On using foreground elements as anchors

By |2012-10-17T22:15:06+00:00Oct 9th, 2011|

I’m still trying to hack away at the backlog of images that seems to be growing. Not a bad problem to have at all. I came across this shot and thought it would make for a good lesson to share here with all of you.

I took this shot in August, while visiting some salt flats near Saltair, Utah with +Nicole S. Young. As you could see, the sun was running away at an alarming clip, so time was not a luxury that either of us had. I wanted to capture the vastness of the area but I also felt that it was lacking in interest when I tried to shoot it as a barren landscape.

So, I scanned around and saw this dried out tree stump. The fact that it had this tiny branch growing out of its top was a little bonus. I knew that I had found my anchor. I felt that a shot as desolate as this one needed to be broken up with an anchor – a dominant element in the foreground that the eyes can return to when they get fatigued or bored of the rest of the scene.

I placed it in the lower left quadrant of the frame because it aided in the overall flow of the image. I tone-mapped this shot because it would be impossible to convey the full dynamic range of the scene without it. Stylization and cleanup was all done in Perfect Photo Suite 6.



  1. Elia Locardi October 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    I agree, the backlog photo problem is a great problem to have. This is good too because at my current processing pace, It's a problem I'll have for a very long time. ;)

  2. Brian Matiash October 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    +Elia Locardi It's one of those things I have no problem wishing on you (or me!). :)

  3. Elia Locardi October 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash No doubt. ;) I'll see that wish and raise you a strong cup of coffee!

  4. Jan Habal October 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    So Brian tell me please … where is my OnOne Pack ver. 6.x … how long I have to wait …

  5. Jim Denham October 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Beautiful image Brian!

  6. Steve Eshom October 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Having something strong like that in the foreground certainly does give the image a sense of depth. Without the mind might not comprehend how far away the edge of the salt flat and the mountains are.

  7. Matthew Quinly October 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Wow. Thanks for sharing both the great photo and the lesson along with it.

  8. Csaba Molnár October 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    Wonderful photo, and thanks for sharing your thoughts +Brian Matiash – it's always fun to learn from others, seeing how they think. I also preordered the Perfect Photo Suit, can't wait to get my hands on it. The current version is OK, but not quite as impressive as the next version looks to be. I wonder if Perfect Layers could become an alternative to PS in the future, though there are PS plugins I could not live without. Some things from Nik's software and Imagenomic – I guess Perfect Portraits could replace Portraiture (we'll see) but still need something for noise reduction. I wonder if in the future, these plugins can be made compatible with Perfect Layers – any thoughts on that?

  9. Joshua Cromer October 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm - Reply


  10. Kristen Grillo October 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    You are so right. This did need an interesting little character. And the result was just wonderful. Great shot!

  11. Marco Ranieri October 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Nice work Brian! I also love the creative use of lens flare. As photographers we sometimes try so hard to avoid it, while sometimes we should use it as another photographic design element.

  12. Todd Green October 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I just want to mention your processing is super clean. Without that the image would not be as remarkable as it is. Well done!

  13. Tisha Craw October 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    I love it!

  14. rebekah stone October 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    I love the entire series, especially the old buildings, which is something I am focusing on (no pun intended) these days. Cracked paint, faided colours, and so on. It is great that you will share also your tips and reasoning for how and why you made the photo. It is so useful. Thanks for sharing all.

  15. Justin Hill October 10, 2011 at 4:24 am - Reply


  16. Umair Taj October 10, 2011 at 5:06 am - Reply


  17. LaRee Brownell October 10, 2011 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Nice work

  18. Justin Hill October 10, 2011 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Sorry Brian. I don't know how I posted that. Maybe I sat on my phone. I didn't mean to diminish the conversation. Great work, as always.

  19. Brian Matiash October 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    +Justin Hill No worries at all! :)

  20. Jose Martinez October 10, 2011 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Very interesting explanation of how you composed the shot.

  21. Jose Vazquez October 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Love these posts where we know exactly what was going through the photographers head before the shot. The details in that stump are awesome…and that sunburst is icing.

  22. Niklas Herder October 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Fantastic image!

  23. Nector Marmolejos October 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Great Work Brian!

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