Landscape composition – the story of the 3 grounds

Landscape composition – the story of the 3 grounds

Think of your composition as telling a story.


1) Background; this is normally the sky but not necessarily. It could be a sheer mountainside, glacier or other.
2) Middle ground; this would typically be the ground leading to the background, it could be a field, ocean, desert or any interesting terrain.
3) Foreground; this is the ground directly in front of you. It might be a rock, water feature, foliage or any other interesting feature.

The middle ground is the main gist of the story, it tells the viewer what area you were in, it usually contains the most information in your shot although not so much detail. In a story, the middle ground would be your main plot.

The background could be describing the conditions. As it is likely to contain sky, it is likely to communicate the weather at the time you were there. It is a powerful tools and able to provide a summary of the mood and atmosphere of the shot.

The foreground contains most of your finer details, it is like an introduction and tells the viewer more about the middle ground, it tells the viewer so much about where you were when you took the shot.

Considering a photo as a story can be useful if you are careful to show how the elements of a scene relate to each other. For example; if there is a water feature, try to show the river or stream and where it flows from. A photo doesn’t have to have all these 3 grounds to be good, but it is useful to try to convey the whole story in a landscape scene.

What does this scene communicate?
Reflection suggest calmness, but the ripples suggest movement. The sky suggests a storm, but the light on the mountain suggest that is is breaking up. The ice suggests coldness, the colours suggest spring. There is a conflict going on here in terms of the changing seasons, there are many other conflicts, although the interaction of the elements suggests a certain harmony.

Patience is  virtue

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Patience is virtue

I just stumbled across this sequence of shot from a cloudy day at Jökulsarlon 6 years ago. Sometimes you get there and the visibility is poor, there is a lot of thick cloud and the ice is not quite doing it. If you have flown half way around the world to be here, there is […]

My perspective on perspectives

My perspective on perspectives

To find your spirit animal, sit quietly in a comfortable place, just breathing and relaxing for some time, (may take a few attempts) your spirit animal will come to you…

Excuse me

Excuse me

I have witnessed some angry exchanges between photographers in busy places. But I am hoping here to help you see that all this anger is unnecessary.

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