The human brain is one of the greatest things that exist in the universe. It is capable of many things. One of them is the high capacity for aesthetic sense. It can appreciate beauty but can also reject the lack of it. But more than admiration of beauty is the capability to create it. Hence, the term "art".
In the process of creating something artistic, the human mind functions and in constant pursuit in order to arrive at something really desirable and tangible; a piece of art. "Is it beautiful enough?"; the question that's always asked by every artist. They don't stop asking until they've created the tangible representation of the beauty they've been hiding inside. Subconsciously, the mind of the artist is doing some sort of self-check. Whether you are aware or not, you are criticising every step of your artistic process. Yes, criticising and analysing every step of your method is part of the entire creating process. It is impossible to produce a solid artistic piece without analysing one's work. What I want to convey in this article is the exercise of self-analysis/critique.
So, let me demonstrate the value of self-analysis quick using one of my images. Below is a shot of Buruwisan waterfalls in Laguna, Philippines. Exif: Canon 60D, Canon 10-22mm EFS USM, ISO100, f/11, 5 seconds exposure time.
A lot things were running in my mind as I took this shot. Act and think too slow then suffer the consequence of losing the precious light. Should I do this composition? Why am I drawn to this rocky foreground? Should I intentionally put a leaf on top of the big rock as an anchor point? Should I do a portrait or a landscape orientation? Are there any distracting elements? Is the lighting good at this angle? Too many questions that required immediate answers within a brief moment in time. I really had no idea that I was on the process of analysing the the scene and situation. Hence, subconsciously I was exercising the process of simultaneous critiquing my vision while shooting the scene.
Not all the things your vision wants can be fixed right away in the field. The field or nature is not a perfect world in the sense that it should follow or align to your own tastes and artistic preference. So, when we go back to our digital lab, i.e. computer, self-critique automatically turns on even without our knowing. An artistic instinct automatically coming into life as we stare at our efforts projected on the computer screen.
Let me tell you the strong and weak points of this photograph.
Through the process of self-critique, we can achieve our vision that mother nature cannot give 100%. We are able to know what’s beautiful and plain-looking. What’s working and not. It pushes our hands to fix our flaws to produce quality imagery.
Let’s try to fix the image.
I fixed the vignetting using a warp tool. I just dragged the four corners out of the frame.
2. The waterfalls and the leaf are not on the dead centre of the frame.
I fixed it using warp tool also. I just dragged the centre of the image towards the right side of the frame to put the waterfalls and the leaf on the centre. Take note that the leaf and the waterfalls are now aligned also.
3. The rocks on the right mid-ground are too bright. It is a distracting element. Also notice the the burnt highlights on the water. It is too bright. It needs to be darken a bit.
Adjusting the tones by darkening it using the highlight and white sliders in Adobe Camera Raw. Tonal balance between the right and left sides of the frame are achieved.
4. There is a big rock on the bottom left corner and the bottom right corner is empty. Hence, the lower portion of the image is not balanced. The left side is kinda heavy for me while the bottom right side is empty.
This one is kinda hard to fix unless you want to lift and carry a big rock and put it at the right side. So, all I can do is dodge a little bit on the water to create a longer flow of water. Just to fake that there is going on on the bottom right side of the image.
And here are the before and after images after further editing using Adobe Camera Raw.
Thanks. Please leave a comment and share if you learned something from this one.
In simplest definition, composition is how the visual elements are arranged and put together in a frame. It speaks about the photographer’s vision, his ability to see. It’s how you present reality within the four corners of the 2-dimensional space. Viewers are not that interested in seeing a place; they are more interested in how you present it, how you saw it. Hence, we can easily tell if a photographer has a strong vision by just glancing at his images. A fraction of a second look is enough to feel an excellent or a mediocre impression. Within that very brief time frame, you must capture the attention or your photo is just another effort send down the drain. But it’s ok because you are not forced to create gallery-worthy photos the moment you begin purchasing your very first camera. You ain’t no Ansel Adams or any god damn landscape rock star out there, are you? But the good news is you can always learn and better start familiarising yourselves with compositions.
Nature is a fantastic place to practice and test your composition skills. The stillness and grandeur of scenes are a privilege to capture. Moments that display awe-inspiring and timeless visual arrangements are a feast to photographers' hungry shutter. To see nature is clearly a very important skill if you really want to become a landscape photographer who not only catches viewers’ eyes but also make them pop out of their eye sockets. So this article is entirely about learning how to see.
1. Rule of thirds
This is the most common composition rule that guide photographers of all genres. The rule basically says that your subject must not be put dead centre. If you divide your frame into a 3×3 grid, you must position points of interest in a landscape at or close to the intersections. This gives your image balance and helps those focal points to really capture the viewers’ attention.
2. Diagonal lines
Diagonal lines add visual movement to your landscape, effectively drawing the viewer’s eyes into the main subject of interest. This does not mean you need to look for real lines – it can be a flowing stream, a bridge, a line of boats, a fence, a shoreline, etc. They can emphasise the distances between objects in the foreground and add depth to your shot.
3. Frame a scene
Framing a scene is placing interesting elements to the edges of your shot. The usual way to do this is include foliage, overhanging branches, or trees as your foreground. Use this technique carefully by allowing your main subject some “breathing room” within the frame.
4. Emphasise a point of interest in the foreground
This mountain in Laguna is known for its numerous waterfalls and lush flora. You can easily find a good foreground element against a beautiful waterfall. I framed this long exposure shot by picking up a leaf and putting it on top of a rock. This creates a colourful and interesting foreground that adds depth to the scene.
In applying rule of thirds, you should not place the horizon in the centre of your frame. You should put it a third of the way from the top or bottom of your shot. This can give a breathing space for your interesting foreground or dramatic cloud formation depending on where you place the horizon.
One way to break composition rules is through adding reflections on your shot. In this way, placing the horizon in dead centre to give space for the reflections of your subject can yield appealing results. Always use CPL if you want to enhance the reflections on your captures.
7. Focal point
Focal points make a photograph interesting. Without it, photograph may look dull and will leave the viewers’ eyes wandering through your photographs. Focal points provide a resting place for the eyes. In above’s photo, the horseman serves to be the focal point but it could be anything; a tree, a hill, a barn, a flowing stream, sunburst, etc. A focal point element can be placed either on foreground or as a background. Rule of thirds is commonly followed in integrating focal points on your photographs.
8. Centre of interest
The natural tendency of a viewer’s eye is to be drawn towards the centre of attraction. And adding leading elements that will guide and point the eye towards the centre is one of the most creative ways to do it. The hut on the water in the above photo serves as the centre of interest and the mangroves on the foreground kinda lead towards it.
9. Consider the sky
Sky can make or break your landscape photo. It can make it boring and it can make it so interesting as well. If the sky is boring, let’s say cloudless, don’t let it dominate your shot and look for an interesting foreground and let it dominate. However, if you are in front of a dramatic sky with awesome colours and cloud formations, let it dominate your shot. In the photo above, the horizon is placed along the middle part of the shot to give more area for the dynamic sky.
So I hope those of you are just beginning to learn landscape photography have learned something from this one. If like it please share. My other articles can be found on the links below. Thanks.