Do Your Homework!! Portrait versus Landscape

Photo Homework

Here’s an idea for those of you wanting to increase your photography skills. Assign yourself some homework! Like in grade school penmanship lessons, I guarantee that with practice your skills will improve markedly.

Every so often, usually when I feel too long has gone by between photo shoots or assignments, I will give myself a photography assignment. I’ll pick a topic and force myself to shoot only on that topic for however long I feel like being out (or even inside).

So I thought I would regularly put an assignment in my blog and shoot it with you, discussing what it is I tried to do, as well as my take on successes and failures. However, these posts are really about you. My hope is that you’ll hand in your homework (forget the dog ate it!) and share it with me and our readers. I promise to comment if you’d like me to and I invite others to do the same.

Portrait versus Landscape

Okay, here’s the first assignment, what I call “Landscape-Portrait Flips.” Go outside to an environment that has strong vertical or horizontal lines and shoot the scene exactly the opposite. For example, most people shoot forest trees in portrait mode. Makes sense; tall trees = vertical shot. Instead, shoot all your vertical compositions in landscape mode. Go ahead, cut off those tree tops! The results can be unpredictable, but highly effective.

Here’s what I came up with on a recent trip to the Yukon. I had a couple of days of travel ahead of me, so I had already made up my mind to focus on trees. We had stopped at a pull-out because there was a scenic lake. Several tourists were busily photographing the panoramic scene. I, too, grabbed a few shots. They seemed good on my LCD screen. But they were the same-old-same-old. I focused on my self-assignment and came up with this one. Shooting in landscape mode gave me the strong foreground elements that the sturdy tree trunks provide and I like the wisps of gold in the leaves. I wish I had more time at the scene, because I missed an opportunity to get stronger reflections in the water. I may go back into the image with post-processing and try to increase the contrast in the water reflections between the trees. I’d love to get your take on that. (Click on each image to see it full-size)

With this image, I liked the young saplings growing in a formerly clearcut area. In this case a horizontal shot just didn’t work for me. I liked the strong vertical lines. I also like the way the closer trees are exposed to the sun and draw your eye from right foreground to left background.

Sunset comes late in the Yukon during the summer and early fall months. These shots were taken in September on Lake Labarge. Which one do you prefer? I think each has its merits, but I guess the vertical shot works better for me. I like the way the pier pulls my eye into the background.

In this final series of images, again of a formerly clearcut area, I initially shot the scene in portrait orientation, before deciding on landscape. I also converted the image to B&W. I invite comments.

Practice and Share

Now, go out and try the “flips.” Please share your results with us.

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