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Archive 2013 · Land and seascape questions
  
 
Bsmooth
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p.1 #1 · Land and seascape questions


I've been told a few times that you need a central subject, or a point to your images, yet I see quite a few here and elsewhere landscapes that don't seem to have one per se.
I have an image that falls into that category, but I would like the discussion to be more about the question, than my image so I'm not going to post it.
What are your thoughts on subjects in a land or seascape ?



Feb 13, 2013 at 07:53 PM
kellyakinsart
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p.1 #2 · Land and seascape questions


Probably 80% of the photos here have a focal point/emphasis, where the design leads the viewer toward a subject that becomes at least slightly dominant, if not obviously the focus of attention. Many, if not most also follow the rule of thirds and have that focal point near one of the four corners of this imaginary grid, and horizons a third of the way up or down a frame.

Generally, rules are there for a reason and it helps the composition of the piece of art. In my painting classes, I teach that you need to know the "rules", the fundamentals, of art and design, but I remind them that (especially in art) rules are meant to be broken, and some truly special and unique creations can happen when an artist is successful with experimenting with rules.

The abstract expressionist painters of the 40's and 50's were exploring the rules of design without subject matter, and Jackson Pollock for one, had no one focal point but a total immersion of texture and color.

That being said, most art that is created by breaking rules, or ignoring funamentals isn't very good and it's safer (not a bad thing) to create that recognizably beautiful image. But when that one in a hundred (a thousand) experimental pieces of art is successful, it can be an amazing and ground breaking experience.

Kelly



Feb 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Fo Tollery
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p.1 #3 · Land and seascape questions


Kelly said it well. It just really depends on the image and it's subject matter. I've seen many an image that didn't have a definitive single subject (an Ansel Adams shot of a grove of Aspens comes immediately to mind).

When I'm in one of those situations where I 'see' something, but can't quite put my finger on it, I'll shoot as many different compositions as I can in the scene and hope some clarity comes to me when I get it home in the pc. I could see your question being one suited to that approach.








Feb 13, 2013 at 11:39 PM
RobDickinson
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p.1 #4 · Land and seascape questions


I always try and have a feature in my photographs, something that is the subject rather than 'everything'.

Saying that I've just published this which has got a lot of positive comments and theres no feature at all..


Facing the easterly by robjdickinson, on Flickr



Feb 14, 2013 at 03:06 AM
BFTphoto
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p.1 #5 · Land and seascape questions


Composition is such a vast subject. The example above by Rob is a great example of what may be considered minimalistic. My eye goes straight to the middle of the horizon (the main focal point, but not a definitive subject), the movement around that center point creates a feeling of everything speeding away, its the entire scene that captures you. Beyond that, the colors, textures, contrast, tones, all create the mood and atmosphere. Everything works together. You need the right combination of these things to make it work effectively. Different combinations of colors, tones, textures, shapes can all make or break an image. I am no expert, but that's my take on how an image with no definitive subject is made successfully.



Feb 14, 2013 at 03:52 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #6 · Land and seascape questions


kellyakinsart wrote:
That being said, most art that is created by breaking rules, or ignoring funamentals isn't very good...


The supposed "rules" are often useful for conducting autopsies, but virtually useless for giving birth.



Feb 14, 2013 at 04:34 AM
 

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kellyakinsart
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p.1 #7 · Land and seascape questions


Dan, you're funny...


Feb 14, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Phrasikleia
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p.1 #8 · Land and seascape questions


The term "subject" causes a lot of confusion, probably because people often assume that a subject is what the photo is 'about', which is not always the case. A subject is also not necessarily a distinct, separate element. I prefer to think of it instead as an 'apex' or 'home base' for the eye, a point of visual resolution. It's the area of an image where the eye wants to land between explorations of the frame. Without one, a photo tends to look unresolved, and the viewer quickly loses interest. In the seascape that Rob posted, there is such an area to 'land', which Ben pointed out. Some landscapes have a more clearly delineated apex (for lack of a better word), such as a lone tree in a field, an isolated waterfall, or a sun twinkling at the edge of an arch, but the main point of interest could also be a part of a larger element: the snowcapped peak of a mountain that is the tallest in a long range of peaks, an area of an expansive plain picked out by a shaft of sunlight, etc.

The basic goal is to give the photo a sense of hierarchy. Many compelling landscape scenes have multiple points of interest, but they usually work best if they don't all compete with each other; if one of them clearly trumps the others, then the photo is likely to hold together pretty well.

As for rules: Every rule/guideline is based on avoiding particular problems, so you need to understand the reasoning behind one before 'breaking' it--if the photo will not suffer from that problem, then you can get away with breaking the rule. For example, if the strength of a photo lies in a remarkable all-over pattern (a sort of 'horror vacui' effect), then it may work without any 'apex' to pin it down at any particular point. Another example would be the placement of a strong line across the center of an image: this 'rule' exists because such lines tend to bifurcate the scene, making it look like two separate images juxtaposed, and the eye will tend to ping-pong uncomfortably between them. Conversely, if there is something to tie the two realms together--common colors, a reflection, a strong vertical element that extends over the line and 'stitches' the two halves together, etc.--then the placement of the line will matter a lot less.

I have to admit that I really enjoy this particular topic and have just plagiarized myself by cutting and pasting bits from replies I've written over the years to the same question on other forums.



Feb 14, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #9 · Land and seascape questions


Scott Kelby's "The Grid" episode this week did blind critiques with landscape and travel photographer, Colby Brown. This is the link for anyone interested.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp0rOOKpAfQ



Feb 14, 2013 at 03:00 PM
RobDickinson
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p.1 #10 · Land and seascape questions


Phrasikleia wrotestuff

Nicely said. Apex is a good term, subject isnt quite accurate or applicable enough at times.



Feb 14, 2013 at 07:48 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #11 · Land and seascape questions


It is not about "following" rules of composition, but about being aware of the effects of compositional choices. There is no "wrong" compositional framework, though there are situations in which one or another may be more effective at portraying a particular sense or emotion in the image. For example, just considering horizons

- bisecting the scene can, in some cases, create a sort of stability and sense of calm. In others it can evoke a kind of "two worlds in one" quality when the two halves of the scene include quite different material.

- placing the horizon very close to the bottom of the frame - and some excellent examples leave barely more than a ribbon of below-the-horizon material - can strengthen the effect of monumental space above or can focus on the nature of the sky itself.

- placing the horizon very close to the top of the frame can amplify the density or massiveness of the "foreground" subjects and perhaps the way they recede, depending upon the lens used, and can also evoke a sense that there is something much larger and almost unseen well beyond the main subject area.

In wildlife photography, using birds as an example, almost not choice is "wrong" but virtually any choice has an effect.

- placing birds low in the frame can, again, evoke the feeling of the open space of sky above.

- placing them high in the frame can suggest that they are higher in the sky - an unconscious sense that they are so high that the camera's frame could barely contain them.

- placing them so that they are entering the frame takes the traditional approach of suggesting motion into the space of the frame.

- placing them so that they are exiting the frame can suggest movement so fast that the camera can barely keep up and that the appearance of the animals is ephemeral.

Similar things are true with photographs of people.

- a straight-on centered frontal photograph of a face can create a kind of direct intimacy.

- a face looking out of the frame might suggest that we are looking in on a person who is not seeing us, either because they aren't aware of us or because they don't care about us.

The same sort of thing holds true for almost any other compositional element. By making choices about how to place things within the frame we make choices about how the image affects those who view it.

This is part of why I compared attention to composition to autopsy. By looking at effective photographs and trying to understand why and how they work, we "tune up" out own visual sense. In actual practice we rarely (almost never, actually) consciously apply these "rules" as we shoot (as in "I'll place that rock 1/3 in from the right and 1/3 up from the bottom so that it hits a rule of thirds hot spot!"), but instead operate on the basis of trained and practiced intuition. (E.g. - "that looks right!")

Dan



Feb 18, 2013 at 02:26 PM





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