Archive for March, 2012


When it comes to model photography, one of the best I know is Andy Poupart (andy_57); he not only captures his subjects looking stunning, he adds strong composition.

There are several factors that make this image more than just a wonderfully image of an attractive girl. The first – the most obvious – is the lighting. While Liz is strongly lit all around, there is a sinuous line nearest the camera that is in shadow: her hair is ablaze on one side, her face glows on the other, yet there is still a mood of mystery in the shadow between. (Could this classify as a particular form of diptych?) This is a lighting technique used much in film – slightly confusing as it is rarely realistic – but one that really captures personality and presence.

That shadow line gives us the first instance of another feature that makes this image work so well: the S-curve. It is an emphasis of the same curve in Liz’ pose: strong but gentle tones of femininity.

The last major compositional element at play here is present no less than seven times: the triangle. The subtlest are the two halves of Liz’ face, in light and in shadow. The area of her hair and face is the third, and this is a subset of the one between hair and elbow. Two more are formed by her arms, with the last being the tight musculature of her abdomen: a powerful example of seductive physique.

Additional to this, we have the lighting, creating a blue aura behind Liz (on a perfect golden ratio line, as it happens), lifting her out of the plain darkness of the rest of the background.

Compellingly sensual.


we had no idea what we were in for …

Featured herein once before, my Flickr friend Kate Mmellersh returns with another powerful work.

Working with shadows of everyday subjects to create intriguing pseudo-abstracts is one of Kate’s fortes. She has produced many compelling works on that basis. Once more, here, she plays on the simplicity of a kitchen utensil – something we all take for granted, and allows it to come alive in an abstract way. The placement of the subject tightly in the corner of the frame, and the accompanying squeezed crop on the cast shadow allows it to dominate and express power: it is too great to be contained.

If the core subject of the image were the whisk itself, then the composition would comprise a significant area of negative space, but it the virtual instance of the utensil that is the real star here. This is achieved largely by the positioning of the dominant intersection of loops: vertically very near the mid-point, and horizontally on the right-side double golden ratio (1.618 : 0.618) – four lines coming together with breathing room about them. The general diagonal of the composition and the anchoring provided by the real whisk serve to enhance this.

The potential negative space is also avoided through the secondary light source, casting a softer shadow into the lower left corner of the image, and the use of slightly crumpled paper as the canvas. Together, they provide an exciting texture to occupy the straying eye.

An amazing completeness of detail from so simple a subject.

lost elephant seal

After a very long break, it is time for an emotive image from my Flickr contact Florian Sprenger (mav_at).

lost elephant seal

Death. It is disturbingly photogenic, when approached in the right way. There is a powerful story told. This is no exception: the form, large and sinuous, recedes out of focus to the depths of timelessness: a powerful S-curve (which is a very lively shape). The curve is subtle enough that it combines into two other compositional principles: the diagonal, and the triangle, both formed from the same skeletal elephant seal.

But it is the skull, dominant, that holds our attention, perched as it is on the disturbed texture of the foreground sand. Its stark tones and sharp focus pull it forward, assisted but the diagonal/triangle/S-curve of the body, which is itself framed subtly by the dark background elements in/near the upper corners.

And then, there is the mysterious organic detail to be seen inside the skull, through the nose hole. Some living structure that has survived the ravages of time, weather and scavengers.

Very emotive.


It has been a while since I have featured anything from David Gumbrell (Auribins), but this definitely deserves the attention.


Whereas it is easy to make an organic scene look comfortable, something like this that is nought but harsh geometry is a much harder subject to turn pleasing. Here, it has been done masterfully. Of immediate interest is the use of silhouette as the dominant compositional theme, along with the repetition of form and structure: horizontals and verticals dominate, their spacings in each instance consistent (creating, as at the top, patterns of divergence where perspective comes into play, the lines gradually stepping further apart the higher one goes.

But it does not stop there. Despite the dominant grid pattern, this image clearly contains a a double S-curve: each half, vertically, is sinuous. Add to this the horizontal spacing: the inner edges of the side stairs sit perfectly upon golden ratios within the image. Also, despite the activity of the stairs, the patterns there, it is cross hair – the element which gives the shot its title – that is the subject. Everything else is negative space.

A clean kill.


It’s not been a week, but time already for another offering from Jenny Downing.


The detailed pattern of a dried leaf is an easy subject, especially when rendered in silhouette. As here, even though it is the more passive colour, the structure catches the imagination, drawing attention. It is almost as though there is nothing else to be seen – all that wonderful green foliage is little more than negative space. There, the power of a tight depth of field.

The few specular highlights, refracted into rainbow patterns by the lens, add an intriguing counterpoint to the main subject – dynamic colour to emphasise how well the leaf manages to dominate only as a lace-work of veins in a skin of soft brown.

Wonderfully peaceful.

Amra jara dekhiyachhi

And returning now, jsut as I thought I was running out of images to post, the ever-dependable Aftab Uzzaman (aftab.).

Amra jara dekhiyachhi

As with so many of Aftab’s images, this has both powerful composition and a colour palette that makes it enrapturing; shooting into a setting sun, in autumn, with a wide angle lens, is bound to create a dramatic scene. There are so many elements at play here that it is hard to decide which to start with. I suppose working from outside to in, picking out the more subtle compositional mechanics is as good a place to start as any.

With that, we have borders – delicate and barely noticeable, but nonetheless there, providing an edge where the eye can stop. One might ask whether they are needed; I think that the unorthodox placement of the image’s focal draw calls for them. One could consider the swathe of tree in the top left corner to be framing, but I would say that is more a bit of background; an element that happened to be there, but not itself the compositional core. The framing, as it happens, is provided by one half of the foreground interest: the larger tree shadow, which stretches across some 60% of the width. The split shadow, pointing in – triangular – is the dominant directional element.

I mentioned that there are two elements of foreground interest: the second is the scattering of leaves, which provide colour within the darkness of asphalt. From here we move forward, along the shadows’ leading lines (they have many compositional behaviours, it is true), to the subject of the image, the wide expanse of Earth’s curvature, from the fields of a life-sustaining farm to the reminder of each’s mortality: the graveyard. (And there you were thinking the subject was the sun, and the trees.)

Now, at last, we come to the sun, placed perfectly between the primary and secondary golden ratio lines, casting the three dominant trees into sharp silhouette, haloed in a fire of glowing red foliage. And the reason the trees are themselves so well balanced? It should be obvious that their placement – the gaps between them – mark out another perfect golden ratio.

A masterwork of photographic philosophy.

Lead balloon

And this run of quick-succession posts brings us at last to this light work from Hennie Schaper (Art Rock).

Lead balloon

There are no prizes for guessing the dominant compositional element I am going to highlight here. It is clearly the diagonal. And, of course, simplicity (interestingly, the first time in a year I have picked up on that trait).

The gravity-defying nature of this part of a sculpture is an immediate draw: it just looks so at odds with reality that one cannot help but question one’s sense. It is easy to make assumptions about how the shot was achieved, yet it is a simple representation of reality, and someone else made it possible.


But that is not its composition – that is simply a sharp eye for the unusual, and an inherent ability to frame oddities to make them interesting; one of the key skills for good composition. And this is wonderfully interesting, not only because of the floating of something so heavy, but also because of the textural detail in the ball, and the soft gradient that anchors the image vertically (yes, it is the grey rather than the chain that is the anchor), thereby emphasising the “floating” nature of the balloon.

Quite… well, uplifting.

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