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  • Writer's pictureGary Holpin

10 ingredients of great landscape photos part 9 - visual journeys

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Welcome to the latest installment of my new series where I introduce you to my guide to 'The ten ingredients of great landscape photos'. I hope that over this series I will be able to bring you some insight on how you can learn from my experiences and take some practical steps to improve your landscape photography.

Did you miss the previous editions of this series? If so, you can find them here:

The chart below summarises what I believe to be the ten main ingredients that go into making a great landscape photo. In this penultimate edition, we look at how creating visual journeys can make your photos more engaging.

A model for taking great landscape photos, by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
Ten ingredients of great landscape photos

Introducing visual journeys

As we near the end of our series looking at the ten ingredients of great landscape photos, we now move onto how some of the earlier ingredients can be combined to make your photos even more powerful, by creating visual journeys for the viewer. By constructing a visual journey, you can grab the viewers’ attention for longer, taking them on a route through the 2-dimensional photo in a way that mimics actually being there with you in the 3-dimensional world when the photo was captured.

The key factors in creating visual journeys

The most important factors in creating a visual journey are foreground interest, leading lines, focal points and lighting; these have been covered before as separate topics (see composition, focal points and lighting). In this edition, we will look at how they can work together in combination to construct a visual journey for the viewer of our photo.

Foreground interest

A foreground element acts as starting point for the viewer, and can help to draw their eye into the image. There is a cross over with leading lines (below) which can also make ideal foreground. In the image below, the inclusion of the log as foreground interest, helps to draw the viewers eye into the frame; the orientation also acts as a lead in line drawing the viewer inwards towards the lighthouse (the focal point). The effect is enhanced by the reflection of the cloud streaks which also act as lead-in lines pointing the viewer towards the lighthouse.

A long exposure photo of Burnham on sea lighthouse, Somerset, at sunset, by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
The log in the foreground helps draw the viewer into the photo

Lead-in lines

These are perfect to draw the viewers eye into an image, and can be especially powerful when they lead from the corners of an image; and are even more effective on taking the viewer on a journey if they lead towards the main focal point of the image. As well as linear lead-ins, such as fence lines, ripples in a sandy beach or a path, curves (such as the edge of a shoreline or a river), zig-zag shapes, or a series of elements that can lead the eye progressively into the frame, also work to help lead the viewer into the image.

The first photo below shows a fairly obvious use of a man-made structure to lead the viewers eye towards the main focal point (the bight patches on the hills). But note that the clouds and cloud reflection also draw the eye from the right of the frame, also towards the focal point. The second image shows a natural lead in line, in the form of the water which leads the viewer from the bottom left, towards the light-house (main focal point).

A landscape photo of a misty autumn morning on Derwent Water, Keswick, Lake District by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
The landing stage helps to draw the viewers eye in from the bottom of the photo

A black and white image of Burnham on Sea beach and lighthouse, by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
The stream of water helps to draw the viewers eye in from the bottom corner of the photo

Focal point

The focal point acts as an anchor in the image, and is often in the middle layer of the image. Foreground elements and / or lead in lines, leading the viewers eye towards the focal point can create effective viewer journeys. In the image below, the steps lead the viewers eye into the frame, and towards the main focal point (the tree) which acts as an anchor in the image, helping to create an effective visual journey. The viewers eye pauses at the focal point before drifting off into the background towards the distant headland.

A landscape photo of a grey day at the lone tree of Babbacombe by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
The tree acts as a focal point and anchors the composition


The human eye is more attracted to light areas than dark ones. Knowledge of this can help us to avoid distracting elements in photos (very bright areas on the edge of photos can draw the eye to the edge of the frame and are therefore to be avoided), it can also be used in a positive way as part of a visual journey through an image. By using layers (see composition) and having darker layers in the foreground, and lighter ones in the middle / background, this can create a visual journey by helping to draw the viewers eye through the image.

In the image below, the brighter white layer of fog in the middle ground attracts the eye, helping to pull the viewer over the darker foreground and towards the background layers of the image.

A landscape photo of a foggy morning over Honiton, Devon, by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography
The lighter fog layer draws the eye back through the frame

Final words

As with the composition ‘rules’ covered HERE, constructing a visual journey is not an essential element for every photo, but is another tool in the photographers’ armoury to create engaging photos. Creating a visual journey can be a powerful technique for grabbing the attention of the viewer, and drawing them in to an image, making it a much more appealing and therefore a more powerful visual image.

Want a learn more about my ten ingredients?

I now use this model of landscape photography to shape my Devon photography training courses, and my courses consistently get fabulous reviews on Google. So if you're a beginner photographer who is local to East Devon and want to learn the art of landscape photography, check out my range of local photography courses. Alternatively why not make a weekend break of it and attend one of my residential photography workshops - either my beginners landscape photography masterclass for those starting out in photography, or my intermediate photography masterclass for those who already understand the basics and want more practical help progressing their landscape photography.

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