Point Lobos State Reserve on the Big Sur Coast south of Carmel is the quintessential California seaside location. Once the haunt of luminary residents Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, its rocky cliffs, cypress groves, pebbled beaches, and blue lagoons provide an endless variety of photographic opportunities.
As part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary its waters are home to abundant sea life including the endangered sea otter. And extensive trails wander through the rare groves of Monterey Cypress, which only occur here and in the nearby town of Monterey, and are the classic wind-swept symbol of the central California coast.
The Big Sur coast is one of those truly special locations that never fails to impress. The rocky shoreline and misty mountains are instantly recognizable the world over, yet her mood is constantly changing throughout the seasons providing a fresh perspective with each new visit.
From the early morning fog to the golden sunsets, this meeting of land and sea is in a constant state of flux. And as you make your way along that magical ribbon known as Highway 1, each turn reveals a slightly different scene that somehow seems more dramatic than the last.
For photographers, this perpetual change is ideal and the challenge of making fresh images (often faced in many other landmarks) is all but removed. The Big Sur coast is also part of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary and its rich sea life, including Elephant Seals, otters. and migrating gray whales, provides yet another opportunity for great imagery.
There are many ways to create stronger compositions in landscape photography, but one of the easiest and most effective techniques is the use of leading lines. Dynamic lighting and great subject matter are the cornerstones of any great composition, but even when these elements are less than exceptional there is still a way to create an emotional connection with your audience. Draw them into the scene with leading lines.
The wide-angle lens (anything from 14mm to 24mm) has numerous benefits for the landscape photographer from incredible depth of field and relatively small size to a viewing angle that really captures the big picture. But all that visual information can be a bit overwhelming without some direction.
Using the rule of thirds and carefully composing to include natural lines such as a shoreline, forest edge, stream, or mountain ridge can lead your viewers into the frame or guide them to a specific part of the image. Diagonal lines in particular create visual tension, which is a sure-fire way to add drama to your images and create an emotional response from your viewers.
Next time you’re out photographing the landscape, take a moment before you trip the shutter to make sure the elements within the frame are being used to their best advantage. Think of yourself as a director rather than just a photographer and you’ll start creating stronger, more exciting images.