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What makes a Good Landscape Photo?

What makes a Good Landscape Photo?

In general, there are several elements that gain the initial interest of the viewer, Bold colour, Unique textures, Simple shapes and Appealing curves. However, there are many other considerations. Photography is often referred to as drawing with light. That is the translation of the word photography. Photographers draw with light as they capture the scene in front of them when the shutter is fired off. Whether it is images of the Rocky Mountains, the vase on the table or any other subject, in colour or black and white, photography is drawing with light! While having bold colours, textures, shapes and curves in your landscape image, is that enough to make it a good image?

Landscape photography has ( arguably) 3 major styles: Representational, Abstract and Impressionistic. And while the elements mentioned above, and the elements of graphic design, play significant roles in making a “good” photographic image, they have differing impacts and roles depending on the style of landscape image you are viewing or wish to take. For me, as a Landscape Photographer taking pictures of the Rocky Mountains, it is a fun and intriguing challenge to get the elements – colour, texture, shape and light – all aligned, and then composed to make an impactful landscape mountain photo. I work in the Canadian Rockies and Banff, Jasper, Yohoo and Kootenay  National Parks. So my pictures of the Rocky Mountains, most would classify, as Representational photography. Though not all are, and this is why trying to classify one’s work as any one style, is always subjective. 


Bow Lake in Golden Hour

The Representational style aims to give the viewer a realistic representation of the scene – no props or artificial components are added!  It is also called straight or descriptive photography. With Abstract the goal is more to stimulate a strong emotion in the viewer still using colour, tone, texture and lines/shapes. Some would say this is a more creative endeavour with your images. Impressionist photography is an impression of life and focuses on capturing atmosphere, light and movement while not prioritizing sharpness ( not focus ). Regardless of the style, regardless of the type ( Mountain Photography, Seascapes, Forests, Sunrise/Sunset, Long Exposure, Time-lapse or Panoramas – it is still drawing with light!

It is said that in today’s digital era, there are 4 pillars of Landscape ( or any ) Photography: Light, Composition, Location ( Subject ), and Processing. This last one, with the growth and use of AI ( Artificial Intelligence ) has greatly impacted Landscape Photography and led to deep and diverse discussions as the differing philosophies collide. ( see my Blog Post “Digital Darkroom “ ). As the discussions go on, and as AI becomes more and more pervasive, the realm of photography, especially landscape photography, is undergoing changes in philosophy and outlook. ( One can look at the rules for entry into the Natural Landscape Photography Awards to get an insight into the changing outlooks and philosophies in Landscape Photography). Whether your intention is to make prints for sale, or simply capture the scene for a home slide show on your computer – to me the MOST vital element is LIGHT. The others fall into place after that. However, ask 10 photographers which is more important and you may well get 10 different replies!

In my view, to answer the opening Question – it is you, the viewer – that makes a photo image “good”. I aim to transport you, the viewer, to the location (subject) I have sought out to capture in that Special Moment of Light, Location/Subject and Composition. If you are engaged and enjoy looking at a photo image, if you feel like you are there standing looking at the view captured – then for you it is GOOD. And that, I think -is the best indicator of a “good photo “.

Sunrise from Two Jack Lake

Published by Ron Hallam

Gita Photos is a Landscape Photography Studio based in Banff, Alberta and Banff National Park a World Heritage Site. Hi, my name is Ron Hallam. I am truly blessed to be able to live in and work in this stunning location; Banff, Alberta. I closed in and renovated the deck of my condo to be an editing studio. The studio is paneled in Alberta cedar. The main part of the ‘studio’, though, is the Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies! My work invloves hiking through the Park to find locations where the natural wonders of the Rockies are illuminated by the natural light of the moment. As one client testimonial put it, I want to offer you “ an instant escape to someplace magical” ( Jane Fedosoff, Toronto, Ontario) Another client commented “Ron's photographs are not just beautiful images of the Canadian Rockies. They are Ron himself – his life experiences, his love for this place and his eye for detail- that show a depth and unique understanding of this special place we are lucky to call home.” (Phil Monod, Banff Alberta) I’m in the second half of my life. I spent the first half running a ski shop and skiing and hiking in and around Banff National Park. I tinkered with photography for a long time - first with disposable cameras in the 70's. Needless to say the disposable left everything to be desired and I walked away wanting more, much more. Then, for one special hiking trip to Nepal, I purchased a proper SLR camera. The SLR provided better images, but I still needed time to learn and study and work at the craft of image making and film processing. Meanwhile, the time commitment necessary to run a shop (and my shop was a passion) meant work gave me limited spare time. That translated into playing when I could, took precedence over study of camera, technique and processing. So, upon retiring - for my second half, I wanted to stretch and work my “creative muscles”. I got down to focused and dedicated photographic endeavor. That started with a new DSLR. Then I began to study image making seriously. I learned about the digital way of image capture and developing (editing). The Rockies Landscape is so grand that larger Panorama shots are a favorite for me to create while, but as you can see from my work, everything in this magnificent place draws me to capture images of all kinds of landscapes. I like to work in both Color and Black and White and would love to hear which you prefer as your format of choice, and why. Every time I make an image, it is the direct result of letting the “something” inside me come up to the surface, and compel me to record that moment of what I’m seeing and feeling. I want to engage you to see the Rockies, and feel the Rockies exactly the way I do. I want to try to have you try to understand and engage with my perspective, and point you to the exquisite, intricate and profoundly intelligent designer - the God who created this natural world. Then, if you are awed by creation but also perturbed by economic disparities in the world, I hope you will browse the Art Battling Poverty Gallery dedicated to Poverty Relief and assistance for the marginalized. While you and I enjoy the beauty of the Rockies, many are struggling simply to survive. When you purchase my Art from the Art Battling Poverty Gallery (or indeed any image purchase) just tell me to donate to either of the NGO's I work with, at time of checkout. A portion of each sale, 15% – read the ABOUT Art Battling Poverty Tab) will be donated to in your name. Have a browse and find “ A special moment in the Rockies, captured in a print forever”. And when you purchase you won't only have a special print, but you will also be giving Hope to the marginalized.