Whenever I wander the woods behind my house this time of year, I see flashes of red – Christmas Berry, or Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, one of the best California native shrubs for landscape use.

Toyon Berries; Heteromeles arbutifolia – Christmas Berry bush; California native Shrub with red winter berries on Cherry Hill

On a recent walk I found a particularly full plant, well suited to photograph.  Usually the plants appear intermingled with other shrubs, and the big plants with lots of berries are particularly hard to photograph when looking up into them.

This glorious specimen was on a hill, downhill at the edge of a fire road that allowed me to clamber up opposite, and get at the same height as the berries.  Then, with a telephoto lens, I created a tight composition that allowed me to put the background in soft focus.

Look carefully at the subtle differences of these two photos, noting how I used the tree in the distance to help frame the composition.

Before and After Slider

I always use a tripod for landscape photography.  It is not only vital to stabilize a telephoto lens, it is an excellent tool for precise compositions.

Studying the first composition in the viewfinder, I realized I could move just a bit to my left and get the tree in the background to separate from the shrub, and help frame the left side of the image.

Use the tripod to look carefully at what the camera is seeing.  Compose carefully using the entire frame.

E-Book Two of the PhotoBotanic Workshop Series, Think Like A Camera, has more lessons that will help your compositions.