'It's all about the foreground'. Generations of landscape photographers learn this principle the moment they first pick up a camera. Indeed, in classic landscape photography the foreground element is usually the dominant component of an image, and serves it in many forms.
The foreground connects us to the photographer's immediate environment by attracting the viewer to look at it. This eye-drawing quality stems from the fact that the foreground element is usually preferred to be massive (and is also inflated by the proximity to the lens), particularly detailed and interesting and also separated from the other image components. In addition, the foreground, when added to the background, contributes to the feeling of depth in the two-dimensional medium of photography. I always advise photographers to put a large emphasis on the qualities and location of the foreground element.
But what if the very essence of the foreground was its nonexistence - or at least its extreme subtlety? What if the dissolution of the all-important element gave us more than its inclusion? I'm not talking about faraway landscapes without foregrounds. These are a different story altogether, and the lack of foreground is granted.
|'Lost in Space', Iceland 2013|
What I'm talking about are images which have room for foreground, but whose massive, detailed, classical foreground element is missing, thus achieving a special feel - and an understanding that the exclusion of something so prominent can lead you to fascinating grounds.
Both images included here are good examples of what I'm trying to say. The first shows the Pyramid Mountain, Kirkjufell, in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, west Iceland. Some might say that the mountain itself is the foreground, but that's just not true. It's too far away, too much a part of the background, even more so since it integrates so well with the Milky Way and Aurora above it.
The foreground consists of mainly nothing - joined by a few reflections of stars here and there. I claim that it's this very near-nothingness that gives the image its unique, spacey feel. The fact that there seems to be nothing (or just stars, or water without any measure of its depth, put it how you choose) underneath the viewer makes him feel lost in space, and so that is how I named the image (see more about 'Lost in Space' in this article).
The second image, shot in the deserts of Huacachina, Peru, conveys my point perhaps even better. A whole lot is going on in the background: three sand dunes topped by three clouds matching them perfectly in location and size, beautiful curves and light - praise the heavens for this incredible stroke of luck! But this image wouldn't be one of my favorites without its blatant unforeground.
Again, there's almost nothing going on in the lower half of the shot - and that's the whole point. The visual dissonance of faint, subtle lines make the viewer feel perhaps uncomfortable, forcing him to look a bit longer and harder and to appreciate the composition, as well as the details of the image, more.
|'The Trinity', Huacachina, Peru, 2012|
Again, you may rightfully claim that the rippled sand is, in fact, the foreground element. And you'd be correct from a certain point of view. My only point is that the fact that the foreground doesn't include a well-defined, massive element contributes to the image in the way described here.
The unforeground is a powerful compositional tool. Try using it, and you'll see it's not all that easy. But when it works, it can make your image unforgettable - or at least, make people look at it a few seconds more.
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel.
If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on Earth with Erez as your guide, you're welcome to take a look at his unique photography workshops:
Land of Ice - South Iceland (January) - view trailer
Winter Paradise - North Iceland (January) - view trailer
Northern Spirits - Lofoten Islands (January / February)
Desert Storm - Namibia (March)
Giants of the Andes and Fitz Roy Annex - Patagonia (March / April)
More articles by Erez Marom:
- Winter Photography in Iceland
- Behind the Shot: Dark Matter
- Behind the Shot: Nautilus
- Behind the Shot: Lost in Space
- Behind the Shot: Winter Paradise
- Behind the Shot: Shredded
- Mountain Magic: Shooting in the Lofoten Islands
- Behind the Shot: Flames of the North
- Behind the Shot: Spot the Shark
- Ghost Town: Shooting in Kolmanskop
- Behind the Shot: Dali's Dream
|Patrick Finds Inner Peace by ecastellon|
from Your best photo of the week!
|Forks by Kukla|
from Arranged everyday objects
Seven simple rules to make sure you get the most out of your next photography outing.
Vitec, the company that owns popular accessory maker Manfrotto, has just acquired JOBY and Lowepro for a cool $10.3 million in cash. The acquisition adds JOBY and Lowepro to Vitec's already sizable collection of camera gear brands.
A master drone pilot has captured one of the most incredible (and highly illegal) drone videos we've ever seen by flying around, inside, onto, and under a moving train.
Intel just debuted their 8th generation desktop CPUs, and the lineup packs a performance boost for 'content creators' that photo and video editors might be intrigued by.
Canon is developing a 'Free Viewpoint Video System' that will turn real life sports games and events into immersive 3D interactive experiences. It's video game-like camera control IRL.
A veteran photojournalist, Rick Wilking secured a spot in the path of totality for the August solar eclipse. While things didn't quite pan out as predicted, an unexpected subject in the sky and a quick reaction made for a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
The new iZugar 3.25mm F2.5 super fisheye lens offers an insane 220-degree angle of view. That means it can basically see behind itself... good luck keeping your feet out of the shot.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll remember that time you took a picture of the frozen pizza baking directions.
A Craigslist poster has discovered the worst possible way to photograph a car: taking pictures of pictures displayed on a cracked and scratched up smartphone screen.
With the iPhone X coming out soon, the title probably won't last, but the iPhone 8 Plus is officially the best smartphone camera DxOMark has ever tested, and the iPhone 8 is second.
Kodak's new Facebook Messenger chatbot is trying to bring back the 'Kodak Moment' by digging up your old social media photos and trying to sell you prints and custom coffee mugs.
Affinity Photo for iPad was touted as "the first full blown, truly professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet." This update makes it that much more convenient.
Yashica has released a new teaser video, and this one claims they'll be releasing an "unprecedented camera" in October on Kickstarter. Ready... set... speculate!
Storage solutions company Synology has just released its very first 6-bay NAS tower. Combined with the DX1215 expansion units, it can hold and control up to thirty drives.
We're always expanding our collection of product overview content, and we've just added videos for the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, the EOS Rebel SL2 and EOS M6.
The venerable Canon PowerShot G1 was announced seventeen years ago this week, marking the start of a line of enthusiast-focused compacts that's still alive and kicking.
Super macro photographer Can Tuncer captured these incredible close-ups of a single peacock feather using a special setup and three different microscope lenses.
After successfully crowdfunding the Biotar 75mm F1.5, Oprema Jena is at it again. This time they're bringing back the Biotar 58mm F2: the world's only lens with a 17-blade aperture.
Adobe's move to a subscription model is treating it very well indeed. The company has posted record revenue for the second quarter in a row, hauling in a mind-boggling $1.84 billion.
More details have emerged about the potential sale of Blackstone's 45% stake in iconic camera brand Leica.
Popular mobile editing app Snapseed just got a major update that includes a new interface and 11 new presets for both Android and iOS, as well as adding the Perspective tool to the iOS version.
It might sound like a strange idea, but taking macro photos of boiling water can actually result in some really cool photographs. A good photo experiment for a rainy day.
The database was created to "break with the narrow lens through which history… has been recorded" by equipping those who commission photography with "the resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments.
Lensbaby has released two new optics for their special "optic swap system." The Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic gives you that trademark sweet spot of focus, while the Creative Bokeh optic gives you 9 different drop in aperture plate options to play with.
TechCrunch has already posted their review of the upcoming iPhone 8 (not yet the iPhone X), and they're calling it "a look into the augmented future of photography."
Affinity Photo is a $50 photo editing software with no subscriptions. That's it – pay for it once and you're done. And we think it's actually pretty darn good.
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.