Archive for June, 2011


Time now to catch up on some images posted by friends over the last few weeks while I have not been available to give them due credit. First up is this intriguing piece from Jenny Downing.


As I consider this image, I find not only a great sense of balance between the dark and light tones, but also plays in lines – and their breaking. Too, a very subtle sense of space. The combination of mechanical (cast iron) symmetry with the organic nature of rock is a fabulous contrast: that the bars are not quite regular but having a slight repeating offset pattern means they are not drab; there is no risk of being bored by monotony. That ripple pattern helps emphasise the various forms in the placement of the stones between the bars: one straight line which gives a sense of direction, though broken on the end, and a second wavy one. It is alive. It is organic.

Then, there is the space – the emptiness between the bars. Those contained fields are most interesting because each is a thin picture in its own right, tight frame to a stone or two… with an unusual form of negative space filling each out.

An amazingly alive find, considering it is but iron and stone.


With all the colour

My break over, it is time for a bit of (spelling-corrected) colour from Jessica Islam Lia (evening sun.), and a beautiful model.

With all the color

Portraiture is a wide-ranging area within photography. The head shot just one of dozens of ways of representing a person. While the most common rules say you should make contact with the subject’s eyes, this image demonstrates the limitation of that approach. Instead of using the direct connection between viewer and subject to establish the sense of “person,” this shot takes a more delicate – even subtle – approach. Well, if you can call almost fluorescent green tones subtle.

While the colour itself may not count as subtle, it is from a compositional perspective. In this case, the paired swathes – left and right, near and far – provide a containing frame for the subject. Combined with the vignette-like effect of the light fall-off on the corners means that the bright colours become soft wrappings, delicately cupping the subject’s face.

The framing alone would probably be enough to make this shot stand out. There is, however, a further detail that elevated it further still: the sense of direction down the subject’s face represented by the line from eye to nose stud… specifically in that it is echoed in the strands of hair connecting eye and mouth.

A sensually delicate shot, that uses bright colours to maximum effect.

Composition principles: Anchoring

White rope in black and white After a brief (but expected) delay, I bring you the sixth basic composition principle article from the series underlying this blog. Our subject is the meta-compositional concept of Anchoring.

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.

Hello hurricane.

Once more, a stunning piece of work from my friend Ananya Rubayat (dream_maze).

Hello hurricane..

As with Ananya’s previous effort that got a mention here, this image includes very distinct motion blur. It also breaks several portraiture rules. But all to good effect.

Show the subject’s face, especially the eyes. At least that is what the text books on portraiture would have you believe is the best way to picture a person. Here, that the subject’s face is obscured by her own hair and the angle only serves to emphasise the streaked motion of her arm. It helps give the impression of turbulence and chaos suggested by the title.

Adding to this the heavy grain in the image, the roughness of the setting (despite it being shot against an apparently plain wall), and the pain of the situation is emphasised. The hurricane in question is an emotional one.

Now, all those effect would be as nothing if it weren’t for the excellent use of negative space – a huge expanse of emptiness almost trying to push the subject out of the frame. Which brings us to the pose, which manages to combine both into and out-of frame direction in a single stance: while she faces inwards, the arm across her body and the volume of hair on the left imply force attempting to move her outwards. A violent balance.

Overall positioning of elements is also very strong, though not exact. The subject is placed almost on a complex horizontal golden ratio: at the 0.618 : 1.618 division (that ratio falls in the inner corner of her right eye). Vertically, the felt eye is perfectly on the lower golden ratio – looking downwards, which adds emphasis to the sadness of the scene.

A powerful rendition of emotional turmoil.

Keu janena keu janena

In the act of leaving us all for a few weeks, my friend Aftab Uzzaman (aftab.) provides us all with this excellent sample of his work.

Keu janena keu janena

Once again, the composition here is minimal, and the processing provides us with the added element of sombre mood. Soft earthy colours and a dead subject say eloquently farewell; they speak of sadness. This feeling is enhanced by the dead flower’s stalk – anchoring the whole in a slight loss of focus – being entirely outside the golden ratio area, thereby giving rise to a wide expanse of negative space… but space that offers hope in the brightness of its central tone.

Speaking of golden ratios, these are used very well within this image: an intersection of primaries through the remnants of the floral heart; one constraining the damaged petals on the left, and the one live petal extending right-most along the line of the upper secondary golden ratio.

Simple. But effective.

Sunday at Cimiez

Today – late – another image from Nina Skottun (guerriere) that I picked as much for its artistic presence as the composition.

Sunday  at Cimiez

While this is another of those images that is very simple in composition, it is specifically that simplicity – combined with how it was processed and the choice of subject – that makes it stand out. The mystery of such a hat and antique driving goggles is going to catch the attention of anyone with a penchant for the class of yesteryear. Add the soft focus, toned-down processing and touch of texture (both natural in the bag and added), and the limited palette enhances the nostalgia.

That mood is as valid an aspect of composition as the positioning used within the image. Now, I will admit to a few pixels’ leniency in what follows, but to ask for more would pickiness for its own sake. The positions I am interested in are the golden ratios, and there are many of them. (I am considering everything here within the inner part of the image, not as extended with the matting.) The first positional line I will consider is the only one that is not a golden ratio: the vertical mid-point. This line runs across the top of the front rims of the goggles. The lesser golden ration below that gives is the bottom rim of the glasses while the upper golden ratio above lands precisely on the front rim of the top of the hat.

If those proportions weren’t enough, the right-side edge of the goggles lines up within a pixel of the right-side primary golden ratio, while the left-most element of metal – one of the rivets holding the goggles to their strap – provide the position of the left-side secondary golden ratio. The hat’s rim on the right also, almost by expectation, adds the right-side secondary to the lines in use.

While it may sound slightly contrived to reverse-engineer an image such as this and find so many golden ratios on edges of key elements, it is the fact that things do line up in this way that gives the whole scene such a naturally balanced feel. I do not pretend to know whether all this was considered at the time the image was cropped, but I do know the effect it has on enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the finished product.

The Rupture

Today’s subject is a photo from my friend Susanne Meyer (sannesu), in her first appearance within these posts.

The Rupture

Someone looking for one of the common compositional elements may look at this and wonder what I see in it. It is, after all, little more than tones of white and light grey, with a few darker squiggles breaking the otherwise plain softness.

Or is it?

There are no distinct leading lines here. Nor is there any particular focus on a golden ratio. Indeed, there is no primary subject other than the wholeness of the image. And therein, the secret of a good abstract. Of the two dominant lines, one is soft and willowy, gentle until it is disrupted on the rise by a crack. The other is more violent, but still flowing: it has the power of cresting waves (irrespective of their inversion). Within this stillness, there is motion. There is liveliness.

As for the texture, which in any small area may be rather simple and featureless, it plays host to an amazing array of cracks and curves – variations that allow the eye to wander at random and always find some new point of complex interest.

then, of course, one could take a step back, and take in the whole. You might then find something else you did not see before. Form, face, scream? Where does your mind lead you in this realm?

The underlying subject no longer matters. All import is the continued flow within the containing frame.

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