We’ve been talking a lot about composition in photography class, and the “rules”. In any artistic endeavor, there are rules that are essentially derived from studying “the masters,” which is pretty close to saying the rules arise from studying what works. Yet you’re not required to follow the rules, and in fact some great images can come from breaking the rules.

This is something I’ve been thinking about the past week, as well as the difference between what we might like to have hanging on our walls, versus what we like on initial view. For me, to want something on my wall, I want something that keeps me going back over and over. This often means there is tension, or a story, or many stories, in the image. An absolutely perfectly composed picture might be beautiful, yet fail to capture the imagination.

So all that to explain why I chose this first image to bring to class tonight:

view through a missing pane

I was on the ladder to the hayloft in the main chicken barn when I glanced up and saw some of the other volunteers heading up the hill. I didn’t think about composition, I just snapped the shot. The first comment from everyone was “why didn’t you crop out all extra on the bottom and the right? And that had been my initial inclination as well. We ended up talking a lot about this picture. There is a lot going on, and the more I looked at this picture, the more that narrow band on the right intrigued me. Click on the picture for a bigger version – there’s a person in that narrow band as well.

So, it is an odd picture, breaking many rules, technically imperfect, composed oddly, yet I find it compelling, and one I end up liking, though I continue to wonder why!

This next one is Amanda, just a sort of nice and pleasant portrait:

amanda in the sun

Nothing much to really say about this one, other than that light area in the upper left really needs to go! It draws the eye away from what I want the eye to focus on, but the instructor seemed to think it would be easy to clone it out. I’ll try it.

And then some pictures from a very short hike I did at Roosevelt Island. It was cold, I didn’t last long, but I did get some interesting pictures.

lower-case d, in nature

I took this one and at this particular angle as part of the ongoing project to capture the alphabet in the world around us. I had a lower-case “d” in mind, but it could also be a lower-case “b”. After I got it home and took a look on my computer, I realized that I really liked the repeated loop shapes, as well as the interesting sort of upside-down “y” shadow on the tree trunk. The instructor pointed out a couple other places the angle was repeated. He liked the picture, even the quirky angle (check out the horizon to see how out of wack I had the camera tilted), and the graphic artist who was sitting behind me liked the image as well. I always find it interesting who likes what and why!

This next one got immediate positive comments on the richness of the sky.

sycamore tree, looking up

I happen to know that this is a sycamore tree, because other people mentioned that! After the initial reaction, he liked that it was a different take on a sycamore (I hadn’t realized I was doing a different take because I didn’t know it was a sycamore tree so that part was unintentional!), and he thought that the vines were what really made the image. Gratifying, because that is what made me take the image! He wasn’t sure he liked the tree on the left, and I admit it hadn’t occurred to me to crop it out until he said something. He also said he’d try cropping that tree on the left out, and then flipping the image, so that the leading line of the trunk of the sycamore came from the left to the right. This is a western thing, because we read left to right, we tend to see lines that bring us left to right as more dynamic. Interesting, no? So I’ll try his suggestions and post it soon.

Finally a dog portrait without the dog:

dog footprints

The instructor said he might crop off the stuff on the left, which I’d thought about doing but had mixed feelings about. Part of me likes the bits of floatsam there, but I can see his point as well. Another student said he would crop out the depression on the bottom, that he found it distracting. I thought that was interesting, because the entire reason I left it in there was that I liked the color in that part of the frame. It was late afternoon, so the color temperature is “warmer” (though technically it is cooler if you’re talking about Kelvin degrees!) and I think part of what I liked was the changing color temps through the image. He did have a good point, I will have to try their cropping suggestions to see if I like them or not. Cropping can completely change an image, as I think I’ve shown before!