Archive for August, 2011


Definitely the most prolific contributor of images for analysis in this blog, Jenny Downing once more supplies something that “just felt right.”


Another minimalist still life, the tiny subject is very clear: with only the one droplet and a fraction of a leaf in focus, the eye is drawn to that one point, hanging off the vertical midpoint, at the double golden ration (0.618 : 1.618). As well as the obvious focal and positional highlighting, there are other elements which help establish that point as the key focus: the anchoring of the leaf in the bottom right corner to provide a key leading line, and the single, thin line of another leaf cutting across what would otherwise have been loose negative space as a framing element.

For “it just feels right,” this is one fabulously balanced, almost-abstract scene.


Intensity (6)

Next up, after a month’s gap, another offering from Susanne Meyer (sannesu), reviving a theme of hers from a year back, but with greater punch.


When it comes to presenting a sense of intensity, one of the most powerful tools available is the breaking of compositional rules. This image does that artfully, but also keeps many rules intact.

The most obvious broken rules are the provision of space to move into, and breathing room around the subject. This combination of a tight crop and positioning the subject tightly up against the edge of the image achieve a single result: expressing the urgency of the moment; power and action.

The use of rim-lit silhouette and a backdrop sunlit spray only serves to enhance the intensity of the action. The surfer has control, but only by riding on the very edge of the envelope.

There are four more elements used here that are of compositional interest:

  • the filling of the frame provided by the multiple S-curves of the surfer’s body
  • the anchoring of the right foot in the bottom right corner, pushing against the tightness
  • the use of golden ratios, with the surfer’s centre of gravity on the primary and his rear hand reaching push against the secondary
  • a very strong lower-left to upper-right diagonal (even though there is almost nothing actually on said diagonal), created by the lighting gradient, three specular highlights in the top corner, and the echo of the wave’s angle.

A wonderfully intense image.

Pokhara panaromic

As I get closer to catching up with posts as they were published by the photoghraphers, it’s time to add a new name to the roster of sources of imagery. This time, it is Nurur Rahman who makes his début.

Pokhara panaromic 2

Mountains, packed ridge behind ridge behind ridge, make for the most iconic approach to the compositional concept of layers. The variance of tones of blue, from black to murky grey, is a staple of photography.

What this image brings to the table, beyond the immediately impressive scale of geography is the streaking of setting sunlight in the distant mist – leading lines to provide a more significant sense of depth than the stacked two-dimensional silhouettes of the foreground. The eye is drawn into the mystery beyond the last ridge-line.

A compelling enhancement on a classic.

Making a Splash!

Next, a picture from a Flickr contact, Bobbie Sue (faeriesdragon), who has been somewhat inactive of late.

Making a Splash!

When it comes to centring a subject, there are ways to do this effectively, and ways not to. One obvious way to pull it off is to include so much motion – so much force – in the scene that placement becomes almost irrelevant, allowing the middle of the scene to be the safest location. That technique is used here: jets of water shooting upwards as bucket-loads being dumped with gravity. That all that power is frozen in time does not matter; it is still very visible. This balanced direction holds the subject steady in the middle.

Another aspect within the image that makes it work is the use of contrast; in this case it is not within most areas (very little detail within the surfaces of the face) but between different elements of the image, and within the texture of the water; in effect a type of detail-minimalism.

Also, there is that powerful group of S-curves formed by the model, arm to leg (and a secondary using the other arm), that allows the eye to migrate around the centre of force created by the moving water. Of note also are the two lights in the rear of the scene: elements that could be considered distractive, except that their removal would lose a stabilising triangle, as they anchor the form created by the water falling from above.

Unusual, effective and playful.

Small things

Once more, we have an offering from Aftab Uzzaman (aftab.)

Small things

When it comes to composition, it is the small things that matter. So it is no surprise that this appropriately titled image demonstrates excellent composition. As is so often the case with Aftab’s work, it is the simplicity of the image that really makes it work. In this case, the stark Chiaroscuro contrast, presented as a globe-like arc with windows into another reality perched atop it, draws the eye to the interface line, where all the interest is.

The image inversion does not work against it; if anything, the unreal upwards pull on the water droplets creates a sense of mystique. That the main object’s shape does not give away what it is – that it almost feels never quite in focus – leaves us with only the droplets to pay attention to.

And it is through the water that we see another reality, another world. The conceptual recursion of having windows visible through these tiny aquatic viewing areas (i.e. windows) is a touch of philosophical composition on top of the visual.

Deeply compelling.

Standing on the edge

After a rather long gap, it is time for another offering from Nick Ciprian Pastinica (lightwelder)

This is a very interesting image, not just from a compositional perspective, but also for the mystery of how it was created.

Compositionally, it appears to be rather straightforward: an edge-of-frame subject that fades out with a huge swathe of negative space. In itself, that is a compositional model that can work. What has been done here is an above-average take on the approach. Placing the subject in the middle of the image might not, to those who understand composition, feel like the most intuitive approach. It does, however, work; very effectively. The key is that the centring is not quite perfect; rather, one foot is on the centre line. This slight offset is balanced by the tone of the foreground at the top of the image, where there is a patch of brighter texture on the right. A subtle unbalancing offset by a subtle feature.

That the subject is mere reflection, and incomplete, actually makes the shot work. We can see a person, feet planted firmly on the edge of the frame, but as we follow the abstraction of that shape up, we encounter a world of interleaved texture: a foreground that is negative space, yet full of fascinating granular detail.

A perfect abstraction.

Edith Cavell

Next, somewhat late relative to when it was originally posted, another excellent slice of wilderness from Keith Rajala (maclobster).

Edith Cavell

This image contains all of the building blocks that make up a great landscape image (even when it is shot in portrait). Starting, as we must, in the foreground, there is an element of interest; in this case a cairn. This structure serves a double purpose: to give the viewer something that provides a sense of scale – a conceptual starting point from which to explore the depths; and, consequently, as a visual anchor, giving meaning to what is beyond.

Beyond the foreground is the depth. Not a lot of the image needs to be used for this, but the arrangement of its elements through a clear sense of perspective takes the eye from the foreground to the majesty of the main subject area. In this instance, perspective is provided by the floating ice, and there is the added bonus of beautiful tones.

The completion of a large scenic shot such as this comes in the form of the actual subject, which must in itself be dominant and impressive… it’s scale having been established by the foreground and depth. Here, the huge mountain, so large it towers straight up, provides that sense of awe.

Additionally, here, we have the tongue of a glacier reaching in on the right side, aligned directly with the cairn. This bonus diagonal, with the extended rim of the ice pack and the foreground rocks, provides a further S-curve to hold everything together.

Dramatic power, with glamorous colour.

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