composition

HOW DID YOU SEE THAT?

Fujifilm x-Pro2 with a 35mm lens. 1/140 @ f7.1, ISO 800, exp. comp. -1.0. Processed in Adobe Lightroom CC (2015) and Nik Color Efex Pro.

Fujifilm x-Pro2 with a 35mm lens. 1/140 @ f7.1, ISO 800, exp. comp. -1.0. Processed in Adobe Lightroom CC (2015) and Nik Color Efex Pro.

It was my first night in Scotland for an assignment with the Navy. I had left Washington, D.C. the previous evening, arrived at Inverness via Heathrow around noon, and after another three hours of driving, I arrived in the Kyle of Lochalsh and the British Underwater Test & Evaluation Centre where I received an overview of the location where I would be shooting for the next week.

After finishing up and checking into my lodging, I began to explore the small town in search of dinner and a Pint and maybe a few photographs. The sun was already beginning to set and a nice color began to fill the sky.

Forgetting about dinner, and especially the Pint, for a moment, I made my way to an overlook and saw a really nice scene of the Skye Bridge with the sun setting in the distance. In the foreground was the Kyle of Loch Alsh Hotel. More on that later.

I made my way closer and immediately spotted some great rocks covered in green and yellow lichen located just beyond the hotel. I knew right away that those rocks would make a great foreground and a few minutes later I was happily shooting.

Why the title of this blog?

Well the next day several people who had already been in Scotland for a few days, and spotting a photographer now on site, approached to see if I had witnessed the previous night's sunset, eagerly sharing some very nice photos they had taken.

I told them that I too had taken a few photos and showed them one that I had transferred to my phone. They immediately began to complement me and wonder where I took that photo and how cool the colors were, especially in the foreground. They didn't believe me when I told them.

The first view of the setting sun I had before making my way past the hotel to the rocks.

The first view of the setting sun I had before making my way past the hotel to the rocks.

You see, they were all staying at the Kyle of Lochalsh Hotel and photographed that same sunset just 50 yards from where I made my photograph. In fact, they had been there for several nights and never noticed those rocks.

The point of this post isn't to brag that I got a better photograph, that's subjective. In fact, throughout the week I found myself wondering the same thing about a British and Canadian photographer covering the same assignment as I was.

We all see things differently and this was another reminder to look around, not give up on a scene too early and that sharing your work is important to both show others what they might have missed and to show you what you missed. 

And maybe those who saw my version of that sunset looked at something differently over the next couple days. I know I did.

 

BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS - THOUGHTS ON COMPOSITION

Composition wise, this photograph taken at the Lincoln Memorial sums up this blog post in one photograph. Fujifilm X100S, 1/30 @ f8, ISO 400.

Composition wise, this photograph taken at the Lincoln Memorial sums up this blog post in one photograph. Fujifilm X100S, 1/30 @ f8, ISO 400.

I have been thinking about composition lately and wondering if there was more to it than the rule of thirds.* More to the point, how do I articulate composition beyond the rule of thirds.

Com•po•si•tionnoun  : The way something is put together or arranged : the combination of parts or elements that make up something.

Every lecture on composition I've ever heard discusses the rule of thirds. Heck, the one semester I taught the basic photography course at Temple University it was the first thing I talked about after shutter speeds and f-stops. And it seemed to come up over and over even when I was teaching advanced classes.

We are all are aware of composition even if we don't know it. Why does some art appeal to us and something very similar does not? I bet in many cases it comes down to composition or as the above definition states, the arrangement of elements.

Think three-dimensionally. In this photograph of passengers entering the Foggy Bottom metro I used the rule of thirds to both place the subjects in upper right and the three diagonal lines of the escalators to draw you in to the frame. Fujifilm X100S, 1/250 @ f8, ISO 400.

Think three-dimensionally. In this photograph of passengers entering the Foggy Bottom metro I used the rule of thirds to both place the subjects in upper right and the three diagonal lines of the escalators to draw you in to the frame. Fujifilm X100S, 1/250 @ f8, ISO 400.

But as my mind wondered I thought there had to be something beyond the rule of thirds. And how could I share what it is I think I understand about composition to new photographers or to photographers looking to improve. That's when I began to think of the rule of thirds as a two-dimensional concept.

So what if we went beyond two-dimensions and thought in terms of three-dimensions. What is it that draws you into a photograph? If the rule of thirds looks at the 2D surface, then it makes sense to me that the third dimension looks into the photograph from foreground to background. Think in terms of depth or layers, terms you might already be familiar with. Again, just trying to think differently.

Rule of thirds across and into the photograph is what makes this photograph of the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington, Va., so appealing to me. Fujifilm X100S, 1/950 @ f11, ISO 400.

Rule of thirds across and into the photograph is what makes this photograph of the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington, Va., so appealing to me. Fujifilm X100S, 1/950 @ f11, ISO 400.

Could there a fourth-dimension in our photographs? Maybe when you wrap a subject in light or add a vignette in post production you create that fourth-dimension.

And remember to understand the rules of composition, or any rules in photography, means you can break them. I know there are some photographers that never learned the rules and yet continue to create wonderful images because they just have a sense of composition.

When you see a photograph or piece of art you like, study the composition. Over time as you take photographs you will instinctively put into practice good composition habits without even thinking about it. And as people begin to admire your work, even photographs of the mundane like my examples here, you will begin to understand why. Good composition. It will be ours, and other photographers, secret.

 

* The   rule of thirds   is a concept in which a photographic frame is divided in nine imaginary sections creating points where those lines intersect. Placing a subject at one of those points, essentially off center,  generally  makes for a more pleasing image.

* The rule of thirds is a concept in which a photographic frame is divided in nine imaginary sections creating points where those lines intersect. Placing a subject at one of those points, essentially off center, generally makes for a more pleasing image.

UPDATE: For more on the rule of thirds, head over to the photographytalk website.