Archive for May, 2011

Le village

Another new name added to the list, my Flickr contact Lilian Lemonnier posted this beauty yesterday. It definitely needs to be viewed large, for the foreground to stand out.

Le village

There are several compositional aspects to this image that make it strong. The first is the obvious placement of the sun within the overall frame; the second the foreground interest.

On the positioning front, the sun sits perfectly on the secondary golden ratio on the left, and sandwiched between the lower primary and the skyline. That skyline itself straddles the GR line evenly, on average, over its length. While there might have been an argument to crop a bit from the top to get the sun on the golden ratio line, I don’t believe that would have added anything, unless it were balanced such that the overall crop had been a golden rectangle.

The foreground – requiring a large view to be properly appreciated – adds a touch of deep colour to an area that could very easily have been lost in the dark silhouette. This way, the distance to the village becomes apparent, providing context to the scene. There is depth here, not just a colourful sunset. That lit foreground also provides a subtle pointer towards the village and the sun (as if they needed more attention).

That the sky itself is filled with almost chaotic intersections elevates the overall shot above being just colour over a small (but sharp) silhouette.

Black hole sun..

Once again, Ananya Rubayat (dream_maze) produces an image that combines both dramatic visual mystery and excellent composition.

Black hole sun..

The appeal of an image such as this is that it is immediate: the minimal detail does not provide for great variation of interpretation. Yet it is sufficiently vague as to be mysterious, inviting greater study.

Compositionally, the most obvious elements are the stark contrast between the sweeping lit loops and the jet blackness that occupies most of the frame. And then, there are the delicate details of the photographer herself, in self portrait. While a few strands of hair are immediately obvious, it is the soft light on her shifting dress and one steady arm that needs to be examined closely to be understood.

This leaves the black hole sun, as per the title, to be the dominant element. Itself uncertain, looping, repetitive, it has a feeling of depth, sucking all around it in to that absolute core. The draw is inexorable – it actually feels as though it is receding – and thanks to the darker area in the lower regions of the swirls, the centre of the loop feels shifted to the right of the central dark area. This of course is a good thing, for it provides the double golden ratio balance the image demands. On the left, it is the line of the subject’s body. on the right, through the right side of the heart of the hole (about at the same level as where the light on her knee fades off).

The vertical golden ratios are equally well placed, all on the side of the photographer-model: the top such that the dominant tuft of hair is coming from the intersection between it and the horizontal; the bottom finding perfectly the level of her chest. A tertiary vertical line even runs through the hand in her lap.

Absolutely compelling.

Composition principles: Triangles

Save the last dance for me
It’s time for the fifth instalment of the basic composition principles articles that this blog was launched to highlight. The subject this time is the almost primitive one of Triangles.

Once again, all samples are taken from submissions by members of the Flickr group Learn Composition by Example.

My thanks to all those who participated, making it such a difficult choice to reduce the field to 18 plus one.

you can play me like a bad sonata

I was wondering how long it would take for my Flickr friend Kate Mellersh to post something I had no choice but to treat to an Image Composer analysis.

One of the fundamental elements of composition is subject. You can use all the principles you want, but at the end of the day, there needs to be a subject that the eye is drawn towards. Except, perhaps, when the subject of the image is its very abstraction. Kate is a master of these abstractions, as demonstrated here. The only thing that could be called subject are either the compositional elements themselves, or the fullness of the image, which the mind implies beyond what we are shown directly.

The crop that limits the field of vision to only a small portion of an overall scene is the key element of this type of abstract: details that are recognisable, but without the context the understand what we are actually seeing.

The principles used here are simple, and for that strong:

  • a stepped leading line cutting right through the heart of the image, dominating; occupying as it does half the frame!
  • Anchoring, both in the top left corner with the ridge, and the bottom right with the middle of the leading band
  • contrast between the tones and textures of the different surfaces

Simple, but very effective at drawing us in and through the scene, with a definite musical touch – the layers of pattern bringing to mind the bellows of an accordion.

why did the butterfly?

Another name is added to those whose work appears within these blog posts; my friend Jenny Downing, despite claiming not to have a knack for composition, produced this gem.

why did the butterfly?

This is another of those pictures that jumped out at me the moment I saw it. There are so many elements here that make for excellent composition.

The first is the unusual use of an unmatched triple: two butterflies and a flower; still three but managing to imply the greater intimacy of only two living subjects. Or is it two in focus and the third just slightly receded? This provides a very subtle triangle between the parties.

Next is the diagonal, from the bottom right to the top left. This is no ordinary diagonal, but a fanned diagonal, expanding on its way out, along the line of the flower’s stem, and then re-converging in the soft colour of the background. To make it more interesting the fanning reaches from that bottom corner to the right-side golden ratio at the vertical mid-point (the flower), balanced perfectly by side starting from the left-side equivalent point (the butterfly’s eye).

That flower stem, as well as being an unusual form of diagonal, provides anchoring for the whole scene, and acts as one side of another large triangle, which extends out of frame, and has as its second side one of the pattern lines from the blurred grass in the background. The distinct geometry of that background is another amazing attribute of this image, especially when combined with the luminosity and tonal-variation gradients that ride up the image (to that cluster of background flowers).

A beautifully lit, lively and dynamic image.

Abstraction in red and blue

With this shot from my friend Hennie Schaper (Art Rock (Hennie)), there was no question whether it would make it in here.

Abstraction in red and blue lines and curves

Despite its simplicity, this image is powerfully composed. While there is the obvious half-and-half split between red and blue, it is the way that is disrupted in the bottom left corner that makes it work, adding balance through asymmetry. The leading lines of the blades (whatever they really are) draw the eye into the gaping negative space that dominated the image, providing room to circulate until the fine minimal detail is re-acquired for contemplation.

That the whole also manages to anchor the sweep of the form into the bottom right corner keeps the scene steady. Simple, yes, but it works wonders.

Is there any wonder it is his favourite so far this year?

It sings, It shines.

My Flickr contact Ananya Rubayat (dream_maze) has been doing some wonderful work of late with sweeping forms and abstract light. This one hits the composition nail on the head too.

It sings,It shines..

The real magic of this image must lie in those sweeping strands of abstract light. They draw the eye in, performing several compositional functions at once:

  • they are obviously leading lines to the area of the hand;
  • they provide framing about the alleged structure; and
  • on the right, despite the spread, they anchor the image.

But it is their whimsical, wispy appearance that really makes them stand out: uncertain and insubstantial, so all the more appealing within the stark realm they intrude upon. Combined, of course, with the sharp edges of shadow where they are most tightly grouped.

All this focus on the light allows the hand to float effortlessly, despite the clearly uncomfortable wrist angle. Its presence is not intrusive, as it also is anchored, and in the grand scheme of tonal range, is well muted, fading into its own shadow on the underside.

The whole, of course, works from being offset to one side, thereby creating a gentle sense of diagonal motion, and also allowing for a significant sweep of negative space to wrap the scene.

Dramatic, yet ever so subtle.

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