Panorama composition defined – Half 1: Lots and features: Digital Pictures Overview


An attention-grabbing viewpoint on Fagradalsfjall Volcano, Iceland, displaying one of many vents within the middle, sending rivers of lava in numerous instructions. What makes this composition interesting?

DJI Mavic 2 Professional, F7.1, 1/30 sec, pano sew, April 2021.

On the subject of panorama images, composition reigns supreme as the one most vital issue that determines the attraction of a shot. It is a difficult topic, and folks have totally different views and opinions about it. However over my profession as a nature photographer, I’ve discovered that just a few key concepts can summarize a giant a part of the issues one ought to remember when attempting to compose a panorama shot, and on this collection, I’ll attempt to clarify them within the clearest means doable utilizing many examples and easy explanations. I’ll attempt to apply a divide-and-conquer technique in constructing my arguments about composition, first getting you to know how I see compositional components, after which, in future articles, explaining how one can deal with and use these components to create a very good composition.

A fowl’s eye view of Ha Lengthy Bay, Vietnam. What are the primary components within the shot? What facets of it are balanced and nice to the attention?

DJI Mavic II Professional, F8, 1/40 sec, ISO 100, vertical pano sew.

To start, I might prefer to introduce a mind-set of a picture as consisting of various components seen as summary shapes. These shapes can then be used individually and collectively so as to make a balanced composition, i.e. an entire whose parts work properly, and in a balanced means, with one another. The shapes aren’t solely massive or small, thick or skinny: they’ve extra properties which change the way in which we deal with them and place them within the picture. This basically implies that I do not see the parts as clouds, rocks, mountains and lakes, however as spherical or elongated, easy or tough, detailed or missing element. Additionally, this technique of considering regards colour not solely as one thing lovely that draws the attention, but in addition as a property of a compositional element, which might differentiate it from its environment.

Are you able to make out the primary parts on this picture? What properties have they got? In what means are they differentiated from their environment? What attracts the attention? Is there any course within the composition?

Canon 5D4, Canon 16-35 F2.8 MkIII, 30 sec, F13, ISO 200
Laguna Amarga, Torres Del Paine NP, Chile

Alright, however what sorts of summary shapes are there? A useful means of seeing it, is to divide the shapes into plenty and features. The plenty are normally the discernable objects within the picture, the composition’s anchors, so to talk. They’re outstanding, distinguished and differentiated from their environment by having totally different options (comparable to colour, form or texture – a very good instance is the bushes within the picture above, that are totally different to their environment in all these traits), and serve a giant half in drawing within the viewer’s eye. The traces are what normally connects the plenty and enhances the interaction between them, however generally there’s extra to them: they will create a greater sense of movement, stream and course in a picture, make it extra dynamic and attention-grabbing.

Are you able to see plenty and features on this pair of pictures?

Canon 5D4, Canon 11-24mm F4
1/13 sec, ISO 100, F10
Lake Tasersuaq, Uummannaq, Greenland

The 2 compositions are a bit comparable. What does differentiate them by way of traces and lots more and plenty within the composition? Does this choice of traces and lots more and plenty make a major distinction between the 2 photographs? Is one higher composed than the opposite?

Flakstad Fjord, The Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway
Canon 5D4, Canon 16-35mm F2.8
ISO 100, 1/20 sec
Focus stack

Some pictures solely have plenty. Some solely have traces. Some have each, and these are normally essentially the most attention-grabbing. It is typically fairly straightforward to seek out the plenty and features in a picture, particularly after some apply and thought. However in some circumstances, plenty and features are more durable to differentiate, and issues are open to debate. This is not a mathematical idea however quite a suggestion to assist develop one’s thought course of, and expertise proves that it does work effectively in bettering compositional means. These phrases will show very helpful as soon as I begin making use of them along with precise compositional strategies that may allow you to construct your panorama shot.

To enhance our understanding of compositional components, the very first thing we have to do is go although just a few examples and set up what the plenty and features in a picture are. I am certain you have got an intuitive sense, however let’s have a go simply as an train. Earlier than scrolling additional down, strive to have a look at every composition and determine for your self what the primary plenty and features in it are.

An aerial view of Kawah Ijen Volcano, Indonesia

DJI Mavic II Professional, 1/25 sec, F8, ISO 100

What do you assume – are there plenty and features right here?

As I see this picture, it accommodates three predominant plenty: the primary crater on the underside (Kawah Ijen itself), the steeper peak on the left (Gunung Ranti) after which the three additional volcanoes (Pendil, Raung and Suket). It is good to additionally notice that the foreground mass is largest, and has essentially the most attention-grabbing options – form, colour, degree of element. One might name it the “strongest ingredient” within the composition.

Why do the furthest three volcanoes act as just one mass despite the fact that there are clearly 3 peaks? That is as a result of they overlap one another, and furthermore since they’re more durable to differentiate one from the opposite, in comparison with the clear distinction between the opposite volcanoes. The viewer’s eye would not understand them as separate components, however as one locus of knowledge. I’ll talk about the ability of ingredient separation in a future article.

By the way in which: are you able to see why the plenty within the above picture are ordered as they’re? What made me shoot this picture from this viewpoint and never from someplace larger, decrease, or the left or to the fitting (bear in mind it is a drone shot, I used to be not restricted to a particular viewpoint)? What’s it concerning the association of components in a picture that makes it interesting? That is what you need to ask your self every time analyzing a composition.

What about traces – do you see any? I see no actual traces right here – a minimum of not ones that matter within the composition. One would possibly point out the faint line of sunshine connecting the crater to the additional volcanoes on the fitting of the picture, however I do not actually assume it contributes a lot to the composition.

One other instance:

An evening shot taken in Skogafoss, Iceland

Canon 5D4, Samyang 14mm F2.8, 30 sec, F2.8, ISO 3200

Right here, I’d say there may be one true mass – the waterfall – and maybe one other weaker mass within the ice within the foreground. Notice that the waterfall is the extra attention-grabbing mass, despite the fact that the ice takes up more room within the picture. Along with the plenty, there are lots of traces right here, emanating from the waterfall towards the ice and towards the sky.

One other straightforward one earlier than we transfer additional on:

Lava erupts from the Holuhraun volcano, Iceland, 2014.

Canon 5D3, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6, 1/1250 sec, F4, ISO 3200

One predominant mass, and two traces I can see. The mass is the eruption, the traces emanating from it are the lava river and the cloud of ash. The remainder is filler to maintain the steadiness and add element and curiosity. When dissecting a composition, the filler components will be seen as current in one other, secondary dimension to the primary components.

By now, I hope you are starting to see a sample: fairly often, traces come out of the plenty, generally connecting them and even creating a way of movement. I can not stress how vital that realization is for composition. Extra on that later.

Okay, thus far it has been a toddler’s play. What about this picture:

Lava drops right down to the Pacific Ocean within the Kamokuna Ocean Entry, Island of Hawaii.

Canon 5D3, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6, 1/800 sec, F6.3, ISO 1600

That is far more difficult, however nonetheless, I might such as you to strive to determine what you assume the traces and lots more and plenty are right here. Attempt to assume what components, or ingredient teams, draw the eye of the viewer and have some type of gravity within the picture.

As for me – I see two predominant plenty right here: the massive chunk of lava on the highest left, and the 4 smaller streams on the underside proper. There are traces, too: the lava feeding the bigger stream and dropping from it, and the reflections on the water. Take a look on the diagram under and see when you agree with me:

Do you agree with this evaluation?

It may be argued that the 4 streams on the fitting aren’t a mass however traces. However I’d argue that these streams are a topic which counterbalances the one on the left, and that they’re certainly outstanding and differentiated from their environment as a bunch. Furthermore, this mass counterbalances the one on the left, making a extra interesting composition with out one aspect being ‘heavier’ than the opposite. The traces on the underside do the identical factor, balancing one another by moving into reverse instructions. One after the other, the concepts behind good compositions are revealed right here – I hope you see them, however even when you nonetheless do not, I’ll talk about them explicitly in future articles.

What about this instance:

Lovely crimson rock close to Moab, Utah.

DJI Mavic II Professional, 1/20 sec, F4, ISO 200

It appears to me like there aren’t any plenty in any respect right here, solely traces. There may be nothing that stands out as a distinguishable topic (this might be debated), however there may be movement, mild, colour and very nice texture, and there’s a course within the composition. I feel the branched nature of the traces on this picture compensates for lack of distinguishable topics.

traces popping out of traces contribute to the curiosity.

To date, this has been no more than a pleasant train in photographic imaginative and prescient. However there’s a particular level to seeing compositional components as plenty and features, or as summary shapes normally. Whenever you undertake any such imaginative and prescient, it makes it simpler to construct a very good composition and to make sense of the puzzle you face when capturing panorama photographs. Subsequent order of enterprise shall be explaining what we will truly do with these shapes we discovered, how one can use their properties to rearrange them in our picture, how one can steadiness them and how one can construct an ordered composition out of the mess. I intend to do exactly that within the subsequent articles.

However as a final train, take a look on the pictures under and attempt to discover the plenty and the traces in them, if any. Can you start to develop a way as to how the plenty and features work collectively? I might additionally such as you to ask your self the next questions:

  1. Are you able to see why I ordered the plenty like I did?
  2. Do the primary plenty within the picture ‘face’ any course? In the event that they do, what does it contribute to the composition, and the way does it decide the location of those and different plenty?
  3. How do the totally different traits of the plenty have an effect on their absolute place within the picture? How do they have an effect on their place relative to different components?
  4. What different facets of every picture, apart from the plenty, are balanced, and in what methods?

If you happen to shoot your self, it will be very helpful to ask these precise questions on your individual pictures.

Within the subsequent articles, I’ll make use of the definitions launched right here, and start to elucidate how one can use the properties of plenty and features to create good compositions.


Erez Marom is knowledgeable nature photographer, images information and traveler based mostly in Israel. You possibly can comply with Erez’s work on Instagram and Fb, and subscribe to his mailing record for updates and to his YouTube channel.

If you would like to expertise and shoot a few of the world’s most fascinating landscapes with Erez as your information, check out his distinctive images workshops in Namibia, Greenland, Colombia, The Lofoten Islands, Indonesia and the Argentinean Puna.

Erez affords video tutorials discussing his pictures and explaining how he achieved them.

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