Visual Drama through Leading Lines

Wildflowers above Sand Dollar Beach, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California
Wildflowers above Sand Dollar Beach, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California

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.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Big Sur Classic

Rocky coastline at Soberanes Point, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur, California (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Rocky coastline at Soberanes Point, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur, California (click for large view)

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.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Sand Dollar Beach

Wildflowers above Sand Dollar Beach, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California
Wildflowers above Sand Dollar Beach, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which stretches from San Francisco to Cambria California, is the largest preserve in the nation and one of the richest marine environments in the world. Migrating grey whales, sea otters and elephant seals are just some of the protected wildlife that can be experienced along this magnificent stretch of coastline.

Sand Dollar Beach in the Los Padres National Forest is one of highlights along the southern stretch of the Big Sur coast. It is one of the most rugged and scenic areas on the Pacific and a favorite location for photographers, surfers and beachcombers alike.  A well-maintained trail leads down to a half-mile crescent where tide pools, caves, a rich vein of jade, and the elusive sand dollar add to the unique experience at this special place.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Government Shutdown Alternatives

Cypress Tree (Cupressus macrcarpa) at sunset, Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, California USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Cypress Tree (Cupressus macrocarpa) at sunset, Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, California USA

It’s unfortunate that this week our government here in the US has closed its doors, especially for those who had travel plans to visit our wonderful national parks. But all is not lost as there are many beautiful locations in state parks, wilderness, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas around the country that are open and often free of charge.

In California, a few of the standouts include Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the largest in California and second largest in the country). Northeast of San Diego, this sprawling wilderness park offers endless hiking and photographic potential in a remote setting of cactus covered hillsides and palm oasis. With Borrego Springs as your base, you can enjoy day hikes from numerous lodging options in town, or wilderness camp for free under a star-filled sky and not see a soul for days.

Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey, Garrapata and Limekiln State Parks (all on the Big Sur Coast), provide some of the best views on the California coast. Limekiln includes coastal access and camping and trails through a primeval forest of old growth redwoods and crystal clear streams. Garrapata is a rugged, undeveloped park adjacent to Highway 1 offering quiet coves, sea arches, and stunning views of the Pacific.

Further north, Point Lobos State Reserve, which was a local haunt of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It’s wind-swept shores of rare Monterey cypress are a diver’s paradise and a great place to watch migrating whales and sea otters – and the sunsets can be truly spectacular. Other excellent spots in the area include Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Sand Dollar Beach in the Los Padres National Forest. On the east side of the state along Highway 395 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Alabama Hills under Mount Whitney are a vast moon-scape of giant boulders and arches made famous in early Hollywood movies and a wonderful photographic destination.

So while the politicians in Washington try to see eye to eye, those who had planned to visit America’s best idea don’t have to feel short-changed. There’s still plenty of natural beauty waiting to be explored outside the confines of the National Park System.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved