I am putting together a tutorial on advanced compositional design, or rather, breaking away from the rule of thirds
. It's still in development but I thought I'd share a lesson from that upcoming topic here. Take it for what it is, a discussion, and less of a critique.
We all know the rule of thirds
. It's expounded on photographers ad nausea but with well intentioned meaning. It's easy to understand, easy to remember and it's built in to almost every camera. However, it's not the only rule
. A much older form of composition was based on the "Golden Mean"
or the "Golden Ratio"
and it was determined that applying that rule
an image could attain a higher sense of aesthetic balance and visual cohesiveness. Recent studies in Gestalt psychology has found corolations between these rules nad how our eey interpret what we see (but that's for a different discussion).
However, if we keep it simple and start with the rule of thirds
we see that the point of interest (the magpie) is not quite centered nor in the intersecting point of interest. Had the post been vertical, a central placement against the baren background would have made for a strong composition, however, the diagonal lines of the fencepost and wires adds another dimension to the image.
Diagonal lines (like 'S' curves) add a dynamic element to an image and any study in composition will reveal an array of information on the use of triangles as strong foundational elements in composition. Portraitists use a strong base triangle formed by the arms and shoulder to give the face a foundation to sit on. It's basic portraiture 101.
Your image utilizes that triangular foundation as seen in the mound of rocks piled towards the center. You also have triangles formed by the fencepost and the supporting wire on the right. While there is no actual line for he triangle on the left, we can visualize one there with our imaginantion (Gestalt principle of Closure). Keep this in mind for later.
As for angles, early painters came to the conclusion that the eye travels easiest from left to right. This is evident in Western writing styles of writing and reading left to right. owever, unlike reading, a painting's base
is at the bottom so the strongest, most pleasing diagonal is from bottom left to top right. This eases
the eye into the composition and is refered to as the "Baroque Angle"
The inverse of bottom right to top left has a harsher effect, a counter intuitive
effect that creates discord. This type of composition is used to create tension or convey a feeling of confrontation or foreboding. This angle has the more appropriate name of "Sinister Angle"
. Keep this in mind too.
By applying a "Dynamic Composition"
grid that utilizes triangles based on the Golden Ratio
we can see how the image doesn't quite align with any parts of the grid. The mound of rocks is off centered (yet not quite utilizing the rule of thirds
), the bird is not at a point of intersection, the angle of the fencepost not quite in relation to the frame of the image... All little nitpicks, I know, but one that played a very important role in composition by the Masters.
This is actually a very easy fix. By doing some judicious cropping of the left and bottom, you can get the main elelments of the image to line up
in a more visually pleasing manner with the dynamic grid
. Just that little change places the mound in a stronger triangular stance, the bird at an intersecting point and the fence line in relation to the frame of the image.
Yes, these are subtle changes. No, it does not change the overall composition. It just creates a little more balance of elements within the frame. Gestalt principles start falling into place without one having to think about them. The intersection of the fence wires (as an example) now line up with the centerline of the frame. So does the tail of the bird, coincidentally.
The final consideration is Baroque
angle. In the original composition there is a strong sinister angle (see sample bottom left) with the slope of the mound to the fence wire to the fence post coming up from bottom right to top left (culmination at the bird, the point of interest).
As we come into the frame (left to right reading) yes, we are met by the bird but there is no lead in. In actuality you have harsh elements trying to lead you out (the barbed wire going from fence post to edge of frame). And in a rather rude manner the bird is greeting the viewer by giving them the cold shoulder. How rude! And if we were to follow the bird's gaze, that leads us off to the right side of the frame, as if saying, I don't want to know you."
Let's flip the image.
Suddenly we are welcomed into the image, not by barbed wire fencing, but by nice open sky (see sample bottom right). The angle of the barbed wire leading from the mound of rocks up the fence post introduces us to the bird, who by the way seems happy to greet us; or at least is curious. The receding barbed wire then leads us out in a less hostile manner (receding downward) but only to be greeted by grasses waving us back into the frame.
Of course the use of baroque over sinister is dependant on the subject matter and intent of the image. If conflict is needed, then a sinister diagonal is more appropriate. It's just another tool in the visual artist's arsenal.
Hopefully this gives you something new to consider.