DISTANT PEAKS – THE PITTSBURGH LANDSCAPE
Pittsburgh is a city of many vantage points. From the classic view from the overlooks of Mount Washington to the intimate views of the city along the North Shore, Pittsburgh is a skyline photographer’s dream. But what about the photographer, such as myself, who also feels very in tune with nature and loves the landscape genre of photography?
Enter the West End Overlook. I am a Pittsburgh photographer and thoroughly enjoy the capturing the skyline on camera. As I mentioned above, though, I very much love landscape photography and the West End Overlook affords me the best of both worlds. I posted the photo above to my Facebook page yesterday and mentioned that this location is rapidly become my go to spot for sunrise sessions. One small reason I love it here is my ability to include enough sky in my images to capture that beautiful color that ensues as the sun begins to crest the horizon without overcrowding the photo with that very same sky. The main reason, however, is my ability to meld a cityscape photograph with a landscape photograph.
A good landscape photograph will, generally speaking, be composed of an interesting foreground, middle ground, and background. The same is true of most photos. For me and my style of photography, the foreground is paramount when composing an image. If I can’t grab the viewers attention with a strong foreground, then what motivation are they going to have to let their eye travel around the rest of the image? This is where the West End sets itself apart, in my opinion, from other locations throughout the city. Notice the rocks? They, combined with the trees and grass (or snow covered grass), make great foreground elements. They form shapes and lines that really can anchor an image. Take the top photo for example – the rocks jut out in two different places, each forming a triangle that points almost directly at the skyline which, though small, is the true subject of the photograph.
Distance is another important factor in my appeal to the West End. Have you ever looked at a photograph of mountains and thought how small they look compared to other elements in the photo? You know they are big, yet they seem so tiny. There’s a good chance that photo was taken with a wide angle lens situated very near to the foreground element which exacerbates the perceived disparity in size. Looking at the two photos here, you will notice a similar quality. Obviously the rocks in my foreground are in reality much smaller than a skyscraper. But with a wide angle lens and a careful composition, I have made the city look much smaller than it truly is. Which is exactly what I want. I want my foreground to mesh with the skyline taking on the role of a landscape photograph. I want the buildings to be recognizable – present but not prominent. I want them to take on the role of mountain peaks in the distance.