Category Archives: Composition

Horizontal Lines

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Week 6 Horizontal Lines and the Horizon.

I noticed after reading Cee’s Essay and reviewing a lot of the pictures I have taken that I often wind up with my horizon in the middle. I wanted to take some experimental pictures but it has been pouring and the horizon isn’t visible so I am playing with old photos.

This picture was taken last spring when the sky was funny. The sunlight reflecting on the water formed a strong horizontal line.


I did an experiment with the series below. The first picture is the original, which has the horizon near the middle, the other two are the same picture cropped so the horizon is low and high. Of the three the better picture is probably the one where the horizon is low, in large part because the beach is so dark that you cannot really see it well and yet it is kind of busy.

In the pictures below I thought that the dead tree formed a strong horizontal. I like the middle picture in this series as well, the bird is in a good position and there is enough of the tree it is perched on.

I think the two pictures below have strong horizontal lines, but they are a bit unconventional: the strings of lights in the first one and the steps and roof lines in the second.

I mostly use Adobe Lightroom, which allows me to straighten the horizon and also to rotate pictures to remove distortion from taking them with the camera tilted. A free, easy to use program for Windows that allows one to straighten a picture, and do a fair bit of other editing,  is Fotor.



Where am I going? Leading Lines

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Week 5: Leading Lines.

I am just back from a trip where I was planning to do so many things that I couldn’t manage. One was to keep up with Cee’s Compose Yourself series. This is probably late, I can’t seem to get my dates straight.

I am using this week’s  essay and prompt to look at pictures I took while away instead of trying to take new ones. To try and see the pictures with new eyes.

The above three pictures all have straight leading lines. When I took the pictures part of what I was trying to show was a sense of how big distances were. I think that is why the lines wound up dominating the pictures.

Here are two pictures taken of the same archway, with the leading lines of the wall on the edge of the steps at two different angles. Picture 1, before and after editing:

I cropped it slightly and removed the bit of my son’s head since it seemed a distraction. With his head gone the horizontal line of the wall leads your eye to the stairway.

Picture 2: I left James in since he seemed to be a leading line:


Curving Lines:

The bent lines of the dead tree draw you into the living one planted in its core:


Dai Miao: Tang Pagoda embracing her child.
Tang Pagoda embracing her child.

While this picture is pretty dark, experiments I did with compositions led me to prefer this one, which has a road curving toward the temple gate just slightly visible because it reflected the  lights shining on the gate.

Dai Miao south gate at night.
Dai Miao south gate at night.

in this picture the curved edge of the koi pond leads your eye to the boy and his grandfather.


Subjectivity-Compose Yourself Challenge

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: What all well composed photos have in common.

This really was a challenge. I think the vast majority of the well composed pictures I have taken have been by accident. I tend to want to gather all the details of a scene (may be my engineering background to want to get all the facts together).  Also, this week produced rain when I had time to play with my camera.

I tried a couple very different subjects, so the conclusions aren’t universal.

First was “pink sky in morning, sailor take warning”:

The first two pictures were taken with slightly different viewpoints and zoom amounts. The subject I intended was the pink cloud. In the first picture it dominates the scene, but you don’t have a sense of how small an element of the sky it was. In the second the tree branch shadow seems like it was the intended subject but the other trees, street and cars make the picture cluttered and they draw the eye away from the cloud.

The third picture is a cropping of the first picture to test my 20/20 hindsight theory that the branch as a subject and the pink cloud as a backdrop is a better composition choice.

“Come into my parlor”:

I am not sure why, but I like the second picture best. It might be because in the first the sunlight on the web makes it seem as if the web is the subject. In the second the web is there, but the more subtle concentric circles of the web seem to draw the eye to the sunlit spider.

For the emotional challenge I went through old pictures and found some using the same subject: my puppy friend Ginger.

Ginger makes a good subject: she is middle sized, has a very expressive face and nice gingery details. Sam is equally cute but she is so black that it is really hard to get a good picture. Asta, also extremely cute, is kind of a bland color; she is so light that it can be hard to get a picture where both she and the background come out well, she also moves fast so a lot of her pictures are blurry.

Close Up or Far Off-Compose Yourself Challenge

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: How your camera is not like your eye.

I call my camera a semi-automatic, a Nikon P610. It has a single lens: 4.3 to 258 mm focal length range (I think they call this a “wide angle zoom”). It has the ability to adjust many things but not change the lens so the only focal length adjustment is to zoom or not.

I wasn’t sure if I had a comfort zone. So I did a couple experiments.

The cormorant on the dolphin:

In this series I like the close up the best. The bird is too small in the other two pictures, and the dolphin isn’t very interesting without it. Somewhere between the 12.5 and 125.4 might have been nice, but the ferry was pulling out.

Raft of seabirds:

I don’t really like any of these very much, but the series gives an idea of the full range of what my lens can do. To get the full raft of birds into the frame means that there are too many other things in the frame and the birds do not contrast much with the water so they don’t grab your eye. In the two close ups you can tell that the birds are there, but they are scattered, it feels like a cacophony not a composition.

From those two sequences I decided to try and use no zoom as my “out of comfort zone” trial. Here are some pictures of the beach taken at 4.3 mm focal length:

What did I learn?

  • I like this focal length best when there is an obvious subject in the foreground. My favorite is the one with Ginger close to me.
  • Mostly stuff is too far away to really capture your attention.
  • The big picture has so many things in it that it is really hard to make your intended subject pop. It might work better for a simpler background with a larger subject.
  • It works better for dogs than birds.

Applying what I learned– I took these pictures today without zoom