31/08/2006

Composition design (Part 3)


Ah yes, we were discussing the use of the camera in either landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) mode.
Where this decision becomes critical is entirely dependent on the type of photograph you are taking and the emotive aspect you wish to convey.
When you photograph a landscape in "landscape" mode, you do so in order to get as much of the vista into your image as possible, but if there is something of particular interest in the scene, which you would like to single out, like a tree for instance, or a rocky out crop, you may need to take the photograph in portrait mode in order to get all of the subject's "verticalness" in the shot.
In other words, you have to make the decision about how you wish to portray a certain subject, and like I said earlier, what emotive feelings do you wish to evoke in your image.
Back to the old psychology thing! A photograph taken in landscape fashion evokes emotions of subtlety, calmness or peacefulness, whilst subjects taken in portrait mode conjure up feelings of power, strength and dynamism.
So, something else to think about while you are standing behind your camera waiting to take your masterpiece. But wait, there's more!
Another common rule in photography is to "keep it simple"! The more simplistic your images are, the easier they will be on the eye of the viewer.
Yes, that old psychology thing again! And whilst you are standing there contemplating your landscape, are you able to keep it simple? You now know, that in your story, you need to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but in order to keep this book simple, we don't want to have too many confusing characters and chapters or in this case, unwanted elements in the image, because the human eye is decidedly lazy when it comes to looking at "busy" photographs. It needs to be kept interested. Therefore, you must have a centre of interest and a means of directing the eye to that centre of interest. And to hold the interest.
Which brings us to the next part of our little journey. Yes, there's more!
There are certain elements you can use as tools in designing your composition, for just that reason.
The ones we will discuss in this exercise are: light, colour, shape, form, framing and lines. So, as you can see, we have quite a bit of work to do yet.
All these elements have their own little way of turning on the emotional juices and creating interest in your photography.
The first of these elements, light, is the very essence of photography. Without it there would be no photography. And obviously, no "us" either, for that matter.
But anyway, moving right along;
Put simply, the term photograph, is made up from the Greek word photos, meaning light and graph meaning to draw. So we are literally drawing with light. And in photography we have many forms of light at our disposal. Be it natural or artificial.
Obviously, in landscapes we are mainly working with natural light. With the exception of that little bit of "fill-in" flash needed now and then to lighten some of the foreground dark spots.
We can also use light from certain times of day to our advantage. For landscapes you will find the type of light you get in the early morning from just after dawn till around 9 am, is good directional light and will give you nice clear photos, and particularly after a good night's rain, when the air is crisp and clean.
The afternoon light, between say, 4 pm and dusk can be used to similar advantage in landscape photography. The rising heat haze from a hot sunny day can be used to create some moody shots. However, the morning light will generally give all round best results.
It is known in the best of circles that the type of light in the hours between those times can be very undesirable for landscape shots. Especially in the height of the day. Your shots can come out hazy and have a bluish colour cast to them. There are filters you can use to compensate for this, but it's still better to stay with the preferred times, I think.
Well, that's where I think I might leave it for now.


"Here's another bright idea!" . . .

When you are designing your landscape shot, become like the author of a great novel. Create it with a great beginning, then lead into the exciting middle content and finally a classic, all time ending.
Use foreground elements that can be employed as leading lines to guide the eye of the viewer through the image toward the main central subject matter.
Finally, for a choice ending, make sure you select a suitable background.
Above all, make your image clear and sharp from beginning to end, by using small apertures (eg: f16 or f22).


Click here for part 4