There are very few national parks that have the extreme verticality that Yosemite has. You can walk to the base of El Cap and have over 3000 feet of smooth granite towering over your head. For the photographer this creates a challenge. Trying to create compositions with El Cap and foreground requires some extreme perspectives.
Take a look at this image. This was shot standing at eye level along the Merced river a few days ago on a workshop. The temperature was 15 degrees, so the river had ice on it. From a perspective/composition view, this image is well balanced and the perspective is comfortable and ‘normal’. Not a bad shot, but in my opinion not that eye catching either. It’s a nice image, but what could I do to add tension and engage the viewer more? The ice is what is a little different in this frequently photographed scene. This is the element I need to emphasize to create something a little different.
How about lying on the ground with ice 6 inches in front of my 14-24mm set at 14mm? This extreme perspective creates tension and adds foreground interest. The frozen river has different textures of ice that lead back to a sun-capped El Cap…nice foreground, middle ground and background. When all three of these are interesting, your image is going to be a good one. I warmed up the white balance in this image to better match the scene I was seeing.
The lesson learned here, and what I tell myself and workshop participants, is stop and ask yourself what is really interesting and engaging in the scene? Once you identify that, then use your photographic skills to emphasize that part of the shot. In this case in meant an extreme low perspective with lots of depth of field to create the final shot.