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2D or not 2D

Some of the challenges we face when producing landscapes is how we manage the representation or interpretation of...

  • the movement in a scene

  • the 3D depth of the topography that our eyes perceive and our brains routinely construct for us

  • the atmospheric conditions and intrinsic mood of a vista

...and transpose those physical and atmospheric elements in the real world, into the medium of the static, two-dimensional photographic image.

Above image: "Convergence"

Field of young barley in springtime, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 1/10 second at f11, tripod, polariser

19th May 2015

In May of 2015 I was pleased and privileged to have the above image published in several papers, including The Guardian. Although I was actually in the car on my way to Exmoor to shoot the sunset, when I saw this scene appear before me, it was so compelling that I had to stop, walk into the field and set up my gear.

In addition to it being rule of thirds-y and golden ratio-ish with some well defined textural and colour contrasts, I think it was selected by a number of picture editors because it also manages to achieve success in the key areas I identified at the start of the post.

With the 1/10 second exposure time, the barley has a slight blur to its heads as it was fluttering and wavering in the wind and this gives the suggestion of a breezy day by adding a hint of movement to the foreground and lower third.

The tractor tracks provide depth and leading lines that encourage the viewer's eyes, through the crop in the foreground, towards the threshold of the middle distance and into a zone that is clearly defined and separated from the upper and lower thirds by its leafy and hilly woodland textures.

I used a polariser primarily to darken the blue in the sky and to create a three-dimensional feature of the cloudscape in the upper third, but it has also reduced reflected glare on the greenery and produced a more solid colour in that as well.

Finally, the moment was right for creating the overall mood. I was there in the late afternoon and the oblique spring sunshine was showing the exquisite Somerset countryside off at its vibrant best.

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