How to Find a Composition out in the Field
Finding a composition out in the field is an important part when it comes down to landscape photography. The ability to see compositions is even more important than a good camera gear.
#1 Find a Trigger
Our brain plays tricks on us - we don't see the same scene like a camera does. This is given through the way how our eyes work. Human's eyes are often compared with a 50mm lens, but this is not true. In reality there is only a very small angle of view of just 3 degree our eyes can see sharp. So we see only a couple of fragments of a scene. Our brain sets them together in a kind of "pano function" with a clever "content aware filling" - for photographers spoken ;)
What's really useful here is not to look at the whole scene first - look for a trigger. A trigger is the starting point in your composition, it is what attracts you to think about building up a composition. It could be the subject itself, but it could also be just a character in your landscape, a lightspot or a shape in the landscape - or it could also be just a story. Look for a trigger. It will help you to find a starting point.
#2 Impact of Stress
Generally you should try not to have stress when you look for a composition, because it is difficult to concentrate on abstract things like seeing a story in a landscape, seeing lines and patterns in a landscape, when you don't have your photography head on. Relax, have a cup of tea, get into connection with mother nature. But if you have already lots of experience - and do this only in this case - it could also be useful to look for a composition, especially if you have stress. This will help you to get rid of your principles, it will help you to "oversee" your own borders of your style and could help you to bring you to the next level of your photography. But don't do this if you are a beginner or slightly advanced, because the chance that you will find no composition is big in that case. If you are not used to go home without a photograph, it could be disappointed.
#3 Find the Story
So often I heard from landscape photographers, that they do hard to find a story in landscape photography. What I often do is, I try to look a bit behind reality, I try to see the world in a more abstract way.
What do you see here? A stump with some trees? I see an old veteran, that is guarded by the young trees around. This is why I decided for the image title "Guardians of a Veteran".
#4 Use Emotions
Your emotions are elementary - they will help you not only to see the story, they will help you to decide how to build up your composition.
This is the image "Dragon's Face". I really tried to imagine, I would look into the face of a dragon. If you look left beside the model (me), maybe you can see its right foreleg. To see the story and to build up this composition, it was necessary to boost my emotions. This dreamy style was given through lots of waterdrops on the lens (on purpose) - a decision out of my emotions.
#5 Look for Geometry
What most books about photography mean by composition is that what I understand as geometry of a photograph - because composition is much more than just geometry - it contains the story, too.
Consider all the lines, shapes, patterns, colours, contrasts, the balance of all elements - to support the story in the one hand - but also to support the emotions, we want to evoke in the viewer's eyes. Geometry helps us to control where the viewer's eyes move, to bring the viewer into the image and to hold him inside as long as possible - that's what I understand as a compelling composition.
Check out my gear, which I use for my landscape photography: