A Rambling Compositional Self-Examination
Today I was backing up the last three images that I had processed and suddenly realized that I could be in a compositional rut.
I have always been a fan of depth of field, but I couldn't miss that, without any forethought, those three images all followed the same compositional theme. They all showed a distant barn, but with the focus on an interesting foreground. In two I highlighted the contrast between the dusting of snow and the protruding remnants of the autumn leaves and grass. The other pictured the field before the snow had FINALLY fallen. In all cases the distant barn is, to varying degrees, a point of interest, but the real focus is the detail in the foreground. I like all three images but I had to worry that I was suffering from a worrisome lack of creative imagination.
I tell myself that I let the scene dictate the composition, but sometimes its possible to rely on the same old tricks. A survey of images on the internet shows that the vast majority are shot in horizontal or "landscape" orientation, but for some reason I seem drawn to the vertical. Perhaps I need to create a new year's resolution to change things up, but first I needed to understand the scope of the problem. I started by scanning through my winter photographs from the last few years. I couldn't actually review all of my images but rather studied those on which I had chosen to devote significant editing efforts. After this critical review I came to a few, not so startling, conclusions.
- Yes, I have a fascination with foregrounds, but I continue to believe that, when attention begins within an interesting foreground, the viewer starts with a sense of being present and grounded in the image. After that we can drawn the eye anywhere else in the scene while the feet remain firmly planted.
Just a Barn?
- I do tend to compose many of my images within a vertical "portrait" format to emphasize the foreground, but this emphasis does not require a portrait orientation and many of my images are grounded nicely with a landscape perspective. Manipulation of lighting, focus and subject can be highly effective at drawing attention to the foreground regardless of the orientation of the image.
- Ok, I must be honest. One reason that I have so many landscape images is that I am always thinking about my next calendar. The monthly images for my New England Reflections calendar are always in landscape and so after shooting a scene that cries out for portrait orientation, I will often rotate the camera and search for an effective "calendar view".
Apart from calendar shots, there is great value in forcing yourself to capture images in both orientations. You never know when a client might decide that your picture is lovely, but that it's too bad that what he really needed was the shot in the other orientation. Since most people shoot in landscape, the standard rule is, "The best time to shoot in portrait mode is right after you shoot in landscape". For me the rule is true, but the exact opposite.
|Glad I Shot the Landscape|
This is a startling amount of ramblings, being triggered only by a chance viewing of three similar images, but if you take anything away it should be:
- Context is important.
- Foregrounds are often important.
- And if that means shooting more verticals, then whose counting.
- Except me.