Readers Photo Challenge: Lay of the land

Very few places in world have such varied scenery as does America. From the Sonoran deserts of the southwest to the sweeping plains of the Midwest to Rocky Mountains to New England’s fall forests and of course Yosemite and the Sierras of California, there are very few places in the world that can match the beauty and variety of landscapes of the land of the free. This month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “Landscapes.”

If you want to travel (and have the time and opportunity to do so) to the far flung reaches of the county you’re more than welcome to do so, but there are places closer to home where you can find great places for photos. To the east, the foothills and Sierras are natural subjects for landscapes. In the other direction Mount Diablo has miles of hiking trails and great views. Right in our backyard is the Delta with its 1,000 miles of waterways.

No special equipment is needed. While you can use a long telephoto or ultra wide-angle lenses, the kit lens that comes with most DSLRs (usually in the in the 18-55mm to 24-70mm ranges) will work just fine. Point-and-shoot cameras as well as cellphones can work well too.

Try to include a foreground. Properly done it can help to lead the viewer’s eye into the picture. You can also use the branches on a tree, to act as a frame around your subject. Don’t forget the sky. A billowing canopy of clouds and add some visual excitement to your photo. While tilted horizons can be effective in some genres of photography, a straight and level horizon line is preferred for most types of landscapes.

Many people think that landscapes should be scenes untouched and uninhabited by human beings. That’s fine for sure but sometimes some manmade objects, such as a farmhouse or barn, can provide a focus point or accent to an overall scene.

Adding a water element, a river, lake, pond or even puddle can increase some visual interest to your photo. It the water is still enough you can use it to capture the reflections of your subject.

Try to avoid shooting during midday. The overhead sun washes out most of the contrast and colors of the scene. The golden hours of sunset and sunrise tend to be the best times for landscapes. The sun’s low angle provides directional light and enhances colors.

So whether it’s mountains majesty or amber waves of grain, keep an eye out for the beauty of the natural world.


Here are the rules:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “Landscape” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between Feb. 5 and Feb 19.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (ie: “John Doe, Stockton. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown).

5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, Feb. 19. The top examples will be published on Thursday, Feb. 26 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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