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Use Shapes and Patterns in Your Nature Photographs

Sometimes, you get lucky and nature arranges shapes wonderfully; all you need to do is find the right vantage point to get a great photo. Other times, you have to help Mother Nature by creating an artistic arrangement of shapes.

Every object has a readily identifiable shape. Palm fronds look like artistic spears, acorns are ovals, and so on. The object — or its shape — can be the subject of your photograph. Leaves, flowers, pebbles, and seashells have unique, intricate shapes.

When you photograph shapes, make sure you have something to draw the viewer’s attention. For example, if you photograph fall leaves, make sure some of them have color. Compose the photo so that the colorful leaves fall on a power point according to the Rule of Thirds.

Patterns can also be candidates for wonderful photographs. The wind creates a pattern in the sand as it blows across a dune. Trees in a forest may appear to be random, but if you shoot the photo from the right vantage point, they can form a pattern.

Clouds are also a source for patterns. Small cumulus clouds often form patterns that look like the scales on a mackerel and are referred to as a “mackerel sky” (see the figure).

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The key to photographing patterns is to not label things. If your goal is to take a picture of a pattern, don’t think of aspen trees; look for patterns and then notice the vertical lines formed by the trunks of the trees. If you photograph the trees in the right light and from the right vantage point, you’ll also have a pattern of diagonal shadows.

A break in a pattern can also be the source for an interesting photograph. For example, if you have trees lined up with a small break followed by more trees lined up, position the break a third of the way in from side of the image. The break will act like a magnet to draw your viewers to that part of the image and then drink in the whole image.

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