Transitions and Extremes in Panorama Photography

If you show up in a promising location for scenery photography, how do you choose which usually direction to start walking plus exploring? It’s not always obvious, especially if the landscape ahead is something like sand dunes or salt flats where you can go any direction.

Of course , the answer depends on the landscape. But I’ve discovered that it can help to aim for two particular types of subject: changes from one terrain to another, plus extreme points within the terrain.


Every landscape comes to an end. The shore meets the particular ocean; the field meets the mountain; the horizon satisfies the sky. These in-between places where one subject transitions to another are an antique watches mine of opportunity for photography.

Let’s take the most obvious answer of the sea along the shore. When the two mix, the patterns plus lines they create are more interesting than either has a tendency to create on its own. The transition from one to the other results in interesting subjects like tide pools, long exposure surf, glossy rocks, and all sorts of good foreground opportunities.

Windy Beach in Iceland
NIKON D800E + 50mm f/1. 4 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1 second, f/16. 0
NIKON D800E + 24mm f/1. four @ 24mm, ISO hundred, 1 . 6 seconds, f/16. 0
Seashore in New Zealand with Rock Stack
NIKON D800E + 14-24mm f/2. 8 @ 19mm, ISO 100, 1/5, f/11. 0

Another example that occurs to you is the more specific landscape of Yellowstone National Park. The springs make great subjects on their own, but the colorful bacteria that live along the sides (i. e. the transitions) of the pools are particular favorites of mine.

Edge of Hot Spring Yellowstone
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 185mm, ISO 140, 1/200, f/9. 0
Geyser Patterns Yellowstone
NIKON D800E + 20mm f/1. 8 @ 20mm, ISO 1250, 1/100, f/6. 3
Yellowstone Hot Spring Color Gradient
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 105mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 100, 1/1000, f/4. 0

There’s simply more happening at the transition of different terrains, that is often helpful for photography. Much more it easier to tell tales with your photos.

I hardly even need to mention the most obvious transitions in landscape photography: night to day, and day to night. Even if we don’t normally think of sunrise and sunset in terms of a changeover, that’s exactly what they are – the start of something, and the finish of something else. They often result in the best light in landscape photography and make for beautiful photos. The same is true for your edges of a storm or the beginning of a fog.

Sandstorm in Death Valley
NIKON D800E + 35mm f/1. 8 @ 35mm, ISO 100, one 3 seconds, f/16. 0
On the edge of the sandstorm (the beginning of which is just visible at the top remaining of the image)


The other subjects I’ve found helpful to search for are extreme conditions. This is anything from the top of a sand dune towards the bottom of a canyon – AKA, the highest, lowest, farthest, coldest, warmest, driest, wettest, etc ., places you can find.

The extremes already attract our attention, so it should be no surprise that they make great subjects. Even if you don’t plan to include them directly in your photo, they also make great vantage points. For example ,   at the top of the highest hill in an area, you may have a great 360 degree look at without obstructions blocking your composition. Likewise with tall sand dunes, mountains, boulders, and so on, or the tip of the peninsula. From the extremes, your vantage point is often less cluttered, which can make it easier to simplify your photos.


Pyramid-Shaped Sand Dune in Death Valley National Park at Sunset
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 100mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8. 0
Harsh black and white light
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/2. 8 @ 70mm, ISO 140, 1/500, f/9. 0

The extreme parts of an area also tend to have unusual weather, lighting, and other conditions that make for interesting pictures. While a valley might only get sunlight from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, the top of a mountain will shine longer than any of the surroundings. Plus, certain cloud patterns, precipitation, dust storms, and so on are more likely to hit the landscape’s extremes.

One example that comes to mind is definitely Death Valley National Recreation area. It has a lower elevation compared to almost any other point on solid ground and also records many of the most extreme temperatures. The result is a barren, stark, and wonderful landscape with all sorts of interesting features. Rock formations, sodium flats, unusual plants, and intense weather – no wonder it’s such a popular place for photography. The extreme conditions are what makes it so interesting.

Death Valley Dry Riverbed
Death Valley Black And White Lines and Cracks
Dusty Evening in Mesquite Sand Dunes Death Valley
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 175mm, ISO a hundred, 1/100, f/8. 0

I had taken the following picture at the cheapest point on land (even below Death Valley) across the Dead Sea in Michael jordan. Along with that, I was at the far end of a peninsula – not to mention that it was sun, going back to what I talked about a moment ago about changes. In short, this is a combination of gentle and other factors that don’t really happen under even more typical conditions:

Nikon Z7 Landscape Salt Formation

It doesn’t get a lot more extreme than the lowest point on Earth – but when it does, the results can be even more interesting. Nasim recently went to Iceland for some landscape photography. Following the principle of “chasing the particular extremes, ” maybe you may guess where he took among the best photos during the trip. The answer is a volcano:

Iceland Volcano
DJI Mavic 2 Professional + 28mm f/2. 9 @ ISO 100, 1/800, f/4. 0. Copyright Nasim Mansurov.

Wild. As his photograph above shows, chasing the particular extremes pays off.


Transitions and extremes aren’t the only places that make great landscape photos. All I’d express is that they tend to give a higher keeper rate. If you’re at a loss which direction to go in the landscape, they’re the first locations I’d recommend walking – either to include as an element in your composition, or (in the case of some extremes) as a good vantage point out see everything else.

I also don’t want to imply that it takes hours and hours of strolling to reach these sorts of locations. Just as many edges and extremes are right next to a parking lot! Many of the places in this article only required a couple of minutes of walking to reach.

In truth, you’ll find edges and extremes just about everywhere if you look closely. Even though they’re not the only good subjects in landscape digital photography, they have a lot of promise. The next time you’re out in a good location and don’t find out where to start, think back to this short article and figure out if it applies to the scene in front of you.

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