Choosing a Great Subject
Not everything in nature is destined to make a great photo. It is our job as a photographer to sort the wheat from the chaff and identify subject matter that will translate beautifully into the two dimensional constraints of the photographic medium.
To my mind, the best landscape subjects convey visual themes such as ‘energy’, ‘grandeur’ and ‘tranquility’ to the viewer. Mountains, bodies of water and coastlines all make happy hunting grounds for photographers because, as viewers, we instinctively know how to interpret these scenes. We sub-consciously know that a snow covered mountain peak must be big, or that a wave crashing on rocks is imparting large amounts of energy, and we know, without thinking, that a reflection on a pond occurs only under calm conditions. In short, we can easily ‘read’ these types of photograph.
The best photographic subjects communicate multiple visual themes and have a very broad appeal as a result. To me this scene speaks of tranquility (reflections), natural change (Fall color and the building cloud cover) and stoicism (the lone tree clinging to life on the outer limits of it’s natural environment). You may ‘read’ this scene quite differently depending upon your outlook on life – for example, a hardcore environmentalist may see no more than an introduced species of tree clogging a lake that has been flooded by unsustainable farming practices in the lake’s headwaters. Photography, and life for that matter, is a very subjective affair…