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  1. #1

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    Dearest APUG...I noticed you've been missing something...

    All,
    After reading through a couple of Ansel's writings last night, it struck me like a freight train. While I admit that Im among the largest gear-heads and techies on this board; we've been missing something. Just look at all the forums - LF gear, Film/Paper/Development, Metering, etc....Its all on the scientific and technical aspect side of photography (again, not like Im complaining...). We are missing out on the artistic side of things - discussions on composure, creative posing, etc.
    Im not suggesting that ANOTHER forum be created for composition, Im just looking to fire up a discussion. Sure, we all know about the rule of 1/3rds, leading lines, ad nauseum. But what about some tricks ? What thought process goes through your head when you're photographing something that you feel is of great interest; but none of the above rules apply ?

  2. #2
    Wigwam Jones's Avatar
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    This has attracted my interest of late:

    http://www.perceptionweb.com/ecvp97/98tue.html

    One eye is usually centred horizontally (and near the golden section vertically) in portraits over the past 500 years. C W Tyler (Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA; fax: +1 415 561 1610; e-mail: cwt@skivsski.org; WWW: http://www.ski.org/cwt)

    Although the eyes are a key feature of facial portraits, compositional rules for the placement of the eyes relative to the frame are obscure. Two hypotheses of eye position in the portrait frame were compared: that the pair of eyes were symmetrically placed or that one eye was centred in the frame. Portraits were defined as paintings of a single person from the waist up without other dominant objects or animals in the scene. From all artists represented in seven source-books on portraiture over the past five centuries (eg from van Eyck to Picasso), the first portrait in which both eyes were visible was analysed (170 portraits). Horizontal and vertical eye and mouth positions were measured as a proportion of frame width and height.

    The eyes in portraits tend to cluster horizontally around the centre vertical, with one eye centred in a normal distribution with a sigma of only ±5% of the frame width. The binocular mean had a bimodal distribution implying that one or other eye was usually centred. Conversely, the eye height distribution was not centred vertically but peaked close to the classic golden ratio of 0.618 (where the smaller portion has the same ratio to the larger as does the larger to the whole), with virtually no eyes below the vertical centre. The mouth distribution was much broader than that of the centred eye. The eye centring with an accuracy of ~1 eye width seems not to be mentioned in art criticism, which suggests that unconscious functions operate in our aesthetic judgements.

    [Supported by NIMH 49044.]
    The paper is here:

    http://www.ski.org/cwt/CWTyler/Art%2...enterSPIE.html
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  3. #3
    Schlapp's Avatar
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    Nice start to an intersting thread that I for one would avidly read

  4. #4
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    I was just having a conversation with my wife about a similar topic, how many people don't have enough education to understand design. I'm not suggesting that anyone in particular is lacking in knowledge of design, but I wonder how many people have actual education in the concepts of design and how many just picked up bits here and there (like me). I was never taught much about art of any kind until I specificaly sought it out, so I always feel behind when it comes to conversations about design elements. I have learned quite a bit, and have had the opportunity to study with people who have a great understanding, but it takes time to internalize these concepts.

    When I'm out with the camera looking for interesting things to photograph, I don't go through a list of rules, but rather rely on what I have been able to internalize to the point of it becoming automatic. The more I photograph, the more of these concepts begin to shift to automatic mode.

    Interestingly (to me anyway) I find that I can openly discuss design concepts with artists who work in other media, but have difficulty talking about them with photographers. Again, I'm not trying to imply that photographers don't have the artistic background that other artists do, but I do find that photographers tend to talk more about subject matter and technical aspects that other types of artists.

    - Randy

  5. #5
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    It's simple...simply apply no rules of composition! As soon as rules are applied they smother whatever relationship you have with your subject.

    Waaaay back when I first starting using 4x5 gear, I would take only one photograph of a scene. I would walk around it, move in closer or farther away, and raise or lower my vantage point until I found what I thought was the single strongest composition. While doing this I would ask myself what it was that attracted me to the scene, and how best to highlight that for others to see in a print. (I've since lightened up, and will sometimes take two or three images, but there's almost always one image stronger than the others).

    Because each scene is made of different compositional elements, and each one demands of me to highlight different aspects within the scene or my relationship/reaction to them, it's impossible to apply rules! Each and every composition is unique unto itself.

    Rules of composition spawn predictable results.

    Good topic...my answers aren't usually this 'black and white'

    Murray
    _________________________________________
    Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.

  6. #6
    Wigwam Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MurrayMinchin
    Rules of composition spawn predictable results.
    That's the point of having them, isn't it? Predictable results are only bad if that is all you're capable of producing.

    I have found that blind obedience to 'rules' as such can be stifling to creativity. But blithely ignoring all so-called 'rules' can have its consequences as well - such as very imaginative and offbeat and unusual and unique completely worthless photographs.

    I suspect that's the basis for the old adage that one should learn the rules first - then you'll know when to break them.

    I had a similar discussion once with a fellow who felt that learning how to use a camera was for conformists. Aperture, shutter speed, focus; none of that mattered. What mattered was creativity, which one either had or had not. I disagreed, but then I guess I'm an old stick-in-the-mud conformist.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  7. #7
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveH
    All,
    After reading through a couple of Ansel's writings last night.... What thought process goes through your head when you're photographing something....
    Have you read the Preface to Volume 1 yet ?

    d
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  8. #8
    PhotoJim's Avatar
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    The reason that I discuss gear more than art is that it's easier.

    Gear is concrete. It's physical. It's quantifiable and describable.

    How do you describe what is beautiful? Really, you can't. You can show people... but you can't tell people.

    When I see a scene that looks photogenic... I just feel a certain way. I don't think about it in a rational sense. I get out a camera, I explore possibilities, and I shoot. I move the scene around in the viewfinder (or move the camera around the scene), play with lenses, play with filtration, based on my instincts. Eventually I usually get what I was seeking when I first saw the scene.

    It might be interesting to watch me do this... but I doubt it would be interesting to read what I wrote about doing it.
    Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

    A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.

    Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?

  9. #9

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    I do not know if this makes sense to anyone but me..

    But I have the thought that 'rules of composition' arent meant to MAKE photographs, in the field they are to be ignored.....

    I believe the rules are a possible way to understand why certain photographs are good.. Not neccesarily why all photographs composed in such a way are good but... a way to explain why some images are a success...

    I can see how this way of thinking could be confusing, it could be easy to jump to thinking 'this is good because of X, now I will compose this way in the field' But what I am describing is more of a happy accident, "hey, it really does work!"

    In my work, I generally find this to be the case, being seperated from the actual event of making a photograph I find that I can think in this way and be happy with my results. While in the field I ignored all the 'rules' and they only come into play when I try to understand why a certain photograph I like is good.. not so I can repeat it, just to know... (and some photos I like apply to no rule..)
    "Where is beauty? Where I must will with my whole Will; where I will love and perish, that an image may not remain merely an image."

  10. #10
    Wigwam Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoJim
    The reason that I discuss gear more than art is that it's easier.
    True, that.

    Gear is concrete. It's physical. It's quantifiable and describable.
    Some would disagree, but I take your meaning.

    How do you describe what is beautiful? Really, you can't. You can show people... but you can't tell people.
    "Shall I compare thee to a summer day?"

    Seems like some folks have managed to convey nearly-universal concepts of beauty using the written word. Some might say that they are even more beautiful, because they cause the reader to construct what they think is beautiful in their own minds. A photograph or a painting might be beautiful to only a certain segment of the population and repugnant to another.

    How beautiful was Helen of Troy? If we knew with certainty what she looked like, many might find her unlovely. But we know a war was launched over her (in the story), and in our minds, we create a woman whom we do think of as beautiful.

    When I see a scene that looks photogenic... I just feel a certain way. I don't think about it in a rational sense. I get out a camera, I explore possibilities, and I shoot. I move the scene around in the viewfinder (or move the camera around the scene), play with lenses, play with filtration, based on my instincts. Eventually I usually get what I was seeking when I first saw the scene.
    What are these rules of composition? To me, they are not arbitrary or made-up, they are attempts to describe common experiences - how things 'look photogenic' to use your term. So if you are following your instincts, surprise, that's where the rules came from to begin with. They are merely a way of attempting to codify what we all seem to experience - a time-saver, a shortcut to wisdom usually gained only by hard work and experience.

    It might be interesting to watch me do this... but I doubt it would be interesting to read what I wrote about doing it.
    Some do, some teach. Many are the writers about photography who are criticized not for what they write, but for their supposed lack of photographic ability.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

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