Image of the Week #1

  Posted in Image of the Week on

  by Chris

Image of the Week #1

Three Pink Flowers

A Trio in Pink

This image is one of my better flower pictures; the exposure is spot on, the raindrops provide an exquisite accent. However, there is a problem with this picture. Can you spot it? Those of you who have read my previous post concerning subject placement will hopefully pick it out immediately: it’s out of balance! The subject should be to the right about 5%… Cropping can fix this to some degree, but: fixing in camera, before shooting, is always the superior approach. Rule #9 is: Always slap yourself each time you think, “I’ll fix it in Photoshop later.”

Where I’ve been…

  Posted in Uncategorized on

  by Chris

Some of you may notice I’ve been gone for more than two weeks! I’ve been in Colorado. After that, I had the evil TDSS virus. Well, I’m back… And hopefully, I’ll be getting pictures of Colorado added to my flickr account (! Thanks for your interest, and keep checking in!

Landscape and Nature Composition – Rule of Thirds, Part 2: Subject

  Posted in Composition on

  by Chris

This is part 2 in the series, the previous concerning itself with the placement of horizons, the next with the placement of leadind lines (the most subtle and tricksy of the three).

So the question is, what about the Rule of Thirds in subject placement? The answer is, initially, of course, not to rely rigidly on the rule of thirds! But the in-depth answer first begs some questions concerning the subject: 1. How much of it are we showing, and 2. What feel/message/emotion are we trying to communicate with it?  and 3. Are there other subjects of importance in the frame? and 4. What direction is the subject facing?

The first question: how much of the subject are we showing? Be it rock, tree, animal, or person, is it face, root-to-crown, a far off view with environmental context? The answer for how much to show is answered with the question: What are we trying to communicate? If the picture is to be a standard portrait (flower, person’s face, rock, animal, et cetera), then we can expect to try to fill the frame with the subject. Ideally, nearly everything except our subject will be out of focus (think simplification). The direction the subject is facing will often dictate the position in the frame. If the subject is facing head-on, then place the subject either in the middle of the frame, or, if it does not fill the frame (or is a flower or other stemmed thing…), perhaps set it on the 1/3rd-3/8ths line. If facing to the side,place it on the 1/4th-1/3rd line, providing it room to look in the frame.

However, if we are trying to provide context (environmental portrait, cliff face with a river, a mountain with a field…), then we must decide if a balance of the compositional units within the frame. This will often be determined on a case-by-case basis. Do not place the subject in the center unless formal symmetry is present. Place subjects on the 1/3rd line if you wish to emphasize them (but balance them). Place subjects on the 1/4th line (or less) if you wish to frame with them.

The second question: what message, feeling, and emotion are we communicating? Much indeed could be written concerning emotive photography, but here we will confine ourselves to the emotional impact subject placement has on a photo. Though there are many possible feels an image may produce, they may be categorized by the following: dynamic or static, and positive or negative. Dynamic vs. static is influenced greatly by subject placement; positive vs. negative is is influenced greatly by subject nature: both are influenced by both, though to differing degrees. As such, we will focus on dynamic vs. static here.

A static feel will be achieved  primarily by placing the subject square in the center of the frame. Alternatively, it may be achieved by placing the subject as a frame (for example:  a tree and its branches on the edge of the image framing a mountain ridge in the center frame). Placing the framing unit on the right side of the frame will produce a much more solid feel than on the left side (most readers read from left to right). A sky on image left leading to a lake leading to a mountian side will feel solid. The same in reverse, with the sky on the right side, will feel freer and airier.

A dynamic feel will be achieved by placing the subject on the 1/4th-3/8th part of the frame.  Again, the feel will be more dynamic if the subject is placed on the left side of the frame. The eye may look at the subject, then feel freedom as it scans toward the right side of the frame.  If the subject is on the right side, the eye will stop when drawn to it, producing a more static feel.

The third question: are there other subjects of importance in the frame? The purpose of the prescence of more than one subject in the frame is to communicate context, perhaps tell a story, or maybe to serve as an aesthetic element of sorts (caution: the more elements, the more possible it can be to lose sight of the message…).  Hence, where to place our main subjects? Because of the innumerable possibilities, this must be determined on a case-by-case basis, though there are principles which if followed, will produce a better image, to wit, balance, triangles, contrast, among others.

In general though, if the image has two subjects, one should not be in the middle unless there is something to frame the image. Placing the two subjects on the left and right (or top and bottom) third lines will produce a static feel. Bumping  one of them to the 1/4th or 3/8ths line will produce a livelier feel.

The final question: what direction is the subject facing? For a good, traditional feel, place the subject slap on the 1/3rd line, facing away from the closest edge of the frame (if facing left, place it on the right).  Bonus points if you can align parts of the subject (boles, outcroppings, horns, lips, eyes, maybe?) with the top and bottom 1/3rd lines.

Perhaps though, we wish to try for something fresh, something new feeling. How might we achieve this? Perhaps try the above, but have the subject facing the near edge. Know though, that this is not something to try often… though it can generate a sense of mystery or finality. If your subject is faceing other subjects, placing between the 1/4th-3/8ths area will provide a reasonably dynamic feel. Placing the subject on the top or bottom of the frame will certainly deviate from orthodoxy. But wherever your subject is facing, the viewer’s eyes will be drawn. And if your viewer’s eyes are drawn there, what will meet them? The difference between subject placement on the 1/3rd and 1/4th line will communicate largely if the subject is the main subject, or a participant or maybe frame for other subjects (frames can be main subjects!). 

The real question is not what is the best place to position a subject, but what do we desire to communicate? The Rule-of-Thirds is neither good nor bad; it is merely a tool. If overused, it will become mundane. If used in accordance with the communication of our overall message for the image (you do have a purpose/message/idea in each image, right?), then we can make great use of this potentially powerful tool. The key, however, is knowing what it does and when to use it. The 1/3rd line is not the only line to use, but can be impressive when used with the right subject with the right message.

Landscape and Nature Composition Basics: Rule of Thirds? Part One: Horizons

  Posted in Composition, Tutorials on

  by Chris

A very commonly touted concept in photography is the rule of thirds, the notion that to make a great image, it is important to place the subject/horizon/leading lines along a 1/3rd gridline on the picture.

Looking at non-photographer’s pictures, I often find the subject thrown unimagentively in the center, usually not filling much of the frame. To combat this, someone somewhere came up with the inviolable Rule of Thirds (and the concept of Filling the Frame!). Although the ROT helps, its grinding frequency leads to buccolic and often somewhat purposeless images. The next step for such, and what is really the first step, is to understand the purpose for compositional placement of elements in the frame. As this is a wee mite more to both teach and comprehend, many leave it out of their instruction, and many never learn it, growing later their own buccolic disciples!

Fear not! Here we will try to explain this concept: subject/horizon/leading line placement. It is not wrong to use the Rule of Thirds, or to place one’s subject slap in the center of the frame; one simply must know WHY he is composing for such, or risk having buccolic or worse yet flat images!

We will begin here by discussing horizons. What we will see here applies for whether your camera is in either landscape or portrait orientation (yes, portrait orientation for a landscape! Quite lovely if done right!). Concerning lines, know and understand that the eye does not like to cross lines, especially straight lines. Therefore, rarely will you ever want to place a horizon in the center of an image. Doing so will flatten the image impact, trapping the eye of the viewer to on part or the other of the image and dissociating it from the entire message you are trying to communicate (your images should have the goal of communicating something, some emotion, some thought, some message…)

So, where to place the horizon line? If you place it on the bottom 1/5th-1/8th of an image, it will perform as a frame, while still providing context to the image, so that it is not just a random shot of the sky.

Depending on what your foreground elements are, you may wish to place the horizon line around 1/4th-1/3rd of the way into the image. This will still provide a good view of the sky, yet allow you create with your foreground elements an image which will feel rather balanced without feeling static.

Between 1/3rd and 3/8ths lies an area of caution; still usable, but it depends largely on your foreground elements to keep it interesting, and an attractive enough sky to keep the eyes fastened. This placement leaves the viewer with more of a rooted and stable feeling, much more so than the ephemeral 1/8th framing.

The above applies similarly for framing the horizon in the upper 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/3rd, and 3/8th areas. However, the earthen parts will instead of the sky be prominent. Ensure you have a strong foreground, middle, and background especially in such images (another topic for another day!). Although putting the sky at the top eigth will less commonly be used….

The middle of the image? When may I place the horizon there?

1. If there is a reflection in the bottom of the image mirroring the top. Much more can be said on this matter… later…

2. For symmetrical composition. A completely symmetrical image can be extremely powerful; the difference between powerful and flat is the subject and degree of symmetricity. Formal symmetry, the placing of the suject in the center with as much symmetry as possible throughout the entire image will, if executed properly, render an immense sense of power, royalty, solidness,  either holiness and goodness, else a menacing evil, depending on the subject. Formal composition can itimidate, inspire, strengthen, and propel. If done poorly, or, as the mere result of a thoughtless photo, it will be lifeless, flat, and rather uninteresting.

That being said, formal symmetry should be used intelligently and with understanding of what is being done.

In conclusion, is the Rule of Thirds evil? No, but it is an over-simplification. Instead of randomly selecting the third spots to line things up in your viewfinder, choose intelligently where to place your horizon, to communicate the desired message and convey the desired feel.

“Jesus spake again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

More Images from the Keys…

  Posted in Keys 2011 on

  by Chris

More images from the keys last week…

A fiery sunset

Fiery Steel

Setting sun in a tropical paradise

Sunset in Paradise


Three brothers


Palms in the Golden Morning Glow

My first post… An image from the Keys… A wonderful gift from God!

  Posted in Uncategorized on

  by Chris


Setting Sun

The sut sets across the Florida bay over a mangrove island...

Thursday I went to the Keys to visit my friend Badger. I left Fort Lauderdale around 0200, arrived there around 0500, and started shooting around the Seven Mile Bridge not long after!

The image here is from the evening; the sun is drifting beneath the horizon across theFlorida Bay… A more wonderful and spectacular sunset I have not seen for some time! Thanks overflows to God for this wonderful gift. More images to follow…

Hello world!

  Posted in Uncategorized on

  by Chris

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!