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I had a recent conversation with a friend over the subject of composition, and how specifically do I compose my images. It is not exactly a soup question, not easily quantified or simplified into bullet points, and is a subject that leads very quickly down a deep rabbit hole. Without going into a lengthy diatribe I think this image may quickly point to what I look for in an image. Simply stated it I look for the light first and then I compose - or better yet, shape - the image around it. This simple structure takes on a different meaning in the way the side-light and shadows create the depth and dimension. Working quickly off the tripod I created a series of “sketch” images to determine the position of the other elements, from the road, to the clouds, and even where the darks and lights would go to create the figure-ground separation of tones.
The final image built with several conceptual layers that are often found in my images - careful subject framing, leading lines, dynamic movement, and repetition of shape (I promise to write about these concepts soon). It is important to understand light is THE one critical factor that we need to build a story. But light is an enigma, fleeting, mercurial even, and often you have only minutes, even seconds, to work with it before it changes or even dissipates. My first photography mentor had me measure light, and to be clear, light falling on a subject, with a spot meter and journal those findings. We would stand in a landscape and measure the value of light falling on a subject and even that contained in the shadows. In those days of shooting film I thought of light in the form of EV’s, or exposure values. The light falling on a white subject, or a pine tree, or green grass, though from the same source, actually produced a different EV reading, and depending on what zone you placed the reading, became the basis of determining exposure. After years of practicing this my eye just became accustomed to seeing light in all of its manifestations and I am sure it is why I look for light first when I am in the landscape.
As you practice the craft of photography don’t forget to practice seeing light. It can be done everyday, while on a walk, a drive, even at the office. Light is always happening. On a quiet morning, or evening, in a familiar place, just sit and watch how the light changes both as the sun comes up and as it sets. Be especially mindful of the light before sunrise and after sunset. The subtlety of that light is where magical images are made. Find a familiar subject and photograph it in all kinds of light, from subtle to harsh, sunlit and cloudy, low contrast, side light, front light, and back light. Over time you will be able to think about light in terms of its qualities and you will be able to see how light shapes the subject, and conversely how you can use light to your advantage.
Always look for the light. That is where the story lies.
Thanks for stopping by. RHC
Technical Stuff: FujiFilm GFX 50S and a Fujinon GF 23mm f4 R WR. The image was exposed at ISO 100 at f11 for 1/15 of a second. Image processed in Capture One and finished in Photoshop CC.