Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Giving your landscape photos a sense of place

For many landscape photographers, the aim of their images is to re-create the feeling of place—to portray how special and unique a place is, and to evoke the sensation of being there at the time the photograph was created.

Here, a number of details— footsteps, rippled sand, and rugged plant life—combine to give a feeling of the desert. Death Valley National Park, CA.
Here, a number of details— footsteps, rippled sand, and rugged plant life—combine to give a feeling of the desert. Death Valley National Park, CA.

Capturing an image that conveys a sense of place comes from understanding all the techniques used for creating a photograph, including rules of composition, tonal balance, depth of field, and lighting. When it all comes together effectively there’s a dimension to the image that adds atmosphere, depth, and life.
The composition can be simple or complex—a wide panorama or a sparse telephoto composition with only a few elements. It has as much to do with the timing of the photograph as it does with the actual place. The key is that the photograph encompasses the mood of being there, with a quality that evokes the energy of the location.
Knowing the subject and any features that help make that location unique is the key. By visiting a location a few times you can develop a personal feel for its essence: what separates it from other places. Afterward you can figure out what light and weather conditions would work best to highlight the scene. The clarity of a winter sunset can make a rocky outcrop appear sharp and exciting, for example, though later in the year, when all the trees have filled out with a ‘spring green’ colour, there is a timeless sense of natural life. It is all about light and shadows, mountains and valleys, puddles and reflections, and the blue sky and approaching clouds highlighted by the light of a low sun.
he arrival of the boat on this still lake provides a key focal point that emphasises the scale of the surroundings. Lake George, Adirondack Park, NY.
he arrival of the boat on this still lake provides a key focal point that emphasises the scale of the surroundings. Lake George, Adirondack Park, NY.

It’s not always possible to wait months, however. Many of the images here were more spontaneous, or even affected by serendipity. For example, with the sunrise image of Lake George, it took a while to realise that the boat at its subject wasn’t ruining the stillness of the lake, but made the image. When the boat moved into place, it gave compositional balance to the shot. This added ‘dimension’ to the lake, giving perspective to the spaciousness of the view, and helping draw the viewer into the image.
The Death Valley sand dunes have many elements that keep the eye moving around the image. The textures and shadows of the foreground dune contrast with the vegetation and smoothness of the farther dunes. The footsteps on the middle left dune catch your eye, as do the shadows, lines, and curves of the farthest dunes. The fissured foothills in the background add depth and contrast and enhance the sense of place.
Framing this composition through the abandoned building helps tell a story about the location; that people have been and gone. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MT.
Framing this composition through the abandoned building helps tell a story about the location; that people have been and gone. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MT.

Seven tips for creating a sense of place

  1. Lift your head from the viewfinder and allow yourself to feel the wider scene
  2. Work with objects in the foreground that lead to other elements in the background to help create the illusion of three dimensions
  3. Proportion the elements so the eye keeps moving from one to another in the image
  4. Simplify to only the elements needed to convey the feelings of that moment
  5. Note how varying weather and lighting conditions could affect the composition and mood
  6. Anticipate what might happen, to be ready for the unexpected
  7. Pre-visualize what you would like to happen so you can be ready when it does.

Acclaimed photographer Carl E. Heilman II has been photographing the landscape for more than thirty years. In this comprehensive guide, he shares the latest techniques for capturing professional-quality digital images in the field. Bursting with hundreds of inspiring images and a genuine passion for the natural world, Advanced Digital Landscape Photography is the definitive guide for today’s outdoor photographer.
[one_whole boxed=”true”]
BOOK NAME, AUTHORAdvanced Digital Landscape Photography, by Carl Heilman II
£7.99 Download the PDF now!

This PDF version retains the styling of the original print book.
RRP for print edition: £15.99
[button color=”Accent-Color” size=”small” url=”https://www.ilexinstant.com/product/advanced-digital-landscape-photography/” text=”Digital Edition”] [button color=”Accent-Color” size=”small” url=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1905814860/ref=as_sl_pc_tf_lc?tag=ilexpresscom-21&camp=1406&creative=6394&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1905814860&adid=06C2MAM40BVYC0T2FVPV&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilexinstant.com%2Fproduct%2Fadvanced-digital-landscape-photography%2F” text=”Amazon UK (Print)”]
[button color=”Accent-Color” size=”small” url=”http://www.amazon.com/Advanced-Digital-Landscape-Photography-Heilman/dp/1905814860/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=ilexinst-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=&creativeASIN=1905814860″ text=”Amazon USA (Print)”]
[/one_whole]