In today’s world of super saturated, over-the-top landscape images it can be difficult to get people to notice your work for its artistry rather than its flashy processing. As I’ve matured as a landscape photographer, I have learned that being creative in your approach and harnessing the beauty of movement can stop people in their tracks and keep them looking. When I finally learned to embrace movement it quickly became apparent to me just how much it can add to an image.
Moving elements such as clouds, water or snow can be used as tools to complete an otherwise boring composition, to communicate drama or to act as leading lines to pull you into the image and keep you there.
With a little practice, you can actually learn to pre-visualize how moving elements will fit into your image. Once you can pre-visualize the end result, it’s incredibly freeing creatively. It’s kind of like riding your bike to the same locations for years and then feeling the freedom of owning a car and traveling across the country! Ever since I started using movement in my images, I’ve noticed that I “see” much more – I now notice the speed and direction that clouds are moving, the frequency of crashing waves and the path of flowing ice or blowing snow.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how I’ve used movement to add drama or flow to an image and I’ll try to explain my thought process for each.
What originally excited me about this scene was the moody atmosphere and this large tree. As I stood on the shore and attempted to use the shoreline to draw the eye in, things just weren’t balancing in the frame and it was lacking any kind of dynamic energy. As I walked into the shallow river to check out another angle I took note of how the ice was flowing with the river. I noticed that by standing in this particular spot and using a slow shutter speed the moving ice would create a great curved leading line to the tree. It was a stroke of luck that the two little trees happened to line up in perfect symmetry!
On this particular evening on the shore of Lake Huron the sky was somewhat cloudy and the water was very rough due to high winds. Since this was a brief moment of relaxation in an otherwise hectic life I wanted to create an image that communicated how I felt rather than what the scene actually looked like. I knew I wanted to use a long shutter speed to smooth out the water, but I wasn’t sure about the rest of the image right off the bat. Once I stood and figured out what direction the clouds were moving I knew I had a shot! The final step was to find some sort of static subject to bring the shot together – for me, this rock worked perfectly.
Abraham Lake is known for its methane bubbles trapped in ice and attracts photographers from all over the world. What most people don’t know is that it is an incredibly windy place! When I saw that the blowing snow was moving in exactly the right direction I knew that this shot would come together nicely. By using a polarizer to make the ice appear dark and let the streaking snow contrast against it I was able to use the lines created by the snow to lead the eye deep into the scene.
Mother Nature has many moods – she is an ever-changing dynamic force. Seasons come and go, rivers freeze and thaw, and wave after wave crash to shore. If you stop and think about it, showcasing the moving elements of nature makes total sense! I encourage photographers to stop and notice these nuances and take their craft to new heights!