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Choosing A Focal Point

David Hay challenges you to strip it back to basics and try to compose images around a single focal point

One of the most difficult things to do is to make a simple landscape photograph. Why is that?

Landscape photographers normally prefer to use wide-angle lenses because they can get so much more into the frame. These wide-angle images give the impression of the sweeping vistas that first attracted the photographer to the scene. Careful composition can build an interesting image with a detailed foreground, leading through a visual path in the middle distance which leads the eye to an impressive background. These images have great appeal as they require the viewer to study the scene progressively to take in all the content.

A bigger challenge is to simplify an image down to the very basics. The viewer can then scan it quickly and take it all in. The problem is that, in a fast paced society with limited attention span, the viewer may just move on to view the next image. One solution is to include a small detail that is not immediately obvious, but will reward the viewer when they spot it. This then becomes the focal point of the image, even if it is quite small in the frame.

The image this month was captured at the Jökulsárlón Lagoon in Iceland. On our second visit to the location I was disappointed to be faced with poor visibility. A low mist hung over the lagoon obscuring the more distant icebergs.

My first instinct, as always, was to try a capture the whole scene with a wide-angle lens. There was a panoramic spread of different coloured blocks of ice floating in the foreground, partly obscured by the mist. My attention was drawn to a lone gull...

Read the whole article inside issue 67.

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About Author

David Hay

I took up photography at the age of eleven and have been passionate about it ever since. As a retired biologist I still marvel at the beauty of the natural world and try and capture the colours and forms of natural things around me.

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