Picture the scene, you're stood in front of a magnificent vista and all you can think about is encapsulating the view before your eyes.
Whilst it is all too easy to concentrate purely on the background, which is after all what drew you to the scene in the first place, one must never lose sight of the need to introduce some foreground interest into the image to balance the composition.
Whilst there is a need a introduce foreground interest, paying attention to the foreground and background together can be the difference between a nice picture and a great shot. The human eyes are amazing, with their stereoscopic vision they can distinguish between different elements in view and determine depth in a scene. A camera however flattens the background and foreground creating a two dimensional image. Seeking out some foreground interest and correctly placing in the image can dramatically increase the chances of a successful image that is pleasing to the eye.
When composing an image one should consider what is in front of your subject. Are there any leading lines that take your eye away from the subject? Could the image elements be used to better frame the subject? Could colours in the foreground compliment colours in the background?
Taking a step back to include more of the foreground might help enhance the subject and its environment.
A common use of the foreground is to lead the eye toward the subject using leading lines. This is a technique that can involve something as simple as a winding road or railway tracks. Some of my personal favourites are groups of plants or rocks that are of course indigenous to the scene. Whatever is available the foreground use of leading lines helps you to create a more successful balanced image that helps draw you into the scene.
Watch out however for excess foreground activity as this may cause undue distractions. Undesirable foreground can be eliminated by moving in closer to the subject, adjust the focal length of the lens, or by simply changing viewpoint or camera angle.
Using the image in this post as an example, obviously the main event was the sunset over a body of water, but that on its own would be a boring flat image. As you can see the trunks and branches frames the sunset nicely and the branches lead the viewers eye into the scene. The icing on the cake was the randomly scattered rocks lying around the place that were illuminated by the soft glow of the sun and added an element of colour and warmth to the foreground to complement the image as a whole.
To me it ended up a well balanced image with all the elements outlined above and one I was very proud of.