Our landscape is abundant with rocky views from the gneiss rocks of Scotland, through the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Dales, to the rocky Jurassic coastline of Dorset. Move in closer and their patterns and textures provide fabulous abstract opportunities for photographers.
The beauty about this technique is any camera / lens combination can be used. No special kit is needed - just a good eye for the best viewpoint and artistic flare to determine the best composition. You could use a tripod to be sure of a rock (excuse the pun) solid view, especially when shooting patterns on the ground, as it can be harder to hold the camera rigid when you're pointing downwards. If you do use a tripod make sure it has an option to splay the legs out wide so you don't get them in the shot.
A standard lens is ideal, especially for rocks patterns below your feet - either a fixed 50mm or short zoom from around 35-70mm range is fine. Use a longer lens if you can't get close enough to the rock face. This is ideal for distant coastal cliff faces or mountain sides. A lens with a close focus will be handy when the texture is more important...you can focus in close on the more intricate details of the rock's composition.
When To Take Your Photos
Shoot in overcast light if you want less contrast, but this can reduce the impact of the photo. Sunlight casts shadows making the patterns of rugged rocks become almost 3D. You can use the flash from your camera set to fill to reduce the shadows. If you use a camera that has flash control set the flash compensation to -1 in sun-behind-clouds situations and -2 in bright sunlight. The result will be a reduction in the density of shadow areas, but still enough to give the necessary 3D effect.
Where To Look
Some of the best patterns can be seen in strata, layers of rock that have been formed by layer upon layer of rock or soil millions of years ago. These layers have become exposed by erosion from the sea or natural earth movement or from being cut away to make roads.
Some of the best viewpoints for photography can be found on the coastline. Go to any rocky coastline and you're likely to find interesting rock patterns and textures, whether on the cliff faces or the natural pavement you walk on. Cliff faces provide head on views, and show the strata with the most dramatic lines while the ocean bed, exposed at low tide, can provide smoother more interesting shapes.
Look for rocks covered on lichen - coastal and exposed mountain moorland areas or dense woodland where it's likely to be regularly damp are ideal for this sort of texture. Use the lens on close focus to crop in on the minute detailed textures and patterns.
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