Continued from above
DA's 10 Good Habits for Composition
My seventh Good habit for composition is to introduce you to the concept of Juxtaposition. This is again a concept derived from art school, and is another form of incorporating contrast into your photos. Google juxtaposition and it'll open your eyes to yet another fertile area to look at for good composition. Briefly, juxtaposition is the placing side by side, two objects that oppose one another, for comparison or contrast. In juxtaposition you bring 2 things to your viewer’s attention at the same time, and try to make him wonder why, and to discover the differences. With Juxtaposition, your aim is to get your viewer to start thinking, and to stay longer at your picture. Juxtaposition is about relationships between subjects and things. You need to see and recognize the differences, and then you try and highlight them in your visual story. A photo after all, is simply a visual story.
And juxtaposition may seem a bit arty-farty for most photographers not schooled in the arts. The word itself is kind of frightening. And I haven't even started to talk about Chiaroscuro which is simply contrasts between Light & Dark. Chiaroscuro is again an art concept which describes the attempts of artists in the Renaissance period to give a three dimensional feels to their painted human subjects, by carefully reproducing the moulding effects of directional lighting. Go and look at the paintings of Raphael and Caravaggio and Rubens and....I digress. The point is, you should go and read up on these concepts so that you can become a more intelligent and thinking photographer, sensitive to the beauty of relative placements of contrasting subjects. If you want to remain a snapshooter, dont bother about these things.
Here's a simple example of juxtaposition. My friend's Rexton, contrasting starkly with an old horse drawn cart, on a remote Argentinean ranch in South America, shot during my round South America 4x4 expedition in 2006. I shot this picture with a fish eye lens, making full use of the deep DOF capabilities of the Fisheye, to accentuate the contrast between the ancient and the modern.
See, I told you it's heavy, and getting heavier and heavier.
Composition is always a wooly wooly thing in most people's minds. But If you've read this far, you're on the right track, and probably serious about raising your technical skills up a notch. With juxtaposition, the challenge for you is to try and see the potential connection between elements, to notice their differences, and to bring them together in your photographs for the delight of your viewers. After all, photography is about bringing order to the visual chaos in everyday life. A good photographer is one that can do that well. If you want another example of juxtaposition, try to photograph the reflection of old Kampung Baru Malay houses in the glass facade of the modern skyscrapers which surround this old Malay village in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
My eighth Good habit to develop for good composition is to be on the lookout for implied diagonals in your compositions. Diagonals introduce dynamism into an image. They activate the frame & suggest movement along the diagonal. Choose a viewpoint to induce or imply a diagonal visual flow. You will delight your viewer as he discovers what you have set him up to. Delighting your viewer is an objective that most photographers aim to achieve. And here I'm not talking about tilting your camera frame to put your subject in an amateurish diagonal setting. That is so cliché and the delight you evoke with that is like the delight you get when you see the antics of clowns at a circus.. Look instead for implied diagonals which can be more absorbing and more powerful.
Chopin is Poland's most outstanding composer. His monument in the Royal gardens of Lazienki Park in Warsaw was built in 1926, but the Nazis destroyed it during the Second World War. The monument was reconstructed in 1958 and was brought back to its original location in front of a beautiful reflecting pool in Lazienki Park. The statue and its reflection has probably been shot millions of times before, but my picture below, of Chopin’s disdainful gaze on the park sweeper, is a unique moment in time, with an implied and powerful diagonal eye flow. It's as if Chopin was looking disdainfully down at the sweeper who's not doing a satisfactory job. This type of implied diagonal visual flow can often make your pictures different.
My ninth good habit to develop about composition is to urge you to be aware of patterns and rhythm in your surroundings.
Repetitions are the visual equivalent of beats in music. Patterns & Rhythm have a sense of cycle, beat, flow, and direction. They have momentum, and because of this, there is a sense of continuation beyond the frame. If you can capture the essence of a beautiful pattern you can give your viewer's eye the satisfaction of being carried through the scene and beyond, in a rhythmical sort of way.
However, do be careful, because patterns, like my fishes being dried in Kuala Selangor above, can sometimes be boring. You need an anomaly to interrupt the rhythm, like a beat, to make the image more dynamic. Looking back at this picture, I should have placed something within the frame to break the boring monotony, like maybe a crumpled blue plastic bag for instance, at one of the golden points.
Here's a picture of the pillars at the Vatican that will betterr illustrate what I'm trying to explain. The man walking and positioned near the right edge of the frame provides the break that gives this photo a more dynamic feel. I should have waited to shoot a man walking out of the frame in the same direction of the Rhythm in order to direct the "flow", but I hope you get what I mean. Our western educated eyes tends to follow a rhythmical beat in a picture, from left to right, so in a composition alluding to Pattern, Rhythm and Beat, it is probably better to place the "Beat" (ie. the man) on the far right, and moving out of the frame to give the eyes of your viewer time to notice and follow the rhythm and beat.
Ok, we've come to the 10th habit that you should develop for getting good compositions.
I hope you're still with me. It's by no means all that there is to it. I have a list of at least 35 composition concepts which I discuss in depth with my students at the Open University, and at the PMPE classes, and the PM PhotoSafaris. As photographers I urge you to delve a little more deeply into some of the technical concepts of photography. Most photographers muddle through years of trial and error trying to compose pictures without actually knowing exactly what the technicals are. Not many are privileged to go to photography school. So they continue to muddle through in this exciting, creative and artistic hobby.
If you dont want to attend classes, come and join one of our Photosafaris. It's a fun way of fast tracking your photography knowledge acquisition process. Its where Maxby and I share whatever little that we know about our fascinating hobby with all who will listen. Some of our participants on the PMPE are coming back again and again to join us in successive PhotoSafaris, confirming perhaps that there must be something really good about these shooting safaris. For instance, we're fully subscribed for the Photosafari to the Old Silk Road in October 2010. We bought tickets to Chengdu during the Matta Fair, last year, and last week we bought the return ticket from Chengdu to KL. Total cost ? less than RM400. And in the summer, we'll be going to Nepal, and to Laos in the Spring. Next week we're off to Vietnam again. And from 29th July to 8th August, we'll be shooting in Bangladesh, at PMPE5. Check out my teaser pictures from Bangladesh HERE. Several of those pictures employ some of the composition concepts that I've tried to introduce here. Come with Maxby & me on a PhotoMalaysia PhotoSafari Experience. That's the 10th good habit that I have for you in order to enjoy your photography.....