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Exploring Cloudland Canyon with Petra
October 21, 2020 at 10:00 AM
by Advance Photo Tours

Setting the Scene – Stunning waterfalls and fall colors at Cloudland Canyon

This treasured photo comes from an outing I enjoyed to the breath-taking Cloudland Canyon. It’s a renowned state park in Georgia and is famed for its epic waterfalls, expansive vistas, and of course, the large canyon itself.

To give you a little historical and geographical info, Cloudland Canyon was designated a state park in 1939. Originally, it was just 1924 acres, but over the years, it has been expanded as Georgia state has purchased more land – it now covers an impressive area of 3485 acres.

Within the park, you can find a host of fantastic hiking trails that really let you see the scale and beauty of the canyon. During the fall, I love the colors that emerge in the trees and foliage. The greens of summer steadily turn into gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red – it's a photographer's dream any time of the year, but in Autumn it's an especially beautiful place.

There is also a handful of vast waterfalls – some of which are hidden. These were the aim of my trip and I wanted to enjoy an exhilarating hike, but also take some shots of the waterfalls. I, of course, had my faithful companion Petra to accompany me. If you visit Georgia and enjoy the outdoors, I can’t recommend Cloudland Canyon enough!

Creating the Composition – A simple but effective pet portrait

Petra is my Belgian Malinois – she is just 6 months old and is still incredibly excitable. When she is off the lead, you can guarantee she will chase anything and everything that moves!

As a result, you cannot tell, but in this photo, I actually edited out her lead, so the photo looks more natural. That is the beauty of photography and photo editing – what you see and shoot, and the final photo can be completely different. Advanced editing tools like Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW allow you to easily remove unwanted objects from your photos without affecting the quality.

Anyway – the composition of this photo is simple but effective. It was a spur of the moment shot and wasn't particularly planned. Oftentimes the best photos we take are happenstance and may be throw-away images that we don't expect to be useful.

600 stairs there and back

We had just trudged up a staggering 600 steps to reach a beautiful viewing point of one of the waterfalls. Needless to say, we were both breathing heavily, and a short break was needed! Petra was panting slightly with her tongue lolling out, she was also sitting calmly. I liked how she was sat, and that her tongue was out so I snapped the shot.

Photos like this serve several purposes. Firstly, I can look back fondly on this shot and remember the steps and the journey we took to get to the viewing point. Photos should tell a story and act as visual accompaniments to our memories.

Secondly, this photo also shows some simple but effective pointers for portrait and pet photography. For example, Petra's tongue is out. This may not seem relevant, but that small action sets the scene somewhat as you can see she is panting. When photographing pets, it is better if you can capture their natural actions.

Also, a larger aperture has been used so that there is a shallower depth of field focused on Petra. In portrait photography, it is better to separate the subject from the background using aperture. The effect is pleasing, and it places more emphasis on the subject.

Finally, a simple use of the rule of thirds helps frame Petra. Using the rule of thirds, you should aim to place your main subject off-center. Imagine a grid over your photo that splits it into sections – the subject should be placed over the intersecting lines of the grid in one of the top or bottom corners. As you can see, I framed Petra to the left and this small adjustment just makes the composition look better.

What Makes This Photo Stand Out?

I love this photo because it is simple but has so much meaning. It helps tell a story of our amazing trip to Cloudland Canyon, and the journey we took along the way. Also, it is a great shot of my beloved pet and the composition puts the attention on her. As photographers, it is nice to have photos like these that we have an emotional connection with.

From a compositional point of view, this photo also uses simple techniques such as the rule of thirds, depth of field, and capturing natural actions. It is just a pleasing photo that gives me fond memories!

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