Keep it simple!
What ’s the Big Idea?
When photographing a landscape, it is very easy to slap on a wide-angle lens to take in as much as possible. This is exactly what I try to avoid. Including too many elements in one image is confusing to the viewer and will result in a shot that lacks overall impact. I like simple, graphic compositions, and am a firm believer that less is more. Have you heard of the KISS method? It’s an acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’, coined by head engineer Kelly Johnson at Lockheed Martin’s ‘Skunk Works’, which designed the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. Johnson wanted his engineers to “keep a design simple and stupid”. If you look at all of the images in this feature, they all have one thing in common: uncluttered composition.
What ’s the Key?
When you look at a scene, determine what the main subject is. If this isn’t evident, then you should think again why you are taking the photo. Now look around the subject and remove anything that isn’t important, or that doesn’t reinforce the composition. You may have to change your angle or lens to do this. I often use a 70-200mm lens to crop in on just the elements that I want to include within the frame. When I simplify the scene down to the main elements, I find that I can create several images by varying the composition. I can place the horizon low or high, make the image horizontal or vertical or place the subject on different intersecting points using the Rule of Thirds. This is a good exercise in composition.
When you’re keeping things simple, make sure your horizons are straight!