questions about composition

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by anyte, Aug 17, 2004.

  1. anyte

    anyte Member

    Messages:
    701
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2004
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    35mm
    What are people's feelings and opinions about objects that extend horizontally across an image - like a bridge. Should the object be level with the horizon?

    What about foreground and backgrounds? Should the subject definitely be in either the immediate foreground or perhaps background (such as mountains) to make it stand out?

    On a bit of the same note. Is it considered bad form or too distracting to have bushes, trees, or tall grass in the foreground?

    I know they are somewhat vague questions and that "everything is subjective" but I would appreciate opinions.

    Thank you.
     
  2. mikeb_z5

    mikeb_z5 Member

    Messages:
    217
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    anyte,
    I was just wondering the same thing as I currently have a bridge pic in the standard gallery(crappy scan but it is a bridge). I look forward to the replies on this one :smile:

    mike
     
  3. Leon

    Leon Member

    Messages:
    2,075
    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2003
    Location:
    Kent, Englan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    what ever you think looks best. Everyone elses' opinion on composition are exactly that, just opinions. I think it's best not to worry too much about conventions on composition.
     
  4. sparx

    sparx Member

    Messages:
    376
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2004
    Location:
    Norfolk UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If it works for you then it works.
    God i can be deep sometimes, like a puddle. :tongue:
     
  5. 127

    127 Member

    Messages:
    581
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    uk
    Shooter:
    127 Format
    I'd agree with leon, that shoot what works for you.

    However since you asked, my $0.02 would be:

    If a bridge looks horizontal then you're standing in the middle of a river (or a train track). I don't like shooting stuff square on, and would move to get some perspective going. Then the lines of the bridge draw you into the photograph.

    Foreground/background and subject are all abstractions. A photograph only has a subject when someone looks at it - the camera just records the scene. You can either choose to make one aspect stand out, or give the viewer more choice.

    A single branch or leaf is an intrusion, but a tree or bush is simply another part of the image. Foreground objects place the photographer (and viewer) within the scene, and gives a sense of place. If used well then they're good. Just make sure it looks deliberate, rather than accidentaly allowing folliage to intrude on the edges of a scene.

    Like I said at the begining, there are no rules. I'm no expert, but thats what I would do in those situations.

    Ian
     
  6. anyte

    anyte Member

    Messages:
    701
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2004
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thank you everyone. I know it's all a matter of opinion - these are things that were brought up in critiques of a photograph of a bridge that I posted elsewhere. The critiques were not at all favorable.

    I think I'll post the photo in the gallery here.
     
  7. juan

    juan Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,745
    Joined:
    May 7, 2003
    Location:
    St. Simons I
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As a general rule, the horizon should be level. Depending on the angle of view, the bridge may or may not appear level, but if the horizon is level, the bridge will be convincing.

    Unless, of course, you want it to be unconvincing.

    I don't photograph subjects, so I'm not able to offer a suggestion there.

    As for the foreground, again the general rule is that whatever is there should be in focus. Unless you don't want it to be.
    juan
     
  8. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

    Messages:
    555
    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2003
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Anyte,

    With the bridge scenario there are no absolutes. Since you are shooting 35mm you have the luxury that large format shooters can ill afford - you can burn shots experimenting. Try it a number of ways: bridge level, horizon level, as many different angles as you have access to. Keep notes on what you're doing, if it will help you. Then compare what you did with the results on the film - this is part of the learning process, and then the next time you are looking through the viewfinder at a bridge you will feel a lot more confident about how you want to compose the shot. It may come down to deciding to use the bridge to mask the actual horizon.

    As far as foregrounds and backgrounds, first you decide where your main subject resides. If it is in the background, then the general rule of thumb is that whatever is in the foreground should lead the viewer's eyes to the main subject. If the main subject is in the foreground you must first decide how much background you want to show. The main problem in my own compositions like this is that I never get close enough and end up with too much background - when in doubt move in closer. Something to become aware of is that our eyes are amazing machines that make all kinds of adjustments to what we end up thinking we are seeing, while cameras and film are much more limited and just basically record what's in front of them. That sometimes presents huge discrepancies between what you thought you were photographing and what you get on the final print. That's why Ansel Adams and everybody down through our own Les McLean talk about Pre-visualization. A simple definition of that term is "learning to see the way your camera does. That is accomplished by going through lots of film. Yes, it helps to read the books and attend the workshops and take classes, but in the end you do all your real learning about composition with the camera in your hand. But on the other hand it is good and necessary in the beginning to observe the various helpful hints like the Rule of Thirds - you have to know what the rules are before you can throw them out.

    The only other idea about composition that will be really useful to you right now, and is related to the Rule of Thirds, is avoid the "bullseye" approach - putting the subject dead-center in the frame. That is often the first step from taking snapshots to making photographs. I hope some of this is useful to you.

    Joe
     
  9. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Composition is an area of photography that I think is too often sloughed off with the comment: "Whatever works." And that's true....but being consistant with achieving that which works should be a highly regarded skill. I've learned volumes from my wife, a painter, about various kinds of perspective, weighing and placing values, leading the eye, fine tuning areas of local contrast etc. that are anything but the consequence of happy accidents. This forum, in fact, dwells far more on the technical aspects of film and developers etc, than on matters of composition and printing that affect the final outcome to an equal or greater degree. So...among the many books that take on the subject, I recommend "Black and White Landscape Photography" by John and David Collett (Amherst Media, Inc.) as a decent volume worth reading. Your specific concerns are addressed therein as are many (but not all, unfortunately) quotidian elements of successful composition that every photographer should understand well enough to even be able teach should the occasion arise. Good luck!
     
  10. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

    Messages:
    3,894
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Middle Engla
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    First learn the rules, then learn when to break them. Takes time.
     
  11. rogueish

    rogueish Member

    Messages:
    877
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    Location:
    3rd Rock
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Fore/back ground can be kept in focus if it relates to the subject and helps lead the eye. (converging/diverging lines) Keep it out of focus if it is "clutter" (distracting). Sometimes the background just out of focus so not be distracting, but in focus enough to tell what it is is a nice effect and helps viewer to relate (Kid on a swing with slightly out of focus kids playing in the backgroud)
    Fill the frame (viewfinder) and you'll have less to crop in the darkroom. Don't try to include everything your eye sees. Just doesn't work.(for me anyway).
    Bushes, trees, fences, lightpoles can often be used to "frame" the subject. Effective for land/cityscapes.
    Most importantly -for every rule, there is an exception- except this one... :wink:
     
  12. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,264
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Theories of composition are quite varied. If you show your pictures to people you want them to experience them. The whole picture, not just part. There are general rules and they are well known, but they too can work against a photograph if they are not used in a way that compliments each other. A curved road should not lead away from the subject as it draws the eye away and so on and so forth

    If it were me:
    I would place the bridge above or below the horizon makeing it echo the horizon as a repeating line.

    Bushes are great to have in the forground as they can be interesting. Unfortunately they can also clutter the view forcing the viewer to look only at the bush. Personally I thik this means making it very dominant and huge. Use the branches to frame with or point to the repeating lines of the horizon and the bridgethis should lead the viewer around the photograph.

    My two cents
     
  13. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

    Messages:
    500
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Hollister, C
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I think it's a bad idea to learn rules about composition. It's better to learn what effect elements of design have on you and how they relate to what you want to see. Level bridges crossing the format are painfully calm to me but then maybe sometimes I want to make a painfully calm picture. Quit composing subjects and start looking at forms and values and most of the rules worthy of mention will automatically be followed.