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Lone Oak and Storm Light
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Spring has most certainly sprung near my central California home, and drives in the country, with camera at hand (not to mention my 13-year-old son Aaron) are one of my favorite pastimes. We had been on a search for some elusive wildflowers recently when a shaft of sunlight broke through a stormy sky and lit the landscape with this incredible light near sunset.
Incredible color and light alone do not make an image. The eye still needs a focal point to return to as it roams about the image, and this oak worked perfectly. Due to all the rain in California this winter, the hills are as vibrant a green as I have ever seen. The weather has just started to warm, so hopefully the wildflowers will be out in abundance in next week or two.
I captured this image with my 70-200mmL lens (perhaps my favorite landscape lens) as it aides in isolating portions of the landscape. I believe most landscape images are weakened when photographers try to place too many elements into an image. Simplifying scenes (reducing chaos) strengthens images - the old less is more theory.
I was careful to place the oak in the lower-left quadrant, which served to strengthen its visual position. As you view this image, see if your eye moves back and forth from the tree to the rolling hills and stormy sky, then back again to the tree. Now cover up the tree and see if the image has the same power.
My lesson for you would be to still seek beautiful color and light (two essential for a successful image) but to also seek a focal point for your viewer's eye. Think of it as a resting place where the eye can come back to in between trips around your image!
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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III