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Highlands Winterscape, Hudson ValleyCanon 1ds Mk III, 1/20sec @f/16, ISO 200, 24mm (EF24-105mm f/4L IS)

Winter photography presents some unique challenges for the landscape photographer, but for me it’s one of my favorite times to be out in nature. While I enjoy the lack of flying insects, the stillness of the air dampened by snow, the wonderful sound of each step along the trail, it’s the light that inspires me the most. It’s lower in the sky, rises slower than in summer, and often provides a a warmth I only experience during the winter months (at least in the northern hemisphere where I live.)

The key to this image for me is the way it invites the viewer into the landscape. I think it achieves this through balance – top to bottom, left to right, and lots of inviting texture and detail in the bottom half. Like writing or talking, the language of photography offers many visual tools we can use to describe or express an emotion about what see and experience.

It’s critical to become as fluent as possible in this visual language, and like a verbal language, it’s a life long process. I love to equate language with photography because it gives me a structure and concept I can understand easily. We put letters and words together to form sentences, and that forms paragraphs, or poems, or lyrics, which  ultimately share emotions and stories.

The same happens in photography as we combine lines, textures, shadows and highlights, shapes and forms, to create a visual story that is always greater than the sum of the individual elements. While we may be able identify each of these individual elements, it’s the relationships they create that bring the photographers vision to life. In and of themselves, they’re just lines, shapes, etc. How familiar does that sound to language? Do we identify individual words when reading a great first sentence in a novel? Or are we transported to another world in a mere few seconds?

Just keep that in mind when making images. The whole is far greater than the basic rules like diagonals, symmetry, thirds, etc. I learn this fact each and every time I go out and come back with images that don’t quite work…just like writing.

RR Jr

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