Archive for March, 2011

The point is…

Accompanied by a moving story about joy, death, a sense of meaning and his birthday, my friend Aftab Uzzaman (aftab.) posted this compositional beauty.

The point is... Aftab has, for a long while, shown himself to be a master of simplified composition. His style often involves a limited palette and a very fine depth of field.

This image is no exception.

Through the use of a soft, gradiated background, our eyes are drawn first to the light; and so to the delicate structure that curves in with crystalline detail from the top right corner. There is sufficient detail there, just before it reached the brightest spot of the scene to keep us forever enthralled.

But the set of three additional lines branching off it tease our attention, indicating that there is still more to be found. And so we follow the indicated direction, through an area that is not so clearly defined, from light into the embracing curve of the end of days, where we are treated to a suspended jewel: a droplet that holds reflection not only of this life, but all it has encountered along the way. There our attention remains, in memory, holding to the tip which will soon shed its last tear.

To cap it, a slice of Aftab’s philosophy:

Life is like that drop. Will drop off any moment.
Then, what is the point of all these?
The point is the reflection it holds of the journey.
The point is you, everyone who touched my life.


Very Large Array

There was no way I could pass up this opportunity; my Flickr contact Keith Rajala (maclobster) posted this magnificent artistic rendition of a documentary shot:

Very Large Array

Histogram: Very large arrayThe first detail of this shot that strikes is the minimalist tonal range used for most of it; a histogram shows an almost linear increase in the amount of each tone from black to just shy of mid grey, then a slightly faster fall-off towards white. This creates the beautiful softness of the whole, allowing sharp detail to jump out with only minimal variance in luminosity; particularly the intricacies of the mesh of tubing that supports the dish.

It does not hurt that the sky is displaying a wonderful tonal undulation, like crumpled cloth: a backdrop against which the scene can be built.

There is no question that the size of the subject is just right for the scene, pointing upwards into the infinite expanse of sky – and space, beyond – that occupies the dominant upper portion of the scene. As such, it does not matter that the dish itself is pointing out of the frame.

Bringing our eyes down, we have significantly dark tones used to lead us into the image, anchored in the bottom right corner: not the path but the railings. Should the eye ever drift from the soft magnificence of the dish, it is immediately captured by those lines and drawn back up. This does not mean that we cannot stop along the way, detouring to the other photographer: a touch of scale added to the whole and showing that there is life.

Yes, one picture that jumped out at me, even as a thumbnail, and would not let go of my attention until I had given it the review it deserved.

Cameron – The Heights Closed

Given that no images came my way, I decided to go looking for the next picture to review here. It wasn’t a long search; one of the first people whose recent work I perused was Jeff Presnail. Therein, I found this:

The Heights Closed

Photographically, there are many ways one can present any particular subject. This idea is one many people would take to mean there are many ways to portray the subject itself. But it can equally be applied to the setting in which the subject resides.

Our subject here – Cameron – is breaking several basic compositional guidelines. Prime amongst these is that he is not regarding the camera; there is no eye contact whatsoever. Further, the direction of his “movement” (or, in this particular instance, the way he is looking, as movement is clearly lacking) is outwards of the frame, on the horizontal. This is compensated for by the vertical portion of the image’s direction: there, at least, he is looking across the midpoint… just.

Interestingly, even without visibility of Cameron’s eyes, where his attention is fixed is clearly marked. What is so fascinating about that hinge, I have no clue.

But it is not the classic feline post that makes this image a compositional gem. It is the setting: pristine, beautifully balanced minimalism. The camera is very well placed, directly in front of the midpoint of the window, providing straight lines and even amounts of depth on each side. The backdrop of the shutters contains a glut of interest, but manages still to remain demure: the whole providing an in-image frame.

And then the crowning jewel: Cameron’s tail breaking out of the border.

Were any one of these details otherwise, the visual impact would be lost, or at least diminished.

Across the field

One of my Flickr contacts, Gary (ggphoto36), posted this compositional beauty today:

across the fieldBesides this being a beautifully rendered subject in its own right, it is the overall composition of the image that struck me.

Light – tone – is used to great effect within the distinct areas of the image; each area embracing a full dynamic range. So there is texture in the sky, the foreground, and an almost eerie feel to the barn building itself.

The compositional beauty here, however, is in the use of foreground lead-in. The field’s furrows occupy the majority of the image, yet they do not detract from the subject. Instead, they provide the context of distance perfectly, allowing the eye to walk up – line by line – into the scene; leading lines across the grain of the furrows.

Add to this the horizon being placed on the upper primary golden ratio (thus the subject in the smaller portion) and we have a great draw through the image.

Finally, on the lower secondary golden ratio, a flower perks up as a foreground interest anchor. This, additionally, is placed on the dominant diagonal (dominant because it is the direction implied by the roof). Thus, while subtle and perhaps missed consciously on the first glance, actually holding the image together.

Did I mention that I love the barn?

What’s it all about?

It all started… somewhere.

A photographer, a Flickr account, and a mathematical perspective on photography and composition.

Along came a group called Learn Composition by Example, administratorship and a need to breath life back into it. So the idea came to write a series of articles on principles of composition. The first of these – Composition principles: Leading lines – garnered attention and a handful of new group members.

The sense that the output was useful prompted looking further afield: how to make this competence with the structure of composition available to a wider audience? How to let people outside the Flickr community participate in the discussion.

A blog. It’s the only option.

So The Image Composer was born. Not a place to promote my own work, but somewhere to lay insights of photographic (and all visual) composition bare, for the world to partake.

I hope you find it useful.

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