30/08/2006

Composition Design (Part 2)


I mentioned in part 1 that a landscape should be like a book, with a beginning, a middle and an end. In addition, this will give the image a three-dimensional appearance. Also, aesthetically, it should be in sharp focus from the immediate foreground, right through to the distant background.
It is also important that, if your landscape includes a horizon line, for this purpose, ensure that 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 thrown 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 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.
Another thing about horizons - a lot of thoughtless snapshooters tend, without thinking, 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 and filling the scene, that will sometimes compensate for a centrally placed horizon.
The reason it is frowned upon is that it tends to cause the photograph to appear to be split in two or two separate images.
If in a potential landscape you have a truly interesting sky and you would like to use this as a major element in the design of your composition, place your horizon line about a third of the way up from the bottom of your image. Or vice versa, if the sky appears dull or uninteresting, then place the horizon line about a third of the way down from the top.
Speaking of thirds, are you aware of what we know 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 into thirds, like a naughts and crosses game, with intersecting lines. It is on or near those intersections where you should place some of the elements or focal points that make up your image. They are like stopping-off points for the eyes of the viewer.
For instance, as mentioned earlier, 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, to the point of being boring!
There is a certain psychology attached to the way a viewer's eye scans a photograph. That is, generally from left to right. For instance, when you walk into a grocery store, you will have a natural tendency 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 products 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 "horizontal" use of their camera.
Generally, most landscape vistas are taken with the camera held horizontally. That sort of shot is known as a "landscape" shot. Whilst shooting with the camera held vertically, we know as a "portrait" shot - for obvious reasons.
Because most cameras are designed horizontally, that is the way most "happy snappers" tend to use it.
I know it is okay to say you can always fix it up later in post-processing, but this is about getting it right the first time around. Then, you will spend much less time on the PC patching it up later!

 Take this link to part 3