30/08/2006

Composition Design (Part 2)

I made mention in part 1 that a landscape should be like a book, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Also, aesthetically, it should be in sharp focus from the immediate foreground, on through to the distant background.
It is also important
that, if your landscape includes a horizon line, make sure it is absolutely level. It is so easy whilst thinking of everything else, to forget to check the level of your horizon. Otherwise your image will be out of balance.
A simple way of doing this is to loosen the horizontal and vertical grips of your tripod, look through the camera's viewfinder and by slowly lower the angle of the camera, till the horizon line is level with the top of your viewing screen. Then, adjust and tighten the horizontal grip and recompose the picture.
Another thing about horizons - a lot of thoughtless snapshooters tend, without thought, to put the horizon line right smack in the middle of their image. This is not a good idea and one that should be avoided, unless in some cases of mirrored reflections on water, that rule can be exempted. Also if there is a large element in the foreground dominating the scene, it will sometimes compensate for the centrally placed horizon.
The reason it is frowned upon is because it tends to cause the photograph to appear as though it is split in two, resembling two separate images.
If in a potential landscape you have a truly remarkable looking sky, with extraordinary cloud shapes and you'd like to use this as a major element in the design of your shot, try to place your horizon line one third of the way up from the bottom of your image. Or vice versa, if the sky is drab and/or uninteresting try to place the horizon line about one third of the way down from the top.
Talking about thirds, are you aware of what is known in art and photographic circles as "The Rule Of Thirds"? It's about the correct placement of certain major elements that go into the making of a good composition.
If you can imagine your image divided up into thirds like a naughts and crosses game, by intersecting lines. It is on or near the intersections of these lines where you should place some of the elements or focal points that make up your image. They're like stop-off points for the eyes of the viewer.
For instance, the horizon line, or some other element that is of certain interest. Or even the main subject itself.
So your centre of interest need not be placed smack bang in the centre of your image, or your image may completely lack interest!
There is a certain psychology attached to the way a viewer's eye scans a photograph. That is, generally from left to right. Like when you walk into a grocery store, you will have a natural tendancy to start from the left side of the store and make your way through to the right. Merchandisers will make good use of this psychology in the strategic placement of certain lines throughout their store.
It is all about promoting interest in your photographs and encouraging people to spend more time looking at them.
Before I close this chapter, I'd like to discuss another important bad habit that some people tend to do automatically without consideration. And that is, the constant use of the camera in horizontal fashion.
Generally most landscape vistas are taken with the camera held horizontally. That's why that sort of shot is known as a "landscape" shot. One taken with the camera held vertically is called a "portrait" shot - for obvious reasons.
Because of the way the camera is designed, horizontally, that is the way most "happy snappers" tend to use it.
It's okay to say that you can always fix it up later, but this is about getting it right the first time round. Then, you will spend much less time on the computer patching it up later!

 Take this link to part 3