The Importance Of Foreground Elements


I have been at this a long time and I still love a great sunrise or sunset! Capturing a magical sky is one of the greatest challenges I love as a photographer. I cannot count how many times I spent hours driving somewhere only to have Mother Nature disappoint at curtain call. But when She decides to give us a wonderful show I must be ready.

One of my favorite places to drive to for capturing “The Show” as I call it is Shenandoah National Park (SNP). The north entrance to SNP is about 45 minutes away from my house, and then it is another good hour drive to get down the Skyline Drive to the overlooks where I love to photograph from. Over the years I have shot many images from these overlooks, and as I grew as a photographer I realized that my images were lacking compositionally because I was shooting past the “clutter” in the foreground and focusing too much attention on the middle-ground and background (sky). While some images work well like that, too many in a portfolio can make the body of work weak. So several years ago I really started concentrating on the foreground element in my work.

Here is an example from when I was trying to eliminate some of the foreground. IMO the foreground in this shot doesn’t hold the eye like the opening image with the three truce trees.


Here is another example of having a strong foreground element to hold the eye on the image. This was shot at Dolly Sods in the West Virginia Highlands.


Those dead branches that I highlighted in this shot just GRAB the eye and ground the entire shot.

The tough part about finding a strong foreground to add to my composition is that per Murphy’s law I am going to be in a place that I haven’t scoped out when the conditions roll on in. Such as this shot above. I was walking with my son from another vantage point just scoping out the area so I could come back up here in the early morning for a sunrise shot when the rain started and the clouds let the light shine down. I ran around trying find the right foreground element before the conditions were gone. Yes, luck has a lot to do with it, but I believe luck favors the prepared.

To sum it up, even with great skies it can take a lot of work to make my images go from snapshots to works of art that I can be proud of.

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate all comments!



3 thoughts on “The Importance Of Foreground Elements

  1. I struggle with this issue as well; a gorgeous sky with little or no foreground interest. I used to live where there was *some* foreground possibility (although, as I review my portfolio, there is an aggravating sameness), but have recently relocated to a way-too-urban area where foregrounds are limited, or cluttered with man-made ugliness. Nothing more aggravating than chasing that beautiful sky, knowing its time is short, and finding nothing to showcase it!


    1. I was in the same boat as you for a while, and that is (one reason) why I jumped at the chance to move back to the country after living for two years in suburbia. Stick with it, as I am sure you will find the harmony with your work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s