Using an ultra-wide angle lens does require a bit of time getting use to. Your first images will probably end up being way too busy but once you’ll master it, I can almost guarantee that the lens will rarely come off your camera! One important thing you should always remember here is to not be afraid of getting close to your foreground!
SHOOT IN VERTICAL ORIENTATION
With an ultra-wide angle lens, I highly recommend that you shoot in vertical orientation. Why shoot landscape images in portrait orientation? Well there are a few reasons for this…first, it will make for some much easier to read compositions. The fact that the orientation of the camera will be vertical automatically makes for narrower images. This gives you the opportunity to have less distractions in your foreground and make a better use of your leading lines to bring your viewers’ eyes in your composition. And a second reason, when using an ultra-wide angle lens, you can take advantage of the lens. How? When shooting ultra wide focal length, every element of your composition that will be positioned to the extreme top and bottom of the image will be elongated thanks to a phenomena named optical distortion. This phenomena, if used correctly, can definitely help you with your compositions and make your small foreground elements look much bigger and present in your composition. The same thing will apply to the background! A mountain, when well positioned at the top of your frame, will be elongated much more in portait orientation than in landscape orientation. You should definitely use this in your favor!
GET DOWN LOW
I often see a lot of people shoot landscape images at eye height with their tripod fully extended…in some cases, and if you are using a longer focal length, it could definitely work well but when using a wide angle or an ultra-wide angle lens, you will end up getting way too much undesirable mid-ground. You should definitely consider adjusting your tripod height based on how much mid-ground you truly want or need to make your composition work! Get down low near the ground! Now this comes with some negative aspects as getting closer to the foreground will make it much more difficult to get all the elements of your composition tack sharp…if you are struggling to get everything into focus and happen to know Photoshop a little, you should definitely consider checking my Blog Post about Focus Stacking. Focus Stacking basically is a technique that consists of shooting the same scene multiple times while focusing on different elements of the scene and assembling all those images later in Photoshop. I use this technique very often! Click here to learn more about Focus Stacking!
WATCH YOUR STEPS
One thing you must be aware of is every step you make while hunting for your ideal foreground could potentially ruin a great foreground….watch your steps and more specifically during the winter season. I highly recommend you use extreme caution when hunting for your ideal foreground elements. Of course we can always use Photoshop in post production to get rid of those footprints but if it can be avoided…why not? One thing I always try to do after I am done shooting a scene is being careful not to damage the foreground I just shot. I want to leave as few footprints as possible behind as I want others to enjoy the scene as well!
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
Still not convinced that buying an ultra-wide angle could improve your photography game? You should at least rent one and give it a try! It truly is the lens I use the most in my camera bag! There are a few pros and cons about using one and I have only told you about the pros so far….here are a few cons;
-1st: Most of the time, a premium quality ultra-wide angle zoom lens comes with a hefty price tag.
-2nd: It is most likely going to be heavy…11mm on a full-frame sensor requires some big chunks of glass!
-3rd: It is quite challenging to find a filter set for those applications…and those filters are also going to be quite pricey.
But in the end, if you ask me which lens I’d keep of all my camera gear, I’d still choose my Canon EF 11-24mm f4.0 because it is a great lens, it is super sharp and a lot of fun to use! :-)
I sure hope you learned something new and found this blog post interesting! You should now start finding impactful foregrounds for your landscape photography! ;-)
Do not hesitate to share with your family and friends! You aren’t sure you understood everything here or maybe you have a question about the above content? Please do not hesitate to send me a message and I’ll answer in the briefest possible delay!
Oh and if you wish to learn a few more tips about landscape photography compositions, have a look at my good friend and workshop partner Gina Yeo's blog. Her article named Step Up Your Composition is particularly interesting and complements mine very well! Have a look!