When in doubt, shoot a puddle

28th December 2013
Landscape photography can basically be broken down into two parts - composition and light. And luck (three parts). The camera does not see like our eyes sees, and produces only a 2D image, which is why views which look amazing to the naked eye often don't look so special from the camera. We (that's us photographers) use tricks in composition and light to trick the eye into thinking the photo is a three dimensional image, so it feels like we are looking "in to" the photograph rather than 'at' the photograph

Nowhere is this more apparent than on a big wide open beach.... such as Polzeath. The sand here can be smooth and flat, and at low tide, as it was when I arrived, can go on for almost forever. The view to the eye is breathtaking, but simply hold the camera to your face, and usually the photograph looks flat, and singularly fails to take the breath. The trouble is, what to do for composition when all you have is an oblate plane of sand?

Some beaches are blessed with dramatic rocks or topography which can encourage lovely ripply sand patterns. Polzeath has neither of these, and nor does it have photogenic man-made structures such as groynes or piers.

The light, on this occasion, was rather easier to arrange. The approaching sunset was developing nicely. Although the sky was hazy, and never likely to provide a good afterglow, there were some fantastic tones found looking directly into the sun.

In the end, I found some pools of water, sitting like an oasis in the wet sand. I applied one of my old rules - ‘when in doubt, shoot a puddle'. Small pools of water are amazingly photogenic; they can be full of detail. They are also reflective, pulling light and colour down into the foreground. My little pool also gave me the foreground interest I was looking for, to induce a sense of perspective - in a funny sort of way, adding the feature increases the feeling of space. The shape of the pool also mirrored the shape of the break in the clouds, which is a nice little touch.

So there it was, the three elements you need for a successful landscape photograph - composition, light and luck. And inspiration. Four things.

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