Lamar Valley Sunset, Yellowstone

“Visual Flow”—it’s a topic I talk about a lot in my writings and eBooks, and in fact is the title of one of my upcoming books (due to be released this summer). It is the cornerstone of my philosophy of artistic composition. Basically, the idea behind visual flow is simple: it involves taking viewers on a visual journey. Visual flow uses compositional elements, color, and luminosity to encourage the eye to travel throughout an image, and to hold interest over time. When you can create visual interest, you establish an emotional connection with viewers, and this connection will ensure that they won’t be able to tear their eyes away from your photographs.

"Winter Flow" - Yellowstone National Park

"Winter Flow" - Yellowstone National Park

I’m constantly on the search for compositions that establish visual flow. During my recent two-week stay in Yellowstone National Park, I kept returning to this curving stream in Lamar Valley. I was fascinated by its elegant shape, and the barren starkness of the surrounding winter landscape. Finally, on my last night in the park, I got the sunset clouds I had been waiting for, perfectly positioned to establish a visual relationship with the stream below. Although I am happy with this image, I feel that the scene’s potential hasn’t been fully realized. So you can be sure I will return again next year!

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 14-24mm lens (@16mm), ISO 100, f/11, 1/13 second.

Ian Plant

Author: Ian Plant

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.

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