A place to think about composition in photography

Posts tagged “dynamic


Colours and lines attract me.

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



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…


Sunshine and Showers

A Showery day today when we were out walking at Roseberry Topping.  Then the spring sun came out and I took this shot.

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

I quite liked the effect created here.  It is all done in camera with minor tweaks to the colour levels in Photoshop.  If you want to know the details just drop me a line via the blog.

Composing with the Golden Section

This picture has two main compositional elements, see if you agree with me:


Galaxy 2

There is the lead-in of the bright points of light from the left and the centre of the spectrum hub is placed on a vertical golden section.

I had considered cropping the image to make the centre of the hub sit on the intersection of vertical and horizontal thirds but in this case it did not work as well so I left it like this which for me is far more satisfying

Composing without the Golden Section (2)

This photograph does not follow many of the conventional rules.  It is asymmetric and not composed with the golden section.


Galaxy 1

It works for me though. The colours make this picture and the starburst highlights make it look like a picture that NASA’s hubble telescope might have taken.

It is more earthly, but quite what is difficult to tell.  this underlying mystery holds the attention after the bright colours have done their work.

Urban landscapes: Isolating details and playing with perceptions

Breaking the “rules”

It is impossible to separate your own work from influences by others because we are immersed by so much visual imagery. Occasionally I find other people’s work challenging and inspiring.

I try to avoid talking about hard rules of composition because the danger is that we conform to them and stop thinking for ourselves.  The pictures everyone takes tend to become similar and rather uninspiring.

For me good photography captures our attention and provokes an emotional or instinctive  response.  Such was the case when I looked at the pictures an acquaintance had taken they were urban landscapes taken at striking angles and I stopped and looked hard at them.

On reflection I realised they were attention grabbing because they were different, and it made me wonder if we all follow standard rules of composition we will end with a rule of thirds world surrounded by perfectly aligned verticals and horizontals and actually rather dull…

So I had another go at isolating details in a landscape, an urban one this time, and produced three pictures for this blog.

My favourite is this photograph, I like the unease created by the tension between the familiarity of the building and the unfamiliarity of the view.

  • What makes this picture different is the way the white stripes capture the eye and become the dominant vector in the picture.
  • I use the term vector to mean a compositional element that has both magnitude and direction
  • We tend to read pictures from left to right (see earlier post on this) and this makes us perceive the white stripes descending
  • This creates the perception that the building is falling and instills a vague sense of unease that holds the attention.
  • Dont believe me?  have a look at the other pictures
Urban Landscape leaning building 1

Urban Landscape leaning building inspired by Sarah

Another arresting picture below, same building,

  • This time we read the white stripes as ascending from left to right and the sense that the building is falling is lessened.
  • Including the sky gives more of a reference for the picture and lessens the sense of oppression
  • The overall effect is the perception of less unease when the lines lead the eye upwards:
Urban landscape Leaning building 2

Urban landscape Leaning building 2

And the more obvious picture

Urban landscape standard view

Urban landscape building standard view

What do you think?

Placing the horizon


There are many sources of information that tell the photographer that the best place for the horizon is on one of the two imaginary horizontal lines that divide the picture into thirds.  It is true that many photographs I have taken do seem to conform to this convention such as the picture of Scarborough seafront below.


Scarborough Seafront

In the Scarborough photograph the horizon is placed on the imaginary line that defines the upper third of the picture (two-thirds from the bottom) and all is well.  This picture was not taken with this explicitly in mind at the time, it just felt natural for this compostion.

Adding more interest

The ‘comfort’ of having the horizon on the two-thirds line is balanced by the dynamic diagonal lead-in formed by the railings and walkway that takes the viewer to the extreme left of the picture before the eye is led back across to the bottom of the cliff where it meets the sea.

A subconscious emotional journey is taken through the picture with the viewer being led right out of the frame by the diagonal before being brought back to rest on the horizon line where order is restored at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical thirds.

It is my belief that we all share an understanding of the ‘rightness’ of this placement because we are surrounded by images and designed objects that use this composition element.

This immersion has given us all a visual literacy so we may respond positively to a picture that employs this technique without being aware of why.