A place to think about composition in photography

Posts tagged “Lead-in

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.




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…

Creating a sense of calm

The calm is created by the rhythm of the repeating lines of the lime trees in this picture.  The repetition is  reassuring the more we look at the image.

I took a variant of this shot with some people walking down the aisle.  I found they altered the sense of calm. so I chose this photograph to share with you.  The mind can wander more when people are absent from a Landscape.

Avenue of Lime Trees

Avenue of Lime Trees

There are no threats to us here, it feels as though you could walk into the picture and explore the avenue in complete safety.  The protective canopy of the trees reinforces this subliminal feeling of care and safety.

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

Square Composition: Rainbow and Stile

The square composition works well for this landscape.  In the alternative landscape format the dark clouds would dominate the picture too much and leave an unsatisfying empty foreground.

Rainbow and Stile above Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales

Rainbow and Stile above Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales

The picture works because it has a zig-zag composition

Rainbow and Stile Composition Vector Diagram

Rainbow and Stile Composition Vector Diagram

The vector diagram (the red arrows) give the impression this is the way we always read this picture’s composition.  After considering this for a while I have come to the view that we rationalise the composition after the fact.  This all happens in seconds:

  • The eye scans the picture, taking in the scene, darting from the rainbow stile and wall.
  • The eye then discovers the faint path leading to the style
  • The eye is then guided along the wall to the rainbow
  • Then up the rainbow to wander in the dark clouds
  • The eye repeats this process, gradually noticing details such as
  • The shape of the path echoes the shape of the rainbow.
  • The there is a post in the wall to slighty jolt the eye just before you get to the base of the rainbow

The simple zig-zag composition pattern is pleasing to the eye because it is easy to grasp and familiar. The eye is rapidly guided from aimless wandering to repeat the path through the picture again and again, rewarding the persistent viewer with new details that give a satisfying viewing experience

Which of these two landscapes do you prefer?

I was prompted to go out and take these pictures this weekend partly because the weather had improved and the skies were more interesting than the dull grey cloud we have had for the last few weeks.

The other reason was one of my friends suggested I try comparing photographs that I thought worked well with those that didn’t work quite so well.  I’d like to see if your opinion is the same as mine.

So, here are two photographs taken within seconds of each other

The Landscape format

Path near Burnsall February  (Landscape Format)

Path near Burnsall February (Landscape Format)

The Portrait format


Path near Burnsall in February

Path near Burnsall in February (Portrait Format)

Please feel free to leave comments as well as add to the poll


Using the Lead-in

Lead-ins are a composition technique I use a great deal.  For me the purpose of a lead-in is to draw the viewer into the picture by guiding the eye.  In a landscape context our eyes look to the ground so we know where it is safe to walk.  Placing a lead-in in the bottom foreground of the picture plays to this fact and is a strong cue for the viewer to start to examine the image from a familiar perspective and you are led into the picture.

Lavender fields in the cotswolds

Lavender fields in the Cotswolds

This structure feels familiar and allows the viewer to navigate the rest of the picture.  Composition is therefore about understanding and evolving patterns that help guide the viewer through the image and engaging the viewer’s attention.

Let’s look at a picture that seems completely different:

Sculpture at Sledmere

Sculpture and sky at Sledmere

I still think of this as a landscape picture, (I’m interested in what you think so please do leave a comment).  This is a less conventional image, the only familiar reference point is the sky.   There is nowhere to imagine yourself walking in this picture so I felt less constrained to have the lead-in in just one place.  Now the lead-in lines dominate the picture radiating inwards from all the edges and command the attention to the crown in the middle top.  Once the eye has lingered there it moves to the background and the familiarity provided by the blue sky and white clouds.  The interpretation then  moves from abstract pattern to some structure that is in the open air, a construction in the landscape.