1 Dec

Desert Palette, Zion National Park

Nature photography is more than just finding beautiful scenery and snapping pictures. It is what I like to call a “transformative” art. What do I mean by this? Basically, good photography is the art of transforming a subject into something else, involving a process of abstraction and seeing the world in terms of shape, color, and tone. This art includes taking a beautiful scene and transforming it into a compelling photograph. It also includes taking the mundane and transforming it into the sublime—or, at the very least, something far more photogenic than meets the eye.

"Desert Palette" - Zion National Park

"Desert Palette" - Zion National Park

Take, for example, this scrubby patch of desert brush (click on the image to see a higher resolution version). Normally, it is something that wouldn’t even warrant a second look. At the right time, in the right light, and with the right composition, it is transformed into something worthy of attention. Back-lighting helps bring out the autumn colors, and creates strong shadows that provide compositional structure and texture. I composed carefully to create a repetition of shapes and colors, aiming to create an image that looks more like an impressionistic painting than a photograph. 

Even more critical to the success of an image like this, however, is attitude. By being willing to look at the world a little bit differently and opening yourself to possibility, you will find that you are more able to spot these transformative moments when they occur.  

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 100-400mm lens (@330mm), ISO 100, f/11, 1/50 second.

Ian PlantAbout Ian Plant (401 Posts)

Ian Plant's photographs and instructional articles have appeared in a number of books, calendars, and magazines, including Outdoor Photographer and Popular Photography. Ian writes a regular blog column for Outdoor Photographer online, and he is the author of numerous instructional eBooks and videos. Ian leads several photo tours each year.


  • yowsers, that is an amazing photograph!

  • I love images such as this one that make you stop and look. There are a lot of interesting patterns for sure.

  • I love images such as this one that make you stop and look. There are a lot of interesting patterns for sure.