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LindaShorey
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Post by LindaShorey » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:37 pm

A couple of folks here have seen this one from last summer. Sorry I didn't think to include it in the textures topic as it has about four textures on it :)

Your feedback regarding interest in the subject and pp would be appreciated.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:54 pm

My interest is great (I love magpies). I love the PP. I especially love the light, which I suspect may be near sunset. I love the way the crumbling fence and wires form an arrow pointing to the bird. I way overuse the term "painterly" but I can't find a better one that conveys the sense that the picture feels more like a painting than a photograph. I've seen some op-eds that photography is photography and where do we get off trying to make photographs painterly anyway? Wanna know what I say about that? Pooh. That's what. :p :|
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Post by Duck » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:19 pm

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).
Magpie01.jpg
Rule of Thirds
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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.

Magpie02.jpg
Dynamic Composition
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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.

Magpie03.jpg
Dynamic Composition after crop
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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 versus Sinister 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.
;)

Magpie04.jpg
Sinister Diagonal
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Magpie05.jpg
Baroque Diagonal
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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:22 pm

Linda, you did a super nice job with the textures. The composition though is what knocks it out of the park for me, reminds me of that iconic WW2 Iwo Jima flag raising image.

edit - Duck, just saw your reply to Linda's image. Thank you for that! - I felt tension in the image, and to think it has a name, the sinister diagonal leaning left.

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Post by minniev » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:41 pm

LindaShorey wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:37 pm
A couple of folks here have seen this one from last summer. Sorry I didn't think to include it in the textures topic as it has about four textures on it :)

Your feedback regarding interest in the subject and pp would be appreciated.
I think you handled your texture collection well on this one. I am fond of the warm brownish tones the texture brings out. The placement of the magpie is good, allowing adequate negative space for texture(s) to be rolled out across the frame. A good one!
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LindaShorey
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Post by LindaShorey » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:27 am

Chuck: shot at 6:40 a.m. :) See original photo inserted below my replies to all. All the golden "light" is from a couple of Nik filters + the texture files. I'm so glad you enjoyed the edits - painterly works for me! - and the fence. This is on a little ridge that is directly behind me when I photo the bald eagle nest in the Yakima River Canyon. That post is a favorite landing spot for the magpies, and I'm always there just as sun is coming over a very high ridge further back, so the backlighting (yep!) and the condition of that fence line always compels me to take pictures. This past summer I caught one magpie feeding a fledgling. I'll email you a link to that from another site. Many thanks for your comments!

Duck - fabulous, fantastic and fascinating lesson! I will add to my growing notes of your and other members' generous contributions to all our continuing educations. Ever-grateful for your time and teachings!

Piet - So glad you enjoyed, thank you! As with my birds on hops wires being compared to musical notes and scales by several folks, you are not the first to mention Iwo Jima regarding this fence and post. Isn't that cool?! I wasn't conscious of "tension" in the composition, but seeing the flip by Duck, I might be leaning towards keeping the original. It could be because I've photographed that exact scene (a favorite landing spot of magpies, apparently) more than once, so I reserve the right to change my mind :)

Minnie - thank you for your comments! The number of textures added are a good example of wondering how one knows when the recipe has finished cooking, lol.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:06 am

PietFrancke wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:22 pm
Linda, you did a super nice job with the textures. The composition though is what knocks it out of the park for me, reminds me of that iconic WW2 Iwo Jima flag raising image.

edit - Duck, just saw your reply to Linda's image. Thank you for that! - I felt tension in the image, and to think it has a name, the sinister diagonal leaning left.
This clearly could lead to quite a long discussion. I had not thought of Iwo Jima even though I am intimately familiar with the image.

I too appreciate Duck's powerful presentation, and as an admitted tyro on the subject I need to learn more.

But here's da t'ing. I liked it as was. Still do. I concede that cropping just a little from a corner (depending) makes it a tad stronger, and flipping it more restful. Elsewhere I yakked on about how I sometimes find it mildly bothersome to see a subject skewered by the intersection of the thirds with mathematical precision, only really possible in this case because the bird is small enough. My contention is that close is close enough provided there is balance. I admit I should take an art appreciation course or something and at least try to find out whether, for example, a Renoir or a Titian or a Leonardo first chalked out the mathematical gyrations on the sized canvas in order to achieve that lofty pinnacle of Grecian grace in the composition?

Put another way, did my pal Jackson Pollock? Who after his death became a laureate of compositional genius. Who literally threw paint, but with thought. They say.

Since my dad was a working photographer serving as a war correspondent I have always had the most intense interest in Joe Rosenthal, who made the iconic Iwo Jima picture. Joe also was a war correspondent, working at the time for the AP, and for much the same reason as my dad: he was blind without his glasses. Joe told the story many, many times. He actually missed the flag raising. He was on his way up Suribachi when another photographer came down and told Rosenthal and his companions, also photographers, that they'd missed the show but the view from the top was grand. So they went up anyway to find that the commander had ordered a bigger flag up as the first one was too small to be seen by every American on the island. He had only minutes to pile up some rocks to get a little higher vantage, bring his massive 4x5" Speed Graphic up (and they are massive; I know 'cuz I've used them professionally and still have mine) and make one historic exposure as the flag began to rise.

Well, the rest is literal history, but it might be reasonable to ask why? Joe Rosenthal had zero time to compose that shot, to think about composing that shot, to concern himself with whether the diagonal of that flag was just so or what. In fact, from the standpoint of a professional photojournalist the picture was a complete failure! You can't identify a single man in the picture!
Wikipedia wrote:Rosenthal put his Speed Graphic camera on the ground (set to 1/400 sec shutter speed, with the f-stop between 8 and 11 and Agfa film) so he could pile rocks to stand on for a better vantage point. In doing so, he nearly missed the shot. The Marines began raising the flag. Realizing he was about to miss the action, Rosenthal quickly swung his camera up and snapped the photograph without using the viewfinder. Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote:
Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don't come away saying you got a great shot. You don't know.
So maybe everything that makes that incredible picture one of Time's 100 most influential is serendipity, a more-or-less happy accident considering that half the guys on that mountain were dead a day later. Or was it?

I am not trying to start an argument. I am tremendously interested in compositional principles and what makes a really good picture as opposed to so-so (I think I know bad when I see it but I love Jackson Pollock and can't articulate why, yet this is a guy who literally threw paint). It's just that I can't help but wonder sometimes whether we are over thinking it. As a long-time working pro myself, shooting more PR and weddings than I can remember (not combat but making tracks and moving in only one direction, you either get it or it's gone forever). Rosenthal was a consummate pro perfectly comfortable working with the big, basically single-shot cameras. Notice how he had his presets. There is no time even to use a meter. Pros then and now have a good sense of the light. Keeping the settings aligned with the current light was instinct. Their cameras were in effect semi-automatic. He would even have preset his focus, probably with the distance scale on the bed of his camera, eyeballing the range. Joe is distracted in the moment. One of the other fellas says, almost offhand, "There she goes." Joe grabs the camera, whips it up, frames in the wire "sports frame," and snaps history. S'all blind luck right? Not so fast. As a thoroughly seasoned working pro he had a 6th sense. He could've tripped too early and blown it. Too late would have been a wash; he'd have gotten the picture they sent him up there to get and no one today would have any more idea who Joe Rosenthal was than who Charles T. Haacker of Acme Newspictures was. He'd be a footnote. But Rosenthal's finely tuned instinct caused him, on autopilot, to trip just exactly when he did. He modestly says he didn't know what he had, and I'm sure he was just that modest, plus he knew he didn't have the money shot of the period with the faces visible, but I am absolutely confident that he at least knew, in the instant, that his composition was pretty cool for a grab shot. He would've had that warm feeling I know so well when ya know ya nailed it.

Yet it was a grab shot, a one-off with no real conscious thought given beyond the presets necessary to not screw it up. There were some dozen other photographers up there that day. Some of them did not get off the island alive. Only Joe Rosenthal got THAT picture so sure, there's luck + skill. Duck, you have unquestionably made Linda's magpie better, and I appreciate the underlying maths, but I like the instinctual version as well. Maybe I should be doing more mathematical thinking when behind the finder, but I already got a headache.
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Post by Duck » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:46 am

Let me answer your question in this way, Charles.

A client comes into my shop for a tattoo. They start telling me their idea, the story behind it and their immediate concept. While the discussion is occuring my mind is flipping through a library of images that relate, symbolically or literally, with the client's story. Out of thousands of images I immediately dismiss 95% in an instant because I know instinctively which will work and which won't. The mind is a super computer that allows me to make that large of a calculation in mere seconds. To sum that action up I am reducing my work by subtracting what is not needed.

Now I have a small pile of images, symbols and concepts to work with. The next step will help me narrow it down even further. What size and where is the tattoo going? If the area is small or if I have to use more than three elements I can immediately dismiss complex images, leaving me with an even smaller list of items to compose. Because I now know where the tattoo is to be placed and at what size I can begin determining how to compose those items.

Here is where experience comes into play. I have a blank sheet of paper at 8.5 x 11 inches. Let's say the tattoo is to be 4 x 6 inches. I immediately dismiss 75% of that paper space. I then draw a loose circle in the approximate shape of the area I am to draw in. Before I even place a line down on the paper my head is jumbling all the images I set aside from that dwindled down list. Again, since my brain is a super computer, it can arrange, move, overlay, resize and compose thousands of compositions faster than my hand can draw. Out of all that mental arranging I may pick out three or four possible compositions. I can then use a form of shorthand to sketch out those three or four ideas to select the strongest of the bunch. That one is the composition I will spend some time with.

By the time I actually start drawing in front of my client, I have done all the prep work so to the client I appear to be an artistic genius. I make it look easy. Why? Because i have been doing this for many, many years and I know the rules inside out and have the reflexes to produce quality at a moment's notice. If I couldn't do that, I'd be out of a job.

Now, to answer the drawing grids issue you raised. The answer is yes and no. Yes, I use grids but no, I don't draw them out. I have a shorthand form I use on occasion but most of the time the grid is in my mind's eye. I can see the grid, therefore I don't need to draw it.

While Rosenthal may trivialize the event I can guarantee he had the image in his head, Otherwise he wouldn't have been bothering to pile rocks up o get higher. If you think about it, Get higher for what? And why at that spot and not some other spot where he didn't have to do manual labor to gain an advantage? It's because he saw the photo evolving and he was hedging for a better one. Sure, there was an element of luck involved but, more importantly, he had experience, reflex and previsualization in his favor.

Hopefully this sheds a little more light into the mind of an artist. 8):
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Post by minniev » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:20 pm

Duck wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:19 pm
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.
Thank, Duck for a wonderful lesson on composition. A thread to mark for future re-reading. We'll look forward to the tutorial, hoping you'll share it! The richness of feedback here is such a treasure.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Sat Jan 13, 2018 5:25 pm

Duck wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:46 am
Let me answer your question in this way, Charles.
[...]
While Rosenthal may trivialize the event I can guarantee he had the image in his head, Otherwise he wouldn't have been bothering to pile rocks up o get higher. If you think about it, Get higher for what? And why at that spot and not some other spot where he didn't have to do manual labor to gain an advantage? It's because he saw the photo evolving and he was hedging for a better one. Sure, there was an element of luck involved but, more importantly, he had experience, reflex and previsualization in his favor.

Hopefully this sheds a little more light into the mind of an artist. 8):
Absolutely, Duck! And that was really all I think I was trying to say in my looooong-winded way. Experience and reflex, practice practice practice. I do appreciate your very precise analysis of composition and would love to sit in on your course because I don't have a grounding in art or composition (wish they'd made us learn that but they threw us out so there y'go). I learned what little I do know as I went and I apply it (sort of) while looking through the finder. I guess I'm saying that, especially as regards photography and most especially as regards certain specialties such as photojournalism and related, the artist has no time to think, therefore it just has to "f/8 and be there" so to speak. I agree that modest Joe had a way better Idea what he had than even he knew but he knew he'd got something. BUT... after the fact the analysis can even mathematically lay out chapter-and-verse why a particular composition stands out. (OK)
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