Oh my goodness, just look at that beautiful scene up ahead. We have to stop to take a photo. Look at that beautiful mountain range with the river running below. I can't believe it but there is a beautiful meadow of wildflowers and a
forest full of stately trees too! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! Snap!!! We've got it! This is surely a winning image. But wait a moment...maybe we should just put down our cameras and walk around a bit and really look at this amazing
scene. Maybe we can find some other interesting ways to compose what we are seeing that showcase and tell the story of this beautiful place and to express our emotional response to it.
Simply put it is the art of focusing the viewer's attention on the most important aspect in the composition. It means removing anything distracting from the scene. Sometimes it helps to put down the camera, walk around or just sit for a
little while and get a "feel" for the place. Study the shapes of your surroundings, the trees, rocks, flowers, water, etc. Look for the elements of design such as patterns and textures and lines. Then stop and think about what drew you
there in the first place. What appeals to you? Once you've discovered that, then pick up your camera and photograph it but don't stop with just one shot. Study your composition, do you like it? Can you find a different perspective? If there
is something distracting, how can you remove it? Change lenses? Moving to a different position? Try to do your hard work in the field as best you can and cover all your options.
The ice on the rock in the Oconaluftee River in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is what appealed to me. I took many different shots from many vantage points before I found this simple composition that I liked the best.
Change Your Position
How you position your subject within the frame is important, and so is how you position yourself in relation to the subject. Most photos are taken from eye level, standing upright in front of the subject, at a distance sufficient to fill
the frame. Try stepping away from this normal position! It can have a dramatic effect on the resulting photo. Go ahead and take that first shot but never be satisfied with taking a photo from the position you started with. Try looking
down, sideways, or up at your subject. Sometimes just taking two steps in another direction can make a huge difference. Consider how moving yourself may improve the photo. In other words, work it!!!
Look All Around!
Think In the Abstract
This can be the key to making powerful and effective images. Think of the scene not in terms of waterfalls, mountains, trees, rivers etc. but rather in terms of curves, lines, triangles and other shapes. Composition is a way of making all
these abstract shapes relate to one another. Learning to think abstractly is one of the most important ways you can improve your photography.
While standing on a bridge over the Chattooga River in North Carolina I began to notice the abstract shapes, textures and fall colors being reflected in the flowing waters of the river.
It's In The Details!
Sure, there are gorgeous flowing rivers, dramatic oceans, amazing mountains peaks and fields of wildflowers out there but not all will make a compelling image. You need to develop your eye for details. Often it is the little things that
make the difference in a photo.
Explore the scene like you are a little kid again looking for all that "really neat stuff" that attracts your eye. If it doesn't attract you it probably won't attract viewers. Once you have explored and found all the items that you are drawn
to, you can then focus your attention on the most interesting elements. Besides just finding the "really neat stuff" you should also look for elements that will enhance your composition. You are looking for something that will take a good
scene with potential and transform it into a compelling image.
If everything seems interesting at first go ahead and photograph it. Eventually you will find that not every interesting thing will make a good image. As you develop your "eye" you will start to find things that go beyond interesting to
things that are unique or special. Look for things that tell a story or reveal the real beauty to your viewers.
The frost was the "really neat stuff" for me during this cold morning in the Great Smoky Mountains. It took many shots for me to narrow it down to an interesting composition that highlighted the curves, lines, colors and textures of the
leaf, frost, and fence.
Okay, now I think we've really got some good images of this amazing place. We tried it this time on a beautiful landscape scene but these concepts will work with any type of photography. Try composition concepts such as keeping it simple,
changing your position, composing with attention to detail, and thinking in the abstract. You might just find you are "seeing" things in a whole new way!
Donna Eaton, PPSOP Instructor