Why do patterns in nature make such compelling subjects?
Learning to photograph patterns in nature is one of the most powerful ways to add drama and substance to a photograph. Once you understand how patterns work to improve composition and where to find them you’ll wonder how you ever created images without them.
What makes patterns important in composition?
Patterns in nature are everywhere! This, unfortunately, may make photographing them a bit more difficult than you might initially expect. One of the most difficult things to do in photography is to take something so simple as a pattern and turn it into an amazing, interesting piece of art, but that’s what this article aims to teach you how to do.
Learning to photograph patterns in nature, goes beyond simply creating abstract pieces of art, by finding the right way to add a pattern to an every day scene you can truly capture a masterpiece. Of course, the first step in this process is actually finding and photographing patterns, so let’s get started with some basics.
Where do you find patterns in nature?
As mentioned above, patterns in nature are everywhere! So finding them isn’t necessarily a problem. What becomes the problem is finding the right patterns and then photographing them the right way to make them shine within the confines of a frame.
Key tip: When framing a subject (any subject) ask yourself ‘What needs to be in the frame and what should I remove?’ and frame according.
To get a better idea of what is meant by this let’s take a look at three examples of patterns in nature from Flickr.
This image by Eric Wüstenhagen is a great example of how you can create an interesting, almost abstract image, by just photographing a repeating pattern. However, you can’t just photograph this plant any old way, the reason that this image works so well, is because of two choices that the photographer made.
- Isolation of a focal point – Where the rotation of this pattern comes to a point is the focal point of this image. The fact that that part of the image is tack sharp, while the rest of the image is blurred with a shallow depth of field, is what allows this isolation to occur.
- Balanced composition – By placing the focal point mentioned above on the lower left side of the frame the rotation leads us to that focal point and keeps the eye there. Had this been placed on the right side of the frame the image would have appeared more cluttered and confined.
But patterns in nature don’t have to be so obvious, take a look at this next image from james j8246 who captured a foggy mountain range.
Here you get the repeating shapes of the various peaks, isolation of the subject by ignoring the horizon, and a nice compression of the features by the choice to use a telephoto lens to capture the image. Add the black and white treatment in post production and the image really comes together.
The final example for this week’s theme on patterns in nature not only shows you how easy it is to find great patters to photograph, but ties this theme together with last week’s theme on panoramic photography.
In this image from Sacha Fernandez the trees repeat and repeat as they fade away back into the fog. It may not be what you first think of when you think of finding patterns in nature, but the repeating element of these trees allows the viewer to really get lost in the scene.
Again, much like the other two photographs featured in this article, it’s the photographer’s choices that make the image interesting – not the pattern itself. In this example, the trees provide an interesting pattern that the viewer can follow into the scene, the compositional choice to go panoramic with the image allows for a more simplified and pleasing result, and finally by choosing to photograph while the scene was blanketed in fog and lit with a soft golden light completes the dramatic scene.
3 key tips for composing patterns in nature
Here are three tips for photographing patterns in nature that you can take away from the three images above.
- Isolate a primary focal point – As we saw, it’s not always necessary to have a primary focal point, but when you do have one, make sure it is isolated and dominates the photograph.
- Telephoto lenses often work best – While wide angle lenses are often a lot of fun to use, in my experience, patterns look much better when they’ve been shot on the telephoto end of the shooting range. This compresses the features of the pattern and enhances their imagery.
- Don’t just photograph a pattern – Don’t photograph a pattern for the sake of photographing a pattern. Find a way to make that pattern tell a story by including it in a dramatic scene, or isolating it to demand attention and focus.
Share your own patterns in nature photograph
As always, I love seeing what you’re able to come up with on the themes that I cover here. So please feel free to join the discussion on the forum and leave your own photograph below!