FIND PATTERNS IN NATURE
We tend to shoot the landscape on a grand scale, but if you take a closer look you’ll find fascinating patterns shaped by Mother Nature
Patterns abound in nature, on both a large and small scale. Even your own modest garden can be a source of successful images, from carpets of fallen leaves – at their most colourful during autumn – to the intricate pattern of veins in backlit leaves or beds of colourful flowers. Fungi makes fascinating patterns, as does tree bark, lichen-covered stones and fur cones. You can also create strong pattern shots of trees by using a telezoom lens to compress perspective so the trunks are crowded together.
If you’re on the coast, look for natural patterns in rocks eroded by the action of the seas, pebbles on beaches, ripples in sand, reflections on the water and patterns left by outflow streams that flow across the beach – beaches in the Highlands of Scotland are ideal for this as the peaty water creates amazing patterns as it trickles across the sandy bays. The great thing about shooting patterns is that you’re not really dependent on a particular type of light. Dull, overcast days can be ideal because the low contrast light adds uniformity to everything – there are no deep shadows or bright highlights, so where a pattern exists, it will be revealed clearly. Calm weather is a bonus near water as reflections can make the pattern twice as strong – think of a bridge or buildings reflecting in still water.
Stronger light can also work. Low light glancing over a sandy beach or desert dune during the morning or evening will reveal an intricate pattern of delicate ripples that you wouldn’t see in softer light or when the sun’s overhead. Shadows themselves can also make a pattern more obvious by providing tonal separation between the elements that form it, or actually become the pattern themselves – low sun shining through rows of trees, for example, creates fantastic patterns.
Experiment with different camera angles to make the most of natural patterns. Often the best viewpoint will be obvious, but there are times when you need to move around the subject and explore it from different positions before you shoot. A tripod can be useful here, keeping the camera steady and making precise composition easier.