A few weeks ago I found myself at the Lake Michigan lakefront trying to capture some interesting early morning cloud formations. I mean really early, as in 5:30 a.m. The results were disappointing. However, the effort did reinforce a compositional rule in landscape photography that I had understood but that is easily forgotten. That rule is that, where possible, the composition should include a foreground element to serve both as a point of interest and as a way of creating perspective. Too often I have zoomed in on something distant that I wanted to emphasize and neglected this rule. The few photos I retained from that early morning I think illustrate this point.
What had caught my attention and what I was trying to capture were some interesting cumulus clouds that were being nicely illuminated and colored by the early morning sun. And here is the first shot that I took.
The clouds that I was interested in were the puffy ones in the lower right of this shot. They were just too far away for the lens that I had and in this shot were overwhelmed by the clouds higher in the sky.
But to my point, there is essentially nothing in the foreground in this shot. Compare this with the following, similar shot in which I held the camera much lower to the ground to incorporate the grass at the edge of the bluff overlooking the lake.
Better, I think. Now I have given up on those puffy clouds that I wasn't going to be able to emphasize anyway, and I have turned the shot into one incorporating the overall scene. Even though the grass in the lower part of the shot occupies a large part of the overall image, the compositional balance and interest are, I think, much stronger.
Here are a couple more shots that I took attempting to capture the morning sun in the frame.
In both of these I think I did an OK job of incorporating foreground elements in the composition, whether they were along the bottom or along one side.