Monday, June 1, 2015

Image of the Month: June 2015

This image was taken on the beach at Half Moon Bay, California as I watched a surfer leave the ocean and return to his normal schedule.  The simple lesson with this image I would like to share are the basic composition elements of thirds, center of interest, and eye movement.  Rather than just talk about the final image I thought it would be helpful to provide the same image with my notations on them to clearly present each item.

Note:  For each image, to obtain a larger view, just click on the image itself

Image of the Month: June 2015
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Rule of Thirds....with a Twist
The rule of thirds is all about placement of your subject matter within the frame and refers to dividing your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically.  This imaginary exercise results in a grid-like pattern of nine equal spaces.   However with my variation of the rule of thirds, if you look closely you can see three distinct triangles running on the horizontal plane.  

The three triangles would be #1, the top which encompasses the ocean, #2 the sandy beach, and #3 the sedum plants on the cliffside overlooking the beach.  What's also interesting is that each triangle is very clean and contains only that one subject matter throughout.  So for example in the #2 triangle, it's only sandy beach.  Typically when looking at grids of thirds there most often is a mix of subject matter in each grid, or in this case each triangle.

Composition Element: Rule of Thirds w/Twist
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Center of Interest
The center of interest refers to the most significant element of an image, or in other words, the center or most important point of interest.  Good composition typically locates the central point of interest off-center which is more pleasing to the eye.  Notice in this image your eye is drawn to the center triangle (#2) because of the lighter color (compared with above ocean or below plant material) and surfer figure walking across the beach provides an additional focal point.  

Composition Element: Center of Interest
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Eye Movement
Although photographs are static in nature, a dynamic element and movement can be attained merely through composition.  In essence the artist has control of the viewer's eye movement through clever placement of objects, framing, and overall composition techniques.  Studies have even shown that geometric shapes are more visually appealing and can influence eye movement.  

There are two very obvious directional clues in this image.  First is the trail of footprints gently positioned in the sandy beach leading away from the ocean. Secondly, the actual movement of the surfer leads the viewer off the image entirely.  Since this image was captured with an iPhone I had absolutely no control of normal camera functions such as shutter speed, f-stop and exposure.  Ultimately, although the surfer was moving I kept the camera in a steady, static position, thus the second and transparent figure of the surfer.  However, I think this evolving transparent trail of the surfer literally appears as if he's walking out of the frame; a huge visual leading line to follow him off the image and beyond the frame.  In fact, the further the surfer walks away from the ocean, the more transparent he becomes.  Again, this happened because of limited functionality of the "camera" I had with me at the time of capture, but I love the result.  It's almost metaphorical in a sense. 


Composition Element:  Eye Movement
© 2014, Joanne Scherf


Image of the Month: June 2015
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Hopefully this month's image demonstrates how pre-visualization of composition is so important.  The basic composition elements of Rule of Thirds, Center of Interest, and Eye Movement are key to capturing and creating fantastic images. For patrons I hope this insight helps you to read photographs better and improve your visual literacy.  As for professionals who invariably have an innate visual competency and sense of composition, it's just a gentle reminder how critical the basics really are.



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