Working A Scene

Point Atkinson Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC Canada

A summer sunset at Point Atkinson lighthouse in Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC on the way up to Whistler

In the following article, I have presented three images with the subject being the same. The only factor that changes is the composition in all three. Each image illustrates a different mood but each is equally effective.

Is there one that stands out above any of the others ?

In the first image I choose the composition as the strong foreground and warm reflected light off the rocks balanced the lighthouse well.
In the second the unusual shape of a triangle and the cool tones in the puddle offset the warmer tones in the background.
The third I choose because I liked the way the leading lines were positioned at the subject leading the eye right to it.
I will attempt to describe some of the thought processes I go through when “working a scene”.

This is a term I like to use when describing my approach to photographing. It is the process that a photographer takes part in when photographing a landscape that lies before them. For a good portion of photographers the likely series of events is arriving at a scene, pulling out a camera, and shooting from the first place that looks good. Not only does this pertain to many photographers but some of them also leave as soon as the sun sets.
Working a scene for a landscape photographer can mean different things. For myself though, it involves a series of actions that allow me to connect with the scene I am photographing. It has a special meaning so that I discover through exploration what moves about the scene; how do I convey that through the image to my viewer.
There are a few important things that can go a long ways to helping you improve your photography. It always begins with a concept or an idea; this idea then gets materialized into something more concrete such as scene that plays out in your head before hand. I like to think of this as pre-visualizing your subject ahead of time. Have something that you want to convey through mood such as illuminating your subject, how are going to lead your viewer’s eye to the subject, what kind of foreground are you going to want to include. There are many things to consider when working a scene that must be almost like a checklist in your mind before the camera even comes out of the bag. The following are some of the things that have worked for me.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC Canada

A summer sunset at Point Atkinson lighthouse in Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC on the way up to Whistler

Before I ever visit a scene I have researched the area in terms of things I need to know about the place. These are things that will help get a feeling for the place, what kind of mood I want to convey, and when I need to be there. I get there with plenty of time to scout out possible locations and compositions. It is important to not even pull out the camera until scouting for a period of time. Once I feel like I have a good grasp on the location, I will work out ahead of time where I want to be in terms of the light before the sun sets, as the sun sets, and after the sun sets. All of these different scenarios convey completely different moods. It is important to know ahead of time by pre-visualizing what you hope to get out of the scene.
When the subject of composition is raised, every photographer has a style they invoke. Some like to find one particular composition and work that one scene the whole time; getting right in terms of exposure, framing, and impact. Others like will have several compositions worked out ahead of time and will be a plan a course of events on how to attack each composition. Each style has its benefits and drawbacks but what is important is that you find a method that works for you and that you are comfortable with. It is essential that a connection be made with the scene and that you deliberately choose an effective way to get that across to your viewer.
They are a few important things that go a long way to giving a scene that extra impact. Most of these things can be accomplished with the suggestions mentioned in this article. At the end of the day the most important thing is to make sure you are always having fun and that you never lose sight of why you are out in nature.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC Canada

A summer sunset at Point Atkinson lighthouse in Lighthouse Park Vancouver BC on the way up to Whistler


~ by kevinmcneal on September 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “Working A Scene”

  1. First of all let me apologize for not keeping up with you and your blog….life got in the way. I plan on catching up though. Beautiful images of this lighthouse…it’s so hard to pic a favorite among them…but I love #2 with the pool. Thanks so much for the information….I’m one that tends to get in a hurry..or lets say my hubby is always in a hurry for me to hurry…lol It’s really hard when you want to see everything when you are on vacation…seems like I always hit places at the wrong time…..going to have to change the way I do and see things with my camera. Thanks so much for the reminder in this article….Love your stuff!!!

  2. Thank you for a great post. Very informative and so true. I tend to follow your style in my landscape photography. Exploring the site before getting the camera out is vitally important. It makes one connect with the surroundings and immersed in the scene.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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