Putting the Composition Elements Together

In my previous post I talked about the idea that a photographer should start out at a new photo location by looking at the deeper visual elements that will make an exciting image. Foreground and background elements, leading lines — all the physical structures of a place need to be recognized and then framed, adjusted (by adjusting your position or zooming), and shaped into a composition.

Here’s some shots I took at a recent trip to the Monterey Peninsula that show someone adjusting the composition elements for effect. Most of these are just jpgs out of the camera.

1. A classic shot as the eye might see Garapata.

Garapata State Beach

Garapata State Beach, 47mm, 1/125 sec, f/9

The foreground flowers  and curve of the coast line frame the sea and the main rock formations line up in the distance.

2. Wide angle version.

Garapata State Beach

Garapata State Beach, 24mm, f/14, 1/125

In wide angle, the foreground takes precedence and the rocky pillars seem too far off. Also notice that the two large rocks in mid-ground have more visual overlap, that’s not ideal.

3. Changing the foreground element, emphasizing wave impact.

Garapata State Beach

Garapata State Beach, 70mm, f/22, 1/8

Here the foreground element on the left leads the eye in with help from the crashing wave.    And with the extra zoom makes the massive rocks the center of attention. I’ve also slowed the shutter speed a lot. It gives the wave crest more motion and the crash of waves against the rocks has a more visceral feel.

4. Emphasizing the impact moment.

Garrapata State Beach, First Morning

Garapata State Beach, 96mm, .8sec., f/22

Here I’ve zoomed in big time. These two rocks have become foreground and the two sets of rock that are further back are closer. But the main visual you notice now is the motion blur of crashing waves. In fact, at .8 sec of shutter speed, the entire sea is like a boiling caldron.  And if I hadn’t been using a tripod with a cable release,  the rocks and coastline would have been a blur as well. Note: getting shutter speed this slow during the day requires a neutral density filter, a closed down aperture (f/22 here) and low ISO.

5. Going for balance.

Garapata Beach

Garapata Beach, 79mm, f/9, 1/640 sec.

The slow shutter speed in #4 is an exciting look but may emphasize the turbulent wave action a bit too much. So much of the frame is a blur that the viewer may not appreciate the full landscape.

Here, we’re keeping two massive foreground rocks close enough to anchor the frame. And the wave crash has lots of drama. But the rest of the frame has lots of visual elements to keep the eye exploring. Of course, I’m not sure which version I like best. Each has a mood all it’s own. But I’ve played with the dynamics of foreground, layout, composition and shutter speed. And I have some decent stuff to choose from.

One Comment on “Putting the Composition Elements Together

  1. Pingback: Putting the Composition Elements Together | Travel, Photograph, Experience

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