Looking west from Dege Peak at Mt. Rainier after sunset, a 180mm lens extracts a layered pattern of hills.
Photographs of patterns in nature compel, soothe and mystify. Well-executed, they capture our attention. They trap our gaze, like Escher does, in endless loops. Examples are everywhere: bird flocks, butterfly wings, fish scales, animal hides, beach pebbles, snowflakes, bubbles in ice, gnarled wood, smoky hills, lichen close-ups. Armed with a telephoto or a macro lens, an investigative photographer can find art and challenge in natures’s panoply of pattern.
Looking down on the Winthrop Glacier from Third Burroughs, a 200mm lens captures a repetition of crevasses, a pattern.
Patterns can be defined as repetition, most often of shape, sometime line or texture, large and small. A good pattern shot forces the eye to stay on the page, like leaves that arrange themselves in spirals. Or monkeyflowers where the eye moves in a circle, returning to the start and then moving around again. Sometimes color can distracts, and a move to black-and-white presents a pattern in purity.
I prefer this black and whte False Hellebore to the color version. It reduces the image to a more pure state, a soothing pattern of line-etched leaf-shapes.
Shooting down at f/22 at these Tongue Point gooseneck barnacles, I increased contrast to create blacks in shadow and add mystery.
Wildlife patterns can add dynamism, like an image of snow geese in flight. Or add dynamism with a pattern break: a yellow tulip in a sea of reds, a zebra among wildebeest, a heron among egrets.
Pattern of wintering Skagit snow geese flying in warm sunset light
Although a telephoto or macro lens are most useful, sometimes wide-angle works as well, often when shooting straight down from a tripod, or up at a cloud-strewn sky. The telephoto extracts shapes and textures from larger context to make patterns that surprise. The macro lens does likewise, but on a tiny scale.
Shooting down at 24mm on these Lewis's Monkeyflowers at Mt. Rainier, I didn't get the pattern I sought. In post, I added two flowers to flil voids, and rotated a third to better hold the eye. Adding contrast, shifting hue and de-satuating the greens finished the image.
Post processing tools aid the adventure. Instead of shooting at f/22, a focus stack can improve resolution (or reduce busy backgrounds). Creative use of Photoshop can clean up distractions, enhance or move elements or add a vignette to direct and capture the eye.
I find a lot of dynamism here, with implied dagonals among the twisting limbs of this Baja, Mexico Elephant Tree causing my eye to jump from lower left to upper right, and back again.
Hope you enjoy the patterns in nature.