The Composer

I’ve often wondered what it would be like, to compose and conduct a symphony orchestra, with all those sounds and rhythms. Not to mention the variety of instruments and individualist types of artists playing those instruments.

As a photographer, at least in my experience, building and creating studio images or posing people, especially professional models, is pretty simple when compared to taking what you find in nature, and and then arrange that photographically, while actually leaving everything just as you found it. That has always seemed a more creative challenge.

There are rules of composition, but they are rules, not laws. The “composition police”, will not come knocking at your door. Keep the rules in mind, and then trust your instincts and/or your reasons for breaking the rules, and then shoot.

Flowers alone or in groups, are one of my favorite subjects to compose. They are in my opinion natural art, whether they were planted by a person, or given naturally as a gift from God.

I love “sectionalizing” flowers, One or two blossoms at a time, or one or two petals at a time.

The composition below was purposeful and thought out. It is not however, complex in any way. The best that I remember, tells me that I twisted and turned camera and tripod (not the flowers), until I had just enough of the green background, to offset the blossoms, and give some color and contrast separation. The petals, are compsed visually, just as I wanted them to be.

Near to far sharpness, and yes sharpness can be a part of composition, that provides a crisp view of one flower, while other blossoms fade softly and gradually into the background, is a powerful an pleasing way to compose an image.

These coneflowers provide such a view. In my opinion, the way the individual flowers lose a little sharpness as they move into the background, works well here. It provides depth.

What if you have edge to edge flowers, with no possible way to keep anything but the lead flower in focus and sharp? In other words, minimal depth of field. I liked to cover the background with ever softening flowers, while making absolutely sure, that the first one was crisp and sharp. That is composing an image in every sense of the word.

Okay every so often, I enjoyed taking flower images into the realm of the abstract. Entirely out of focus images, only work (in my opinion), if the viewer can tell that it was intentional. A personal choice. It is one I made very, very seldom. It is why I say that composition, even when it is done by allowing an image to blur, is a personal artistic choice.

Even a deep, dark sunrise over a lake and shore, deserve compositional thought. Remember, even the lenses we choose, are a part of our composition.

Below we have a small lake at sunrise. A dark and moody one at that. I shot at 50mm. It helped me sectionalize the photo between lights and darks, and water, land and sky, just as I wanted it to. Oft times, the images we make are not even of a subject, but are that of colors, tones, and divisions of such.

One of my favorite places to create images, was Arches N.P. in Utah. This place would seem to be an abstract kind of place, but to me it was quite literal. Find a cool arch with some beautiful early or late light, and compose the colors and shapes and shadows and textures, as it was provided to you.

The contrasting colors of the cool blue sky, and the warm sandstone rock, makes for easy compositions of contrast.

Different arches run different ways, and the textures vary somewhat as well.

Shadows may be something you cannot avoid, but they can also be something you hope for. Compose the shadows as you would anything else. I love natural drama in imagery. What you see below is natural and was very welcome.

Let us take a break and see what we can do with one of nature’s most difficult subjects to compose, wildlife. Really, it’s almost like they have a mind of their own.

What do you do when you have one of nature’s most fabulous creatures posing on front of you? Mainly, you let your model do the work and make the best photos you can.

Shoot for the face or eyes, even when they are almost closed, when you can, and let the chips fall where they may.

Okay, so I found this cluster of Painted Turtles sunning themselves on a log in Missouri. I shot all horizontals of turtles lined up vertically. Brain fade happens. The horizontals were okay, but I was shooting “loose enough” so I could crop some into vertical.

When you do not think while in the field, you can often save it at home.

Let us depart from wildlife for a little while.

To me, just about everything is a potential image.

Making autumn images is hardly unique. I have made my share and when I was out, I always attempted to scout for fallen leaves wherever I found them, and in whatever format they came in. Below is a path into a glorious fall woodland, Not an actual path, but one of shape and destination. The fallen branch visually leads us farther into the forest.

The sign of man can also hold a visual spell.

This old lighthouse fascinated me. I loved the way trees flanked the tower, and even the way a couple of small branches peaked at us above the tower as well. The vertical format was obvious here.

A lighthouse does not have to be a lighthouse… to speak.

A old shed and a few bushes. I gave more credence to the shed. I especially liked the old door handle.

Looking down at the dirt (earth), and also at the sides of old trees, has always been a worthy exercise for me.

Texture can be important with such subjects. When both texture and color are found, search for patterns.

The bark in the first image, and the South Dakota mudflat in the second, were perfect. In each case I searched for compositions that showed both texture and color, and visual harmony as well. When you find such subjects, take some time with your comps so those traits become apparent.

Of course, everybody seems to love waterfalls. I have photographed waterfalls from every angle over time. Especially, head on views. Sometimes however, the side view composition is nice. Here I liked the contrast between the white caps of falling water, and the deep dark rock. I also think the bit of white reflection on the right adds some life and dimension to the scene.

There’s green, and then there’s green. This is a bend in a river where the water slows down, and Cypress Trees live in harmony. I tried to splay them out a bit, via the angle in which I photographed them. In other words, this composition is fully intentional. This is the Mingo River in Missouri if memory serves.

Let finish our composing with more wildlife.

There is composing “in camera”, but there is also finding a different comps at home.

These migrating terns, laid out a nice, right to left pattern for me. When I got home, I cropped above and below the birds to make a sort of pano.

Of course close-ups bring them closer, (no pun offered), into us and our world. Notice there is a bit more room in the direction that the front tern is squawking.

A Northern Shoveler (the far bird) and a Northern Pintail seem to harbor no prejudice against one another. Mainly I simply wanted an image that showed who they were, and gave then some room to swim.

And finally, this male Greater Scaup was paddling to my position and a bit to my right, when I caught him, just inside the picture frame. There is still enough space to our lower right for him to not be swimming into a visual wall. The ripples and reflections in the water are a bonus.

Composition can be a matter of opinion, although comps mostly affect many people the same way.

Any way you look at it, you are the composer and the camera is your wand, as well as your instrument.

Our life here and now, is a series of brief moments. Photography can be an aid in capturing and holding those moments. One second is a long time photographically speaking. Some of today’s image were captured in 1/640th of a single second.

With or without a camera, make your time count.

God Bless,

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Composer

  1. TRAILBLAZER says:

    Great post of a photographer. All your photos are so lovely. I enjoy looking at them. Keep posting. Please visit my blog too. Follow and comment to my post. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s