Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Closing In On Design ~ Telephoto Tuesday!

"The Single Rental"
(1/320 sec.@ F/13, ISO 400, 200mm fl, Exp.Compensation -0.7, late day sun)

Whew. Where to start today? 'Cause I've been challenged to take on a big topic! Composition. Now, I wasn't exactly double-dog dared or anything quite that serious, but when I say I'll do something, I like to follow through on it. So here we are, on my 100th post no less attempting to share my thought process when I'm considering composition. This might be one wild ride. Here we go.

Because of my art background, Elements and Principles of good design have been lodged in my brain from an early age. And you should become familiar with them at some point, you'll see your images improve. I tend to lean towards looking for good line, shape, texture, and color automatically as I look around me for subject matter or interesting scenes. These are the elements that people are most familiar with whether they know it or not. The other elements (to be broached tomorrow) are size, value, and form. The image today has the first four elements prominently used here. Repetitive shape immediately gets your attention, then you'll notice lots of lines taking your eyes up, down, and across respectively. Those lines on the roof allude to smooth cool textural details, and we also see texture in the wire over each dove cote, not to mention the single cote with the texture of the only nest inside in the bottom right corner. Wow, those elements are really hard at work already... and this is why. Combined, they contribute to principles of design needed to make your composition work on a new level.

You mean to say there's Principles of Design too? I warned you this could get wild, *wink*. Look again at today's image. When you really look hard do you also see balance, contrast, harmony, and rhythm? If so, that means that the combination of lines, shapes, colors and textures have worked together to utilize principles of design. Didn't see that one coming did you? You did? I knew you would.

The pattern created by the rows of dove cotes, each one the same color yellow against the slate blue/grey, gives the composition a sense of harmony and rhythm. Not to mention balance since I chose to emphasize the symmetry of the roof top, every dove cote evenly spaced. The image pops with contrast because of the shapes dotted out across the composition, and the black of the mesh fronts against the yellow. The yellow also contrasts enough against the blue roof. And the textures also contrast nicely, the roof looking smooth and cool, and the cotes textures looking more rough and warmer in hue. Tomorrow we'll try to include the other two primary principles - center of interest, and movement.

Still with me? Gosh I hope so. All of that was to say this; most of these things your eye can pick out every time you assess a scene in front of you. Why, because these are things the human brain desires and uses so it can make sense of whatever you look at. When I looked up at the roof of Dundurn Castle's tower, my brain registered that this was the prominent feature for very practical reasons... and the artistic side of my brain took over, assessing if it was aesthetically pleasing to look at over and over. Certain things began to assert themselves and I was careful to compose around them in the best way I could. Of course, you don't have to concretely think these things every time you raise your camera... after a while, from shooting and composing long enough, this all becomes second nature. The more you look around you, the better you'll see engaging compositions no matter what the subject matter or where you are.

I recommend always taking time to look through your picture files. Single out the images that stand out as being stellar compositions or just seem to have a wow factor. Compare what elements worked together well. Decide which principles had to be used to make the composition come together too or best portrayed your personal vision for that photograph. It's your personal vision that brings it all together and makes it meaningful by the way. In the end, perfect composition can only do so much. There needs to be some soul poured into each image too... perhaps more important than all the rest.

Hey, we did it! Day one on composition is done, with day two to come! Thanks for the very specific ramble gang! Hope I didn't let ya down! Have an awesome day folks... now get out there and think about seeing great compositions wherever you are.


  1. This is one of my favs! Glad to see you used it in your blog

  2. Thanks Dave!!! It's always been my personal fave too... thanks for dropping in!