Photo by Lanny Cottrell

Taking photos of an empty road seems to me to be an easy one. The tough part in getting an open road, is to make sure there is no traffic on it. And that is why I tend to look for old dirt roads, or trail roads that have been created by truck enthusiast. But, this falls in to one of the big rules of composition: Leading lines. Knowing that leading lines is a great rule of composition and then to get that with empty roads, is a winning combination.

road heading towards mountain
Photo by Nextvoyage on

There is always one big choice you need to make in taking photos of empty roads, and that is to have the road go right down the middle of the photo, or have it curve or be off-center in your photo. In reality, I first look to see if I can get a good photo by having it either curve or be off-center, and if I can’t do that, then I will go stand in the middle of the road.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I really like this photo and how the road comes from the right hand of the picture and leads to the center of the photo. I would recommend that if you can do this, choose this option first, and see if you can do that.

Photo by Lanny Cottrell

The photo above is a little different because I chose to have the road come from the center of the picture to the left hand side of the photo. It tends to draw your attention to the side that has the beautiful fall colors in the picture.

Night photo by Lanny Cottrell photography

The photo above, taken at night time, was an easy choice, because the street light is right in the middle of the photo, and the road leads our eyes to that central point. Also, the other thing to make sure you do is to use a small aperture, if you can control that. That way you will have a focus field that is much larger, and more of your photos will be in focus.

Road partially taken over by snow, photo by Lanny Cottrell Photography

Winter is always fun to get road pictures, You will get the road going where your eyes should go, plus, there could be tire tracks to help with those leading lines.


When taking photos of an empty road, first see if you can make it look good by not having it go right down the center, but, if you must do it right down the center, this is one rule you can break in composition. This will still work down the center.

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Learn how to take beautiful Landscapes

time lapse photography of waterfalls during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on

Learning how to take beautiful landscapes takes practice, and patience, and learning how to “see” the landscape as a great piece of art. When I look at the photo above, I see a few things I have to think about when taking this photo and getting a beautiful photo like this:

  • I have a waterfall. I will need to use a slow shutter speed, maybe one second to get the blur of the water.
  • The sun is setting so my timing has to be perfect to add that color in the background.
  • Because I am using a slow shutter speed to get the water to blur, I will need to use my good tripod
  • The landscape is very green. I need to find a way to enhance that beauty
  • There are people in this photo, but, they are far away. Are they important to create this photo?
  • What lens should I use to get the area that I want in my photo?
  • What is the most important part of this photo: the sky or the land?
  • I need to be aware of subject or ground in the foreground of my photo.
  • Use depth of field to the best that I can…. F16 or F32 if possible
  • Is there any lines or shapes that will help the composition?
  • Plan on taking several photos, one under expose (-), and one over expose (+) to see if one photo looks better
  • Would there be another angle that might improve this landscape photo?
  • Can I do anything with camera filters that will help me from needing to do “post processing”?

Now, you are probably thinking that there is no way I would think about all those things. After you take enough landscape photos, the answers and tips will come automatically. In fact they will come second nature to you as you get used to finding what works the best for you. Let’s just take a look at some of these things that should be done, and I want to emphasize even more.

water falls in the middle of the forest
Photo by Diego Madrigal on

Here are several points we can take care of right here: You need to use a slow shutter speed to get the water to blur. In the first photo, I am just guessing that maybe 1 full second would be a beautiful way to make the water blur. Now, using your manual mode, to get the perfect exposure with 1 second, what is your F number? Is it F16 or F32, F22? If you still can’t get it to match, make sure your ISO setting is as low as it can go. 100 ISO is usually the lowest these new digital cameras will go. If you still can’t get it to match up, you will need a Neutral Density Filter for your lens. I don’t know any serious landscape photographer who doesn’t have a set of Neutral Density Filters. They are nothing more than a glass filter that cuts down the light through your lens, without changing any color.

Just a note: Any words that are in red, are linked to a website, where you can order these items. Or, just to check out the details of this product more.

To get real good at taking landscapes, the best photos are usually done by shooting in manual mode, where you can control the overall effect of the picture.

Photo by Blair Fraser on Unsplash

Another point made in the list above is the importance of a tripod. If you are going to take photos of landscapes where you need to use slow shutter speed, then you must have a Photo tripod. Just do it. Don’t say you can take a picture with the shutter speed at 1/4 second. It will show up badly if you enlarge it. You want sharp pictures, use a Photo tripod.

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

Is it a bad thing to add people in your landscape photos? It is not a bad thing if you want to portray perspective in your photo. How big is the valley? How can I let someone know that I am on a cliff? Adding people gives you a great perspective on your landscape photo. But, I would only use them if you want to create perspective.

brown dock
Photo by Pok Rie on

One of the good rules in composition is to use “leading lines” or lines that direct your attention to a certain part of the photo. If you can find them in your landscape, then please try to use them. It will create more of a feeling of motion with your eyes, to see everything in the picture. If you have lines, then use them.

Exposure Bracketing.

Exposure bracketing is also a good thing to do to get good at getting the perfect shot. It is one way to tell, by the contrast in the photo, which photo would be best. It involves you shooting one photo right on to what the light meter says, one photo overexposed, and one photo underexposed. Some people will shoot more.

Exposure Bracketing For Perfect Details - Grey Chow Photography
5 frame photo bracketing exposure

You know you can delete any photos you don’t want to keep in digital photography, so take a lot of exposures, and when you find the one you like, then discard the rest.

Photo by Paul Rysz on Unsplash

I think every photographer would like to take their photo during the “Golden Hour”. Just when is the Golden Hour? That is 1 hour before the sun sets, and 1 hour after sunrise. The sky, the whole picture just looks warmer and more pleasing. And it is a time that every photographer loves. That is why they get up so early, is to get the perfect timing on the light of day.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

When you go out to take your great landscape photos, a Wide Angle lens would be a lens you would usually use. Or a wide angle zoom lens would also be ideal, because you can vary the amount you want in your photo. These lenses get the “wide vistas” of a great landscape photo. You just can’t go wrong with this lens.

One more item to attach to your lens is a circular polarizing filter. I have done some “post processing” and find that one thing that works similar to a circular polarizing filter is the “dehazing” adjustment on Lightroom. I like to use that on some of my old photos, but, I can accomplish the same thing as I take the picture, using a circular polarizing filter. It cuts reflections off all non-metallic surfaces, such as trees, grass, and even the little dust particles in the sky. It brings out the colors of your landscape photo by a lot. It is worth the investment.

Photo by Ouael Ben Salah on Unsplash


This whole exercise today was to get you to think about all the different things that go in to making an amazing landscape photo. Go through the list a few times, take the pointers we talked about, and practice, practice, practice. Once you go through this exercise asking all these questions before you push the button, you will be in demand for the amazing photos you take.


train railway near trees
Photo by Krivec Ales on

Day Four: “Natural World” — Leading Lines

A good photographer is a constant observer. Out in nature, we have opportunities to watch and study a scene, from big, sweeping changes — like the sky at dusk — to the tiniest details, like the subtle bends in bare branches in the Nevada desert:

Today, capture the natural world: snap a moment outside, big or small. From a close-up of a leaf in your backyard to a panorama from your morning hike, we invite you to document this wondrous world around us.

Today’s Tip: While shooting outdoors, look for natural lines that lead your eyes to different parts of the frame. Study the bend of a stream, or the curve of a petal. How can you use these lines in your composition?

Photo of Antelope Canyon in Arizona by Cheri Lucas Rowlands.
Photo of Antelope Canyon in Arizona by Cheri Lucas Rowlands.

It takes time to train your eyes to look for leading lines. Look for strong vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines in your setting, as well as curves and shapes that draw your eye toward certain parts of your photo. In the image above, the smooth lines that make up Arizona’s famous slot canyon, Antelope Canyon, direct your eyes around the frame — the curve starting at the top left, in particular, leads your eye gently down to the center of the photo.

Do you see any leading lines in your scene? Can you change their direction, or can you play with the orientation of your image, to create a more dynamic composition? Or, another challenge: can you apply — or break — the Rule of Thirds?

Today, I wanted to alert you on some special things to help you with taking photos, using “leading lines”. The first item that would help you is: A tripod (click this word). This is one thing that every serious photographer should just have with them all the time. Click this link: tripod and see the amazing selection.

Another accessory that most photographers have is a filter that you put on your lens: Click: lens filter to see and read about all the things a filter will do.