Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Closing In... Part 2 ~ Wide Angle Wednesday

"From the Earth to Your Table"

Picking up where we left off yesterday... composition matters. Walker Evans was quoted as saying, "Shoot whatever and however you want. Don't listen to anybody else, just go in the direction you've chosen. But you need to look before you see!" How are you choosing to look for subject matter? Are you limiting yourself? Or coming away with images that feel like they contain everything but the kitchen sink?

In the past when I've felt like this, and don't know what to work on fixing first, I've gone back to the Elements and Principles of Design and tried to pick one that seems to be lacking from my images overall. Then I go out on a shoot with that foremost in my mind as I look for a scene or subject that will help me define it. It sounds methodical but it gets the creative juices flowing and helps you target elements so that you naturally start to recognize them over time. And you start to think outside the box.

Today's image isn't a phenomenal work of art by any one's standards, but it helps me close in on the other elements and principles I couldn't cover yesterday without my brain exploding! That, and I like purple. But I digress. Now, there are elements from yesterday's chat in this image to be sure. Can you see them? I hope so. But along with those, I tried to get a shot today that helps give a visual clue as to the other elements to be discussed. They are form, value, and size. This image had some really definitive light considering I took it very late morning. Because the light was slightly to the side, it created shadow and highlight... and they help define a subject as being dimensional as opposed to flat. This is the importance of form, you realize there is depth to the basket and it contains a pile of turnips, nice and round, instead of looking rather 2D and uninteresting as a result. The light this morning also adds the element of value... a range of lights and darks, helping to define your composition further so colors and shapes are left looking stale. And let's not forget the use of size. When looked at closely, there's a variety of sizes that causes you to look around the rest of the image, taking in the few that are different or uneven in appearance.

Isn't it amazing that the brain registers all of this without you asking it to. And you may wonder if we really need to know any of this in the long run, but how else will we be able to recognize when a photograph lacks impact of any kind, or that we've been stuck in a rut? As for the principles shown here, besides a couple from yesterday, there is a very obvious center of interest here. A very tight shot of the turnips, a lot of turnips, leaves no doubt of what the center of interest is. (I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with lurnip...) And color aids in this as well, as they are all uniform in color which draws the eye. Also, there is the way I've used the principle of balance. I've composed do that you know the basket and pile of turnips are round, yet you needn't see all of it in order to come to that conclusion and my asymmetrical composition adds interest instead of centering the entire thing in my lens. Whew... dissecting a shot is harder than it looks! My head hurts.

So there we are. The building blocks that naturally occur within great compositions, and now that we know what to be on the lookout for, great compositions will be a little easier to produce. Thanks so much to all the folks who already know this stuff and are just tuning in to see the shot for the day. And thanks to the few of you i heard from that have enjoyed learning more about how design influences composition. At least how it does subconsciously somewhere in my own noggin as I frame up a shot. Scary huh.

Thanks for the lengthy ramble gang! Have a good one!

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