To follow on from last weeks post that talked about walking the viewer through the photo using lead in lines, I am going to take you through a couple of more complex examples.
While lead in lines can be a linear line or the edge of a single element, they can also be formed by a combination of elements. In the two examples below the viewer is lead through the shot using a combination of elements.
This first example was taken at Embleton in Northumberland with Dunstanburgh Castle a distant observer. There are various parts to the shot but the starting point is the black rocks and the high contrast with the reflective water at the bottom of the frame. The eye feels to follow the water towards and almost off the left hand side of the photo almost jumping from one rock to the next.
However the bright area of sky under the storm clouds helps to lead the eye right across the frame and rest upon the castle. The eye is attracted to parts of the photo that have high contrast and things that break up patterns. So in this case initially the rocks then the contrast between the bright water and dark sand and finally the silhouette of the castle against the sky on the right hand side of the frame.
In the second example of the La Vallette Bathing Pools in Guernsey the eye follows more man-made elements through the photo. The eye often follows the route that we could physically walk through a picture so in the case below the eye follows the railings and walkway around the edge of the bathing pool starting from the lower left corner and then across the middle of the frame.
From here nature played a big part and I was fortunate to get a line of lighter clouds for the eye to follow towards the top of the photo creating an almost zig-zag effect. Sometimes when composing shots like this it is not possible to predict patterns in the sky exactly so it is nice when everything feels to come together.
This may all sound like a lot of work when taking a photo but with some thought and practice you will find that you create natural compositions that guide the eye through the photo. It is rare I analyse every element in a photo, like I mentioned above as I subconsciously create it naturally, however it is worth the effort to sometimes ask yourself how your eye flows though the viewfinder or the LCD screen on your camera.
You have probably realised by now that I am quite a fan of using lead in lines in a lot of my photos. Lead in lines give you a way to control the viewers eye and how it moves around the photo, lots of the examples I have shown before have tended to be straight linear lines so I thought I would show you a couple of other examples which follow a gentler path through the shot.
In the example above I used the old drystone wall as the foreground interest, I used a wide angle lens and got close to the wall to fill the lower half of the frame with the stones. The wall then continues up the right hand side of the frame before cutting back across to the left near the barn at the top of the picture. Large mass of stones at the bottom of the photo are the first things that the eye will settle on before following the line of the wall through the shot. I feel this works quite well as the eye is guided almost through the entire photo.
In the example below I wanted to create the illusion of depth and as in the photo above and give the eye a path to walk through the shot…
There were a few items here that caught my attention, the first was the barn on the left hand side of the photo surrounded by the summer flowers this would have made a nice shot on its own. I was also drawn to the distant barns and the meadows that disappear into the distance down the valley, fortunately there was a footpath that ran through the shot.
After a bit of experimentation with the composition I chose to position the nearest barn towards the left of the frame and positioned the foot path into the lower right corner. I feel there is 2 ways to view this photo, the first is the follow the path, cut across to the barn and then return to the path and follow it through the shot. The second is to concentrate more on the barn first and then follow the path through the shot. Both routes have the desired effect and lead the viewer through much of the shot.
Another point on the above photo is that the left and right side of the photo are very different. The left hand side is simple and contains just the barn and the summer flowers and the right hand side by contrast has the footpath in the corner with the distant barns and walls in the distance. However even though one side of the photo is more complex than the other, the photo still balances.
When creating a balanced composition you don’t necessarily have to have equal sized objects on both sides of the photo as illustrated in the example above. I look at the barn on the left to be about equal to the sum of the path and distant barns on the right with the meadows being constant throughout the shot. This is not something I would try and analyse too much as you feel your eye will naturally want to create a balanced photo.
Stay tuned over the weekend for part 2 and a more in depth look at using lead in lines to guide the viewer through your photos.
There are various rules of composition out there such as the rule of thirds and the 80/20 rule however I try to ignore these rules most of the time as I feel they limit your flexibility, like any rule they can create good results however as they say rules are meant to be broken.
Below I have run through 5 of my favourite compositional techniques that are always floating around my head when I am setting up a shot.
Tip 1. Use lead in lines to guide the eye through the shot.
Lead in lines can be simple straight lines that pull the viewers eye into the centre of the shot helping to create depth. In the example below the two edges of the concrete walkway lead the viewers eyes toward the marker post on the horizon.
Lead in lines don’t always have to be simple straight line, you can use natural lines and elements in the landscape, to allow the viewer to mentally walk through the shot. In the example below the eye follows the flow of water to the left edge of the frame before being pulled back towards the distant castle.
Tip 2. Use shapes to create layers and depth within the picture.
Triangle almost act as arrows pointing the viewer around the photograph, using a combination of triangle can add depth and keep the viewer exploring the photo.
Simple rectangles can be used to create layers in a photography.
Tip 3. Use the corners of the frame
The corner of the frame can be a great place to start lead in lines from and helps to use all the space in the photograph. In the example below I have started the edge of the jetty in lower corner and used it natural curve to guide the viewers eye into the centre of the shot.
Tip 4. Make elements reach across the frame.
I see a lot of photos that I feel are a little flat, many photographers tend to shoot either along an element or have it across the frame however placing the element at an angle running away from the viewer and across the frame can make a very pleasing composition as in the shot below of the Humber Bridge.
Tip 5. Don’t be afraid of putting things in the middle.
There is a rule in photography that says don’t put your main object in the centre of the frame, I’ve never been a fan of rules in design and certainly don’t like this one. Personally if you have a strong element in your photograph put it right smack bank wallop in the middle.
Those are my top 5 tips, I hope you find them useful.
When arriving at a new location it is always tempting to grab your wide angle lens and try and fit everything you can into a single frame. While this may work in some cases and don’t get me wrong I am a big fan of the wide angle lens, often a much stronger composition can be created by taking a step back and looking at the landscape in a different light.
What I would like you to do next time you are staring at a wonderful landscape, camera at the ready ask yourself what it is about the particular scene that appeals to you. It may be the flow of water between rocks, it may be the line of trees and the pattern it creates with the distant mountains. You can create a much stronger composition when you include fewer elements as opposed to shooting a wide angle shot that contains some interesting features but much of the frame is just empty space.
In the photo above I was exploring the landscape at Wain Wath Falls in Swaledale and wanted to create a composition different to the usual text book shot. I started asking myself what was it about the scene that was catching my attention and I kept coming back to the same two things, the first being the large stones almost like mill wheels and the second was the a small waterfall and how the water ran through the scene. I focused on creating a composition that included just these elements, I still used a wide angle lens (12mm on a Nikon D200, equivalent to 18mm in 35mm terms) but got low to the ground and created a shot very different from the standard wide angle view.
My aim with the composition was to remove many of the other distractions from the scene, I could have easily included the main waterfalls further up stream, more of the river, trees and even the sky – however I decided that a stronger composition was created by simply picking out the bits I liked.
In the above photo I went through my usual thought process looking around the scene and deciding which parts were appealing to me. In this case I was left with the distant headland, the contrast between the red sky and the blue water and the bold lines of the railings. I wasn’t too keen on the concrete promenade that ran quite a way in both directions so aimed to minimise this and just use it for a base of the photograph.
By using a telephoto lens I was able to compress the perspective and make the background appear larger in comparison to the foreground, this helped balance the dark railings with the headland. The angle of the railings, the headland and colours in the sky create a series of triangles and layers that add depth to the shot.