I often find myself scurrying around like a chicken with its head cut off looking for just the right foreground element to compliment my 16mm vision. This inevitably is all happening 5 or 10 minutes before the light is about to get good adding stress and anxiety to the already harried pace of my sunrise/sunset existence. However, a recent experience in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia got me thinking about how many great possibilities I’ve missed over the years by “over thinking” and “over searching” for the perfect cluster of rocks, flowers, or __________ (fill in the blank) to put in the foreground of my shot. Does every wide-angle scene need something in the foreground to make it successful? Nope!
Take this shot of the Black River in Cape Breton Highlands. While out scouting possible sunrise locations one afternoon I stumbled across this scene and instantly knew it held tremendous potential. The perspective was good for sunrise and at low tide an elegant S curve of the river was revealed as it meandered to the sea. Since the tide would be at approximately the same point in its cycle the next two mornings I figured I’d dial in my composition so that I could relax a little the next morning. I wandered around the beach looking for a good foreground element around which to build my composition. The more I searched the less I found and in fact the further away from this composition I got. I thought could it really be this simple, just show up on the beach, plop the tripod down and shoot the first thing that caught my eye? Apparently, Yes.
The lesson being, yes you need to work the scene, challenging yourself to exhaust all compositional options before settling and calling it quits. But sometimes there is a danger in “over thinking” or “over composing” a scene, ultimately losing sight of what initially caught your eye. Don’t be a slave to foreground! Sometimes it really is just that simple.
Technical Details: Canon 5DII, EF 16-35 f2.8L, f22 (for the sunstar) @ .6 sec. ISO 100, 3 stop reverse grad