A place to think about composition in photography

Horizon

Paraglider at Littondale

This weekend I was out walking in the Yorkshire Dales and met a group of members from the Dales Hang Gliding and Paragliding club at Windbank, Littondale Here is one of the pictures I took.

The main compositional device is one of vertical tension emphasised by placing the horizon low and using portrait format.

I thought you’d like to see the original image, so I have attached a jpeg that shows how the picture looked before the post production processing.

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You can see the original is less dramatic than the final,
(Canon 6D with an EF24-105mm lens at 40mm, with polariser and lens hood, ISO 200 f8.0 1/640s)

I used Affinity Photo to improve the image.  I thought you’d like to know how the transformation was done.

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The original RAW image was rather dark because the camera light sensor was exposing for a bright sky. Affinity photo allowed me to make a copy of the file with an exposure setting one stop higher. This is one of the advantages of using RAW files.  I saved this image and then used the High Dynamic Range (HDR) tool to merge the dark photo with the lighter one.  This essentially retained the best bits of both, improving the tonal range of the image.

A final touch was a minor crop to the left and right sides of the picture removed distracting figures.  The other figures were deliberately left in to provide scale and interest.

HDR is a useful tool.  I tend to use it sparingly because when I look at others’ work I see the HDR treatment first, then take in the composition of the picture second.

I’m learning when to use the technique so it enhances rather than distracts from the effect I want to create.

 

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Red Poppies in Suffolk

I like poppies, the scarlet is a perfect contrast to a green landscape.  This caught my attention when out walking on holiday in Suffolk, UK.

I could have stepped a few metres to the right or left and captured many more poppies but you can have too much of a good thing.  Those of you with a composition mindset will notice the poppies are also placed almost on an intersecting third, but not quite. Again you can have too much of a good thing.

I wanted the contrast to work on a few levels, colour being just one, focus is another.  The intimacy of the poppies gradually makes you aware of the open space of the field behind.  Notice the horizon, it is right at the top of the image, a thin sliver of darkness against the diminishing blandness of the wheat field.  This implies the space behind the foreground is large but not infinite.

Look closer and you’ll notice upward slanting diagonals in the wheat field contrast with the slight downward slant of the horizon. In Northern and Western cultures our visual language interprets a left to right slope as up, optimistic, reassuring.  The bright colour against the wheat field is happy, positive, enthusiastic.

Red Poppies

Red Poppies in wheat field in Suffolk

I felt good taking this picture and still feel good looking at it now.

 


Le Tour – Kettlewell

The Tour de France comes to Yorkshire in July 2014 and the locals along the route have been decorating all the villages with a variety of yellow flags, jerseys and bikes.

The locals have a long tradition of set dressing their villages, many have scarecrow festivals, now they have a scarecrow on a bike

I saw this straw man just over the bridge into the delightful village of Kettlewell.  A friend of mine is lucky enough to live here.

Straw man on a bike at Kettlewell for the Tour de France

Straw man on a bike at Kettlewell for the Tour de France

The composition is fairly straightforward, the dominant colour is Yellow which advances and contrasts against the grey clouds in the background.  The main lead-in is the road, also look for two minor lead-ins that echo one another, the white dashed road markings on the left and the yellow flags offering a similar punctuation on the right.

Oh and this was taken on my iPhone.

 


Cray Barn

Another Easter shot taken in the Yorkshire Dales at  Cray near Buckden

Cray Barn, Yorkshire Dales

Cray Barn, Yorkshire Dales

Laying down to get this shot with a wide angle lens meant that I could get the foreground detail in focus while still showing the context of the area.

If you look carefully you’ll see the barn in the distance is slightly out of focus, this is deliberate.  The contrast in focus makes the foreground seem sharper.

The deep blue sky was enhanced slightly with a polarising filter when I took the shot.  An added advantage was that the polariser took out some of the reflections from the grass making the green leaves a more intense colour.

A lovely walk on a lovely day and a nice picture to go with it.

My wife, Jayne, liked it so much she made my Easter card from this picture.


Tree Shadows

We were staying with some friends in London.  I like London a lot.  I first came here when I was ten, on a school trip and my love for this city has never left me.  I am always impressed by the quiet spaces  and secret places that London preserves to insulate us from the noise and rush of the city.

One sunny morning I spent some time in quiet contemplation on the balcony.  I was looking at the London skyline and watching the jets glide overhead, wondering where all those people were coming from and going to.  Then I looked down.

I didn’t have my ‘proper’ camera to hand, so out came my trusty iPhone again.  A quick dust of the lens and I had this picture.

tree shadows

tree shadows

Threes are often quoted as a pleasing number for composing pictures.  I do have an iconoclastic streak when it comes to rules, but in this case I’ll go along with that.  Especially when it helps to be playful with the language.

This works for me.  I hope it works for you too.


Curves

Colours and lines attract me.

This picture is a variant on the lead-in style of composition.

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Curves

I like the simplicity of the composition, the dynamic sweeps of the curves are a powerful effect.

You’ll know I’m quite aware of the horizon in my pictures.  In this one the eye searches out a line and the only one that matches our preconceptions is the roughly horizontal line right at the top of the image.  This adds to the powerful effect and holds the attention. Well, it works for me anyway, tell me what you think…


Pink Orange

Playing with my iPhone camera is still producing interesting pictures.  I have a new rather powerful SLR camera to replace my last one and more pictures from that later, and probably musings on the technology fetish aspect of photographers.

In the meantime, it’s not really about the technology, rather about what you do with it that counts.

Stripping back photographs to a minimal essence is a rather rewarding and somehow meditative experience.  It makes me think harder and I need that.

Again this one is a straight shot, apart from a little cropping.  In case you wonder why these are cropped, we make cards from these and many others that you won’t see on the blog and we give them to friends.   I’m not doing this to make money.

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Pink Orange