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Sense of depth in landscape photos

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by sprinke, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Hello all! Next month we'll be taking a quick vacation to the Grand Canyon.

    I've traveled in the canyonlands (Arizona, New Mexico, etc.) many years ago, with a P&S film camera. I was always disappointed that my pictures of canyons and rock structures looked so flat. They had no sense of depth.

    How can I avoid this?
  2. MikeB

    MikeB Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    Something that's been mentioned here a number of times is to make sure you have something in the near foreground, in addition to the big wide background. So if you're on a canyon rim, back up a few feet so the nearest edge is visible at the bottom of the frame, and then the canyon is beyond it. Or get a shrubbery or rock on the side of the image, better if you can get a pair to frame the image.
  3. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    +1 Good compositional advice
  4. pheaukus

    pheaukus Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 22, 2012
    Have a look at the images in this thread. Compare them, in which do you feel most 'depth'? Why?

    As is already stated, something in the foreground helps. You can also think of the landscape as being a diorama: it works best if elements of the image are distributed in depth, leading the eye from close to increasingly far away. If you use a tele lens haze in the distance can be very effective. With a wide angle lens try to include the sky, especially if cloudcast - it could mirror or double the landscape. Include water to do the same.

    Another composition exercise: make a napkin sketch that expresses the depth of a canyon. If done right, even a few lines on a white piece of paper are sufficient. Analyze the lines you drew: how do they create the illusion? (If lazy, just look up sketches on Google... )

    For artistic interest, you could also have a look at the work of Andreas Gursky - he likes to work with the scale of humans vs huge landscapes:
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  5. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    All good advice.

    Another thing is that we tend to shoot "at" things like canyons and mountains so that they're in front of us. In other words, the canyon goes from left to right, parallel to the plane of the sensor. Try shooting so the canyon is arranged so it goes from near to far, like this one:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Had I been standing over to the left, facing the wall of the canyon straight ahead, there would have been no sense of depth.

    Something else that will really help your photos here is to shoot early morning and later afternoon and evening, to the extent possible. Light from straight overhead flattens things. Light from the side brings out the contrast between near (lighted) and far (shadowed) much more.

    Some more shots from at and near the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park, here:

    • Like Like x 2
  6. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Look at the sense of depth in the first image of the waterfall, with the people, in this thread.


    The apparent depth is created by having subject matter very close, very distant, and various points in between. Obviously, the lens was wide... likely about 14mm with the foreground rocks perhaps a foot or slightly closer from the front of the lens.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    Your pictures reminded me how much I loved living out there. I really do miss it.
  8. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    Also, forget the middle of the day when the sun is blaring straight down on you for your picture taking. Try to concentrate on early and late hours of the day. In the middle of the day, do something else.
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