Behind the Shot: Flotsam and Jetsam

Foreground is very important for many types of photography, especially landscape photography. Photographers often spend a lot of time looking for interesting foreground elements – ones that help lead the viewer’s eye into the background. In other words, not any foreground will do and you cannot simply use any old thing that gets washed up on shore. Well, sometimes you can – if you’re lucky.

Never forget that just about anything can be used to create a foreground. For this photo taken along the south Oregon coast, I used some twisted kelp which had washed up on shore. I got low and close with a wide-angle lens in order to emphasize and exaggerate the size of the near coil in the kelp, and then stopped down my lens to ensure sufficient depth of field to cover the entire scene from foreground to background, rendering everything as acceptably sharp.

Canon 5DIII, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens with Canon adapter, ISO 100, f/14, 1/40 second.

Not only did the kelp help lead the eye into the background, but the far end of the kelp twisted around again, creating some interesting shapes and middle-ground interest. The small aperture rendered the setting sun as an attractive “star burst,” enhancing visual interest and completing the viewer’s visual journey from foreground, to middle-ground, to background, to sky.

Related article: How to Create a Starburst Effect

The right foreground can be the difference between an unsuccessful photo that fails to compel or inspire the viewer, or a successful composition that holds the viewer’s interest over time. So get out there, and spend a lot of time looking for great foregrounds. As always, good luck!


About the author: World-renowned professional photographer and Tamron Image Master Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to several leading photo magazines and the author of numerous books and instructional videos. You can see more of Ian’s work at

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