Feature Image by: Jackie Ranken

Finding simplicity in your winter landscape images

16th August 2017

Canon Master, Jackie Ranken discusses the art of finding simplicity in your winter landscape images.  

Jackie expands on composition, lens, aperture, shutter speed, exposure options and most importantly, how to find the best background and the right distance from your subject.

Tips to make your winter images clean and simple

1. Look beyond your subject and choose a background that is uncluttered or is a long way away from the subject.
2. Choose a small f number to create a narrow depth of focus.
3. Move closer to your subject.
4. If necessary be prepared to do some gardening and clean up around the subject before you shoot. 

 We will all have our own preferences for what we like to photograph and what we want to say about a subject. I believe the most important elements are being in control of your gear and remembering to move around your subject to find the best angle and distance to your subject before you start shooting. 

Having an idea for an image is the first step, the next step is the selection of your subject. The subject should dominate the composition and be free of complicated merges or backgrounds.

The idea of the photograph is the guiding rule that will help you to set up your gear. The camera techniques you use are the recipe that will make the shot. What you leave in the frame are the dominating ingredients of that recipe. The lens and aperture and shutter speed choice, combined with where you choose to make your photograph will cook your photographic cake.

To make an effective visual communication a photographer should understand how different focal length lenses and an appropriate aperture within the lens work to keep an eye focused on the subject. To make a composition that is pleasing to the eye and/or one that holds the attention of the viewer.

Lens selection and their characteristics

Long telephoto lenses give compression to an image where elements within the frame tend to squash together. The size of the elements within the frame tend to keep relatively the same size. The opposite happens with wide angle lenses.
Being closer to your subject will create a narrower depth of focus and visa versa for being further away.
Using an open aperture, small f number for example say an f2.8 creates a narrow depth of focus and the opposite happens with a closed down aperture like f22. 

Examine the images below, the three images were shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with the same aperture F3.5, with a long 200MM telephoto lens with exposure compensation set at +1. (One stop brighter than mid tone grey @ ’0’). 
On the day there was no wind and I was using a tripod so the shutter speed was used to simply create the correct exposure.

Image 1. – Most cluttered

In this image, the background is more in-focus because the subject is further away from the camera. I can see a narrow band of sticks with pods on the end, standing out from the blurry foreground and background. But it is hard to see what is going on or why the image was made. It is busy or cluttered.
Jackie Ranken Winter example

Image 2. - Simplified

In the second image, I change position and move lower to the ground for a different perspective. This allows me to use a background that is cleaner, brighter and being further away from the subject it becomes more out of focus. Making the image more minimal and interesting. I can now see that the subject is a line of dancing dead daisies. 

The exposure was at + 1 to make the snow white and not a mid tone grey.
Notice how the telephoto lens keeps the size of the stands of dead daisies similar in height.
 Jackie Ranken Winter example 2

Image 3. - Most simple

This third image shows what happens as you move the camera and lens closer to your subject at the same aperture. This image is much more about the individual dead flower heads in the snow. It has become a stronger statement about individual plants moving in different directions in a snow covered landscape. 
Jackie Ranken Winter example 3
Shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV f3.5, 1/3000th sec, 200mm Lens, Exposure compensation +1 

Find out more about Jackie Ranken, Canon Master

Website | www.qccp.co.nz
Instagram | @jackieranken
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