Composition Disrupting Symmetry

7 Building Blocks of Photography 2

Composition is in the eye of the beholder. Symmetry in a composition looks stunning with geometric shapes and lines. But how about breaking or disrupting symmetry? What one person loves another will hate.

We had a disruptive image on my Zurich Masterclass in 2015, which completely split the group. Not only was the symmetry of composition disrupted, so was everyone on the workshop.

Folks either loved it or hated it. No one was ambivalent about it. And guess who took it? Yep, me. I was a disruptive influence in school and I guess I still am at times in photography too.

Sometimes when we shoot an image we have a clear pre-visualisation of what we want to achieve in camera. I did when I shot this one. I knew I’d have to remove the disruptive element in Photoshop and would end up with a nice symmetrical image.

But, on seeing it on screen I completely changed my mind. Suddenly the things that bugged me about the composition when I captured it had flipped 180 degrees. I loved them and as far as I’m concerned, the disrupted symmetry is what makes it interesting.

There is no right or wrong composition, there’s only what works for the person who’s taking the picture. When you’re learning photography, this is a very difficult concept for a new photographer to grasp. We want rules to follow. But creative photography doesn’t work like that.

Sure we have the basic ‘rules’ of composition like thirds, diagonals, leading lines etc. to help people get started. And they mostly work well. But as you grow and learn you don’t have to please anyone except yourself, you’ll get brave and find yourself starting to break the rules on purpose. Which is what I did with this composition. Loads of beautiful symmetry, completely disrupted with a couple of twigs.

When I went to film this video, my intention was to concentrate on the composition element only. But the light wasn’t great and the exposure very tricky. It was an exposure that had to be properly though through or the highlights would be burnt out and too bright and shadows blacked out.

In lighting situations like these I always use my histogram to ensure I’m capturing maximum data in the RAW file. Which cam be brought to life in Lightroom later.

Our eyes don’t see light the same way a camera does, so you have to pay attention to what’s going on when making an exposure such as this. Eyes cannot be trusted, but histograms never lie.

So you have to use your 7 Building Blocks of Photography. Ask yourself powerful questions as you assemble them in the correct order to achieve the image you want. If you know me by now, you’ll know I’m big on thinking like a photographer because no matter how expensive your camera is. It needs you.

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3 Landscape Tips

vietnam-txt-streamLandscape photography is one of those areas where patience, thinking it through and taking your time pays dividends.  We have all seen a scene we want to capture but sadly we’re in a hurry, so we leap out the car and just grab a shot without giving it too much thought.

This may or may not result in a great shot. But have you thought to ask yourself if there’s more to be had from a location than the obvious? You have to build upon an initial idea. Explore possibilities.

I was in Vietnam driving through the mountains when we came upon this amazing view of rice terraces. We stopped so the film crew could shoot some aerial shots with their drone so Simon and I took the opportunity to look around and shoot this video.

As we drove up the hill I’d noticed one of the little paths that wind their way through the paddies so we went for a walk to see what it would yield.

Almost straight away we came upon some greenery we could use as foreground, which can frame a scene and give it more depth. In some cases just finding a bit of foreground can make or break an image.

But don’t forget to look around you. It’s all to easy to miss a beautiful detail of the landscape that’s right next to you because you’re absorbed by what’s in front.

You have to concentrate and really look at a scene. In the first shot of the last scenario there’s a stick poking up on the left. I didn’t really notice it to begin with. It wasn’t until I checked the shot in the LCD it became apparent.

So how do we remove it? Well obviously there’s Photoshop but I’m lazy. A few steps to the side will change the geometry of the image. It makes things align differently so you can lose unwanted clutter from the composition.

So besides making sure the light is appropriate for the scene, here are 3 landscape photography tips to consider.

  1. Take time – think of other possibilities for the location
  2. Find some foreground. It could make a world of difference
  3. Look to the side as well as in front. You might have missed something

These things are not functions of your camera. They are functions of you thinking like a photographer.


3 Landscape Tips

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