Posted on Sep 25, 2022
Long-time RCFC member George Theodore, for our in-person meeting on September 28, used a number of his excellent landscape photos to outline for us some of his suggestions for how to create excellent landscape photographs.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to include any of the photos in this summary. 
George started out by suggesting how beautiful landscape photography can play an important role in conservation or preservation of all landscapes. A great landscape photo starts with a great location. The photograph should have compositional elements that draw the eye into the image.  These can be a road or trail, layering or a series of objects that are part of the landscape and connect the image from close to farther away
The same site may offer several different, but equally striking, views. As an example, he showed three views of a red barn, the subject, adjacent to a field with numerous harvested “jelly rolls” of hay.  In one, the barn is very large, and the hay rolls are inconspicuous; in another, the barn is moderate size, and the abundance of rolls is obvious; in yet another, a couple of the rolls dominate the foreground of the image, but the red of the barn, in the distance, is obvious in its contrast in color to the hay and remains “the subject” 
George likes clouds; he also likes lone trees.  Clouds are king!  Blue sky is boring!  Light changes sometimes quite rapidly.  He showed a single acacia tree with character and clouds in the sky. As the sun barely broke the horizon an overall reddish sky appeared.  The same scene was quite different with the sun fully risen - the different sun angle creating a blueish sky.  A scene with line, shape, form, texture & color is always interesting: George showed two pictures of rolling farmland in the Palouse area of Washington State. Essentially the same scene was dramatically different in spring and harvest.  The Badwater area of Death Valley National Park provided two different, but equally striking images - one with the foreground emphasized, the other with emphasis on the sky. 
Turn around!  In Death Valley, a nice scene of a valley looking one way was followed by a spectacular scene of the low-sun-illuminated mountains looking the other way.
Three scenes with a road or path leading the eye into the photo:  in Yosemite, the yellow stripe of a road leading into the picture points to the sun’s last light hitting El Capitan in the background.  Near Vail, the eye is led from the foreground toward the back of the scene through layering.  At another location, a curved road with clouds looked dramatically different, from the same location, in brilliant color or in infrared. 
In Olympic National Park, you can’t take a picture of the entire forest but you can take a picture of a representative part that may be only a few yards across.  He demonstrated the impact of early morning light with a photo of Acadia National Park just after sunrise.  A non-descript pond in Badlands National Park lands was made much more interesting with clouds in the sky and low-angle light immediately after sunrise reflected in the pond.
George gave a visual impression of cold with ice in Antarctica, snow and mist in Yellowstone, and trees covered in snow elsewhere.  The overall blue-white color tone projected that feeling of cold.  In contrast, the red cast of sharp peaks in Patagonia, framed by nearer objects, gave a “hellish” impression. 
He finished his presentation with a video linking up many of his images in association with gentle music that went with the peace of the images. 
How much time do you spend editing and what software/hardware do you use? 
He favors Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and there are other plug-in programs that he sometimes uses.  While he may take several minutes on an image, he’s already culled through the numerous images from a shoot to pick out the few that are worth spending time on. His order of adjustments is tone, color, effects.
What about the rule of thirds? 
That “rule” could be most usefully summarized as “don’t put your subject in the middle of the image – unless, of course, the image works best with the subject right in the middle; for example, a perfectly symmetrical subject.”
When is the best time to get a satisfactory image? 
In general, the best light is right around sunrise and sunset, so be out well before sunrise or sunset and be patient enough to stick around for another half-hour (approximately); there’s usually more good light available.