When we photographers think of foreground elements, we tend to think in terms of wide angle lenses capturing wide expanses, as in these two images taken in Antarctica. In that case the foreground elements, whether they be stones, tree trunks, ice floes or other objects, serve as scene anchors. Our eyes then are free to roam deeper into the image to encompass broad swaths of background that together tell our story.
However, that wide angle approach needn’t always be the case. By judicious use of a medium telephoto lens, we can draw a mid-ground scene closer into the frame and make it into the foreground image, as you can see in the next image I took in Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
I took this image as a major storm was about to descend. The background was ominously dark and the raging winds were sending plumes of sand over the mountains in the distance. But the dunes in the mid-ground were still lit by a break in the clouds.
The foreground in this case was distracting, so I used my 70-200 to zoom into the lighted dunes. They became my stable foreground, while still allowing the viewer’s eye to move back to where the real action lay.
My point here is not to be bound by rules. Experiment with perspective, focal length, contrast and more. See if you can strengthen your story by incorporating foreground elements that don’t quite fit a mold.