Friday, April 20, 2018


Yes, layers in photography. I have always been attracted to layers, which I find mostly in landscapes and nature. Even though I see landscapes when I'm out and about, what I really look for is shapes, form, lines, and design. Layers are part of all that.

As my workshop students know, I majored in art for three years. I studied  composition, color theory, and 
design. That combination of art concepts led me to look for layers when I started "painting" with the medium of photography. Superimposed over layers are color and contrast.

It's the kind of photography where the viewer does not necessarily see layers. People just see a photo of a landscape or scenic, not realizing that I was looking for layers when I created the image. It's only when I inform viewers of the layers I saw that they say, "Oh, yeah. I see them now."
Let me share some examples to illustrate my attraction to layers. 

A few miles northeast of Boulder Colorado, along Hwy 52, is this huge swath of farming fields. In October, the lack of crops reveals these horizontal layers of rolling hills. I made sure I filled my viewfinder with mostly fields, with a touch of an extra layer--the sky. The UFO-looking cloud was serendipity.    

When you are in Colorado, the obvious tendency is to look for jagged snow-capped mountains, soothing creeks and cascades, lakes with awesome reflections, rivers, aspens in the fall, and so on. I do that too. One day I decided to go look for the "other" Colorado; the Colorado most people don't think about. For the most part, if you drive east of north-to-south Interstate 25, you swear you're in Kansas. It flattens out into treeless prairies, farmlands, and subtle rolling hills. 

On this particular day I decided to see what I could find east of Denver. I'm glad I did. I came across, you guessed it, layers! When I saw this scene at a glance I saw four layers. But, if you study it carefully, there are about ten layers, including the sky. Some are obvious; some are very thin; some partial; some in the distance. I loved the various complementary colors--green, burnt sienna, yellow, tan, and blue.

When I looked at these spectacular clouds at sunset, I was stunned at the surreal colors. I kept looking, and shooting, at the orange and red layers contrasted against those ominous dark layers, as the rest of the clouds slowly dissipated into the evening sky.  

In this scene, I basically saw two layers--a white layer and and a red layer (sprinkled with hints of green).

Here is a B&W rendition of the same scene.

Now, you might say, "Surely you didn't see layers in this scene?" Yes, I really did. They can be layers of shapes or color. I saw four layers here. Can you see them? I saw a layer of dark reds in the foreground, the first layer of mountains, the mountains themselves in the distance, then the sky. When I instinctively look for layers, it helps my overall compositions. 

I even find layers when shooting botanicals, as in this image. Can you see the diagonal layers of purples and greens? This is nothing other than a close-up of a plant at a butterfly pavilion.

This last example represents layers of mountains from Lake Luzern, Switzerland. I liked, not only the layers, but that the haze from the midday sun caused the mountains to recede in hue and clarity. 

I hope I have given you a variety of examples to help your eye look for layers in life, from the grand schemes to tight close-ups. They're out there. We just have to train our eyes to see them. As I mention in my book, Right Brain Photography, it helps to take take the labels off.  

Contact me if you have any questions or would like a 1-on-1 lesson to find layers in life.