Searching for Pattern in Landscape Photography

Searching for Pattern in Landscape Photography

  • The human eye dislike chaos, and searching for pattern is one way of making sense out of a disorderly world; we see "a ring of trees" or "a line of rocks", even where no real connection exists between the objects that we mentally group together. In a photograph, such groupings are especially valuable, being an easily-identified theme from which to start exploring other aspects of the image, such as color or tonal qualities.

  • Some aspects of landscape lend themselves naturally to pattern-making. For example, the receding tide leaves a snaking pattern of small ridges and furrows on the drying sand. The wind whips up similar shapes, albeit on a very much larger scale, in loose sand on the ocean's margin. And at the other extreme, many natural phenomena create patterns at a level measured in millimeters rather than miles - think of the spreading patterns of lichen on rock.

  • Size and scale, in fact, are the essential factors in making good pictures of all these natural patterns. Pattern on a grand scale, such as sand-dunes, generally demands a distant viewpoint or a wide-angle lens, so that you can explore in your pictures the repetition that goes to make up the pattern. If you're aiming at a really graphic image, photograph such large-scale patterns in sunlight; but if small details in the scene are appealing, favor instead cloudy weather which creates fewer dense obscuring shadows.

  • With medium-scale patterns you can afford to be more casual about technique - lighting and lenses are less important than a keen eye for the arrangements of landscape elements that will make a good picture, and choice of the best camera angle.

  • Small-scale patterns take some seeking out too, but once more photo-skills come into play. Hard, raking sunlight reveals textures and patterns that pass unnoticed in cloudy weather, so the early morning or a sunny winter's day are ideal times to take pictures. To close-in on small details, you'll need to use close-up accessories such as a macro lens, extension tubes or close-up supplementary lenses. Sharpness is critical in macro-pattern pictures, so use a small aperture for maximum depth of field.

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