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  • Samuele Bertoli

Perhaps it is impossible to frame a dream, but why not frame subjects with scene elements?Unlocking the Art of Subject Framing in Landscape Photography for Captivating Visual Narratives.

Written by: Samuele Bertoli


Anyone who dedicates themselves to landscape photography sooner or later realises how composition plays a fundamental role in bringing their photographs to life.


However, the reality is that mastering this element is highly complex.


When we take a picture, we aim to create a unique and captivating image, telling a story that captures the viewer's interest, keeping their attention within the scene.


But, as the saying goes, there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.


While the idea and the ultimate goal are clear, achieving them is anything but simple.

In this seemingly unsolvable challenge lies the charm of landscape photography.


Composing an image requires attention to numerous details.


"Filling a scene" does not mean trying to include everything possible; on the contrary, the key is to include only what is necessary for the photo to work.


A subtle and delicate balance, aware that what we exclude is as important as what we include. Simplicity and minimalism emerge as powerful tools to eliminate superfluous elements and create a more significant visual impact. Despite the intrinsic complexity of landscapes, my personal taste has always leaned towards a minimalist approach from the early days of my photographic experiences.


One of my fundamental thoughts has always been that a foreground should be included if and only if it adds something to the image, if it adds value, if it helps tell a story, and if it helps to engage the viewer with the image.


But we'll come back to this later.


I have learned to adapt to the scenes I find myself in, stepping out of my comfort zone when necessary. In addition to my taste, I believe it's wise to explore different strategies if they can improve the current conditions.


In my latest photographic reflection on capturing and taming light, to create the first proposed photograph, I dedicated time to finding a suitable composition with the trees in the foreground to frame the castle.


Landscape photography

We tend to read an image from bottom to top, so the dark branches, placed at the top, serve as a natural frame, guiding the gaze and reducing distractions from the sky.


These same reasonings and conclusions led me to compose my photograph, "Fireflies at Court."


Landscape photography

Trees are naturally predisposed to be used as framing tools in photography.


In the next two shots taken in the Dolomites, I used the tree trunks in the foreground to frame the magnificent peaks in the distance and balance the leaves in the foreground with the vegetation in the middle ground.


Landscape photography, Dolomites Italy

Landscape photography, Dolomites Italy

The natural frame of the trees is designed to guide the viewer through the image in these pictures where the foreground, while interesting, is not so dominant as to take the central stage in the photos. The observer's eye is led from the foreground to the distant mountains thanks to the natural frame.


I now share two photographs taken at Plitvice Lakes because they are relevant to show both how I approach a scene (in the first minimalist shot where I sought cleanliness, simplicity, and symmetry) and the subsequent effort to explore other perspectives and viewpoints to represent the landscape from different angles.


Landscape photography, Plitvice Lakes Italy

Landscape photography, Plitvice Lakes Italy

For the record and intellectual honesty, in this case, even in hindsight, I continue to prefer my initial shot for several reasons.


Framing a subject, like the beautiful village of Pienza in the photo below, can be a solution to capture something different and exciting even when the weather conditions are not ideal (for example, a completely blue sky without clouds or character and colour) or when the light is not optimal (for example, because we are in the central hours of the day).


Landscape photography, village of Pienza Italy

These concepts are believed to have dignity and validity also for night photographs, if only because, over time, I am increasingly convinced that the best pictures follow the compositional principles of daytime photographs.


At least, these night photographs capture my attention the most, convey stronger sensations, and tell stories more convincingly.


Consider, for example, the photograph I took last summer in Cadignano, where I used a human element to frame my subject.


Landscape photography, Cadignano  Italy


I am particularly proud and happy with this photograph because it was meticulously planned and thought out during scouting when I identified the exact day and time to return to frame the core of the Milky Way with the bridge arch.


But what gives me more satisfaction in this shot is not settling for photographing just the Milky Way but trying to find the best way to channel the observer's gaze with a captivating visual flow.


I worked to make the best use of guidelines in the rocks and the course of the river. I shot vertically not only because the scene unfolded vertically but also to exclude any possible disturbance and distraction at the edges. I then looked for the position that allowed me to have the most pronounced diagonals, and last but not least, I chose to shoot a few tens of centimetres from the ground.


The simplest and most convenient thing in landscape photography is to set up the tripod, place the camera on it, and adjust it to be around eye level.


Don't get me wrong, this workflow often works.


However, this is the height we are used to seeing the world.


Suppose you want to create something different, something with more impact, something unusual, a perspective we are not used to, a different point of view. In that case, lowering the camera height can be a path to follow and experiment with. By decreasing the shooting height here, I also had the advantage of reducing the middle ground and emphasising the visual path foreground-background. The lower height also emphasised the textures in the rocks in the foreground.


Finally, to avoid losing sharpness in this visual flow, I combined shots with different focus points in a focus stacking so that the entire scene was perfectly pin-sharp.

 

I hope you can find inspiration to seek new perspectives and challenges by exploring my photographic journey. Nature provides an endless stage; every shot is a chapter in the visual narrative of the beauty surrounding us.


I invite you to share this journey with me through the lens, exploring together the wonder that only landscape photography can offer.


Whether you're a passionate photographer or a simple lover of beauty, you are all invited to discover the world through eyes and lenses, seeking the perfect visual harmony.




 
Samuele Bertoli

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hello. I'm Sam. Just Sam. I was born and grew up in Lunigiana, the enchanted valley of Tuscany, and now I live in Parma, Italy. Embarking on a visual odyssey, I am not merely a photographer but a passionate storyteller, navigating the tapestry of existence through the lens.

The art of photography, an enchantment that held me captive, has transformed from fascination to a fervent mission in recent years. In the dance of pixels and light, my lens becomes an instrument of ancient yearning--an overwhelming need to tell stories, to share the vibrant tales that pulse with our world. Call it a devotion, a tribute to the sublime beauty and unyielding pride that permeates our surroundings.

Driven by the innate inclination for storytelling, my photographic journey is an act of communion with the soul of the universe. Immanuel Kant aptly noted that it is about "showing how reality I interpreted once filtered through the coloured lenses of my eyes." Each click of the shutter is a passionate declaration, a testament to my deep connection with the diverse facets of reality.

My photography seeks to capture the very essence and soul of the subjects, believing that a sensitive soul should choose a style that harmonises with the message it aims to convey. I strive to channel passion, love, and dedication in every frame. As memories intertwine with challenges overcome, my aim is for viewers not to glance indifferently but to be captivated, moved, and inspired. Let the images tickle the imagination and awaken curiosity as they reveal the stories that beg to be told.



 

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