Landscape Composition Tool #6:

Layers

May 17, 2021


Layers can be a powerful compositional tool in your landscape photography compositional toolbox. Layers add dimension and depth to an image by using a repeating pattern or element with different hues or lighting to show three dimensionality. One common example of this compositional technique is layered hills or mountains that are usually differing hues of blue during sunrise or sunset. This article does not address the layering of hills or mountains because it is so common, but rather, is shows other examples of how layering can be used to create compelling images.


In the image below, notice how the houses along this river in Trondheim, Norway are layered on top of each other to the horizon, which adds depth to the image. It also adds dimensionality and helps the viewer imagine they are standing on this bridge looking out over this scene.

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The reflection in the photo above also helps emphasize the layering and gives depth to the image, which increases the viewer’s interest when looking at the photograph.


In the photo below from Cypress Tree Tunnel in Point Reyes National Seashore, California, the trees are layered, which helps the viewer feel like they are standing on this road looking down at the row of trees. The trees and the different hues of trees helps show depth and the viewer can feel that the house at the end of the road is a decent distance away.

May 25, 2021

Layers do not always need to be man-made, they occur naturally as well. The image below from Diamond Beach, Iceland shows the small pieces of ice layered from the foreground up through the background until the horizon. Layering these pieces of ice in the photograph shows the viewer this beach has lots of ice pieces that stretch for a great distance. It adds three-dimensionality to the photograph generating more interest for the viewer.

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The sea stacks along the Oregon Coast provide a great source of layering as shown in the picture below. They help to add interest to this photograph and provide a bit of depth for the viewer. This results in the viewer feeling like they are present listening to the waves wash upon the beach and seeing the stars shine above the ocean.

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Sometimes layering can be accentuated in post-processing to really make the individual layers stand out from each other. In the photo below from Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona, the walls of the slot canyon are oriented in a way that makes it hard to tell depth in the image straight out of camera. By adjusting the hues of the rocks to make it match how it looked in person helps separate the layers and add the interesting depth and dimensionality to the photograph.

May 17, 2021

As you can see in the image above, the foreground walls, which are the layers in this image, are dark toned with dark red hues. Moving from the foreground to the background, the layers transition from dark tones and dark red hues to brighter tones with orange hues. This transition between layers shows the viewer the depth of the scene and helps the viewer imagine the three-dimensionality of this slot canyon.


Layers are a powerful landscape compositional tool that can make photos really pop to a viewer. By accentuating colors and hues between layers to separate each layer, it adds depth and dimensionality to help a viewer visualize being present in a scene. To discover more landscape compositional tools, check out this article!


How have you used layers in your photography? Let me know in the comments below!

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