A place to think about composition in photography

Posts tagged “unease

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?