"The Meeting House"
Old Order Mennonite Meeting House, Elmira, Ontario
Another photograph from my recent ramble through St.Jacobs and Elmira, otherwise known as Mennonite country. What do you do when you go hunting for a historic setting, and what you find is relatively flat, open, and almost devoid of character? This was the challenge when we pulled up to this historic and well maintained meeting house... so well maintained that at first glance my first thought was "boring!"
But upon taking a closer look, we realized the entire property held a simplistic significance that needed photographed. There was a pristine beauty and a simple story to be witnessed in the quiet countryside. I just needed to change my definition of great composition. I needed to utilize a tool at my disposal that I hadn't really relied on in a while... and when I did, my perspective corrected itself. Literally and figuratively.
Since no one detail stood out above all others, I chose to rely on the overall sense of space to anchor my composition. Gosh, when was the last time I used space to my advantage in a shot like this? After berating myself for growing lax with such a valuable element of photography, I got to work. The first thing I had to address was the most powerful vantage point from which to shoot from. I quickly decided that the repetitive shapes of the centuries old grave stones could be the element that draws the eye right into the image and up to the meeting house, and the diagonal lines add interest as opposed to aiming past them. This also adds an asymmetrical element and gives a better sense of depth to the shot. Suddenly your eye travels around the rest of the image and back once again to the main subject, shining white and pure in the sun, fitting for such a simple place of worship.
Lastly, I knew I needed to include the sky... and when I saw the clouds angled in perspective with the rest of the scene I knew the sense of space was complete. The combination of each simple element combines into a dynamic shot. After I realised what I had, I knew this would be a B&W photograph no matter what. And taking it into Corel to convert it, reducing the blue channel, pumping up the red channel, and adding some clarifying tool, I quickly had a scene I would not soon forget.
After you locate your subject, an image is never just about that subject anymore. It's then about the best principles of design and compositional approach to emphasize that subject, according to the kind of light you have and the kind of story you want to convey. Space can be a very powerful tool. Let's use it more!
Thanks for the ramble, and have a good one!