Composition or What’s Your Story

DSC_6453-Edit-EditComposition is such a conundrum. It is clearly the heart and soul of photography. For all the anguish we spend learning the exposure triangle and how to apply it, for all the obsession about proper focus and depth of field. At the end of the day, none of the above matters if what we’ve pointed our camera at doesn’t stir us in some way. As artists, we seek an emotional response from those who view our work, and that simply won’t happen if the picture sucks.

This is tough because as photographers we’re forced to deal with what we get from the scene. It’s up to us to somehow make the viewer of the image not only see, but more importantly feel, what we are experiencing as we take the picture.

This is where I sometimes have trouble with some of the time honored dogma of photography. I’m supposed to be telling a story with the image. Sometimes a picture screams its 1000 words, and other times, I couldn’t come up with a decent paragraph. Do I really need to tell a story? Isn’t it sufficient that I capture a beautiful image? As the sun rises above the clouds on a nondescript grassy hill, and it illuminates the fog on a rolling field with a brilliant golden light. Is that picture really telling a story? I use all my composition rules that I’ve learned to place the peaking sun on one of the “high energy” points of the image, and perhaps a fence leads me into and through the image, but what’s the story? Perhaps you could go on about how the old sun rises above the sloping hill as it has done for eons, illuminating….an on and on. Please excuse me if I admit, that to me, that’s all just artsy fluff. It’s a beautiful picture taken at the perfect moment of the day. End of story. 500px is rife with golden hour shots taken in mountains all over the world. Each is a little bit different, but if they are telling a story, it’s a pretty common one. In these cases I submit that the photographer is paying homage to the beauty of the scene, and the story, if there is one, is an afterthought.

Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t believe that proper care and consideration of the moment are necessary to create a great image. Or, that taking an image without considering its story diminishes all the wonders possible from a great photograph, but sometimes the visceral pursuit overcomes the cerebral one. Personally, I have no problem with that. Especially, if the person gets that look on their face all us photographers know, when someone looking at our image is hit with it as though it were a left hook from a prize fighter, and they simply say, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” It’s a satisfying feeling that screams mission accomplished.

I hope you like today’s image.  This is a horse stable near my home.  I consider myself lucky to live near such a rich photographic subject as I have taken many pictures in and around this place.  I just wish the horses had been up and walking around already on this particular morning.  Have a great day.  Go out there and make a great picture.

All the Best…John

Early Morning Clouds

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Ahh… back to nature.  After a brief trip to New York with my last post, its back to familiar territory for me.  The truth is I love shooting cityscapes, but I just don’t get to the city enough to do it, and when I am there, my family really isn’t concerned with what time golden hour is.  So as a result, I don’t get much chance to shoot the way I would want to when I’m in that type of environment.  I do have a few more shots from New York to share with you, but for now, it’s back to a more natural setting.  This shot was taken along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Northern Pennsylvania.  I was on a canoe trip down the river, and we were camping overnight along it’s banks.  Sunrise brought a beautiful shade of blue and orange to the sky, and I couldn’t resist getting a shot.  I didn’t have a tripod because we were traveling light, but I managed to get a decent hand held shot anyway.  It was a beautiful weekend, and over the course of our journey, I saw my first Bald Eagle in the wild.  Unfortunately, I have no photos of them to share as I was actively paddling when I saw them, but it was still an amazing site to see.

Today was my first day off since the holiday, and I’m completely messed up on what day it is.  I do know that while there has been some mild and sunny weather around lately, I ‘ve mostly seen it driving to work.  Today, on my day off, it rained.  I know, as a photographer that’s no excuse.  I should have been out there anyway, but it was REALLY raining, so I took a pass.  I guess sometimes even a photographer needs a day off.  Anyway, I wish you all the best and I’ll see you soon.