Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam by Ian Plant
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Flotsam and Jetsam By Ian Plant
When looking at a landscape, photographers often look for the perfect foreground, but Ian Plant argues that anything found on the ground can create a good foreground subject. It’s all about the composition

It almost goes without saying, but foreground is very important for landscape photography. As a result, landscape photographers spend a lot of time looking for interesting foreground elements; ones which help lead the viewer’s eye into the background. In other words, not any foreground will do, and you cannot simply use any old thing that gets washed up on shore. Well, sometimes you can – if you are lucky.

Foregrounds are important to landscape compositions for several reasons:

• Foregrounds help to create the illusion of depth in a photograph, which as a two-dimensional representation robs the viewer of a three-dimensional experience;
• Foregrounds create a visual division between the bottom and top of the picture frame, forming at least two distinct zones of interest, and encouraging the viewer to explore the composition (a good composition will often also have other zones or layers of interest, such as a middle-ground and/or sky);
• A good foreground will also create a bridge between these zones, encouraging the eye to travel from foreground to background by using leading elements, or a progression of objects or layers, from near to far. So yes, finding a good foreground is very important.

But don’t get snobby when looking for foregrounds, and never forget that just about anything can be used to create a foreground, provided that the conditions are right. You just have to make sure that you are seeing elements of a scene as abstract shapes. When you do that, you can find that even mundane things like broken twigs, rocks, drainage patterns in the dirt, the edge of an incoming wave on the shore, patterns in deadwood, shadows, fallen leaves, and an infinite variety of other natural objects can be used as compelling foreground subjects.

While exploring the South Oregon coast, I had a good background subject, notably some photogenic sea stacks off the shore. But a picture of just the stacks wasn’t...

Read the whole article inside issue 71.

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