# Thread: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

1. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Vaughn,

What I'm talking about is where Canaletto places the vanishing point(s). In many of his works, it is significantly off-center. Check out " Il Bacino di S. Marco" here to see what I mean: https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london...-a3680911.html

If you follow the lines on the Palaso Dogal to where they converge, you'll see that that point is very far left from the center of the painting and corresponds to the position of the "eye of the viewer." This is different than, say, making an image of a receding row of buildings, which also places the vanishing point to the side of the image, but retains the central point of view for the viewer. (Hope that's clear.) I do this often with shift and/or cropping.

Best,

Doremus

2. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Bonus points:

What lens (tele, normal, wide angle) would be used to created this object size rendering in this painting and where would the camera position be, what height would the camera be at?

Bernice

Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
Vaughn,

What I'm talking about is where Canaletto places the vanishing point(s). In many of his works, it is significantly off-center. Check out " Il Bacino di S. Marco" here to see what I mean: https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london...-a3680911.html

If you follow the lines on the Palaso Dogal to where they converge, you'll see that that point is very far left from the center of the painting and corresponds to the position of the "eye of the viewer." This is different than, say, making an image of a receding row of buildings, which also places the vanishing point to the side of the image, but retains the central point of view for the viewer. (Hope that's clear.) I do this often with shift and/or cropping.

Best,

Doremus

3. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
Vaughn,

What I'm talking about is where Canaletto places the vanishing point(s)....Doremus
I assumed you were referring to between the columns, or perhaps the left column in particular.

Bernice -- I don't think he was consistant in the equivilent camera-height throughout the image.

4. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Can't say I use tiny bites from all the visuals I encountered over the years, but somehow my brain adapts the alt formula. Subject/s tends to determine my approach. As always, it's a personal thing.

Les

5. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Formulaic means the artsy photographer will be replaced by AI.

I think "formulas" is an honest word to use in reference to what normal photographers consider when discussing composition. Yes we have better words for it.

Maybe design harmony is a better word that composition. Composition is not separate from lighting, tones, etc.. it's all part of design that works together.
For an old book on this, consider Arthur Wesley Dow's "Composition" which is available free from google books and in inexpensive reprints.

Early modern photography was based on Dow's teaching or one step removed, and is generally not landscape, but does a nice job illustrating the possibilities of composition not based on shapes/rules/formulas.

6. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

I am glad I had an early introduction to the traditional principles of composition. They led me to start looking critically at the visual compositions I encountered. My analogy is that those principals were the doorknob that opened the door to better seeing. Of course, there came a point at which I realized I was falling into the trap of composing photographs using the "rules of composition" far too often and uncritically. Learning to move away from the classic rules is growth, and that's good.

Keith

7. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Originally Posted by Bernice Loui
Bonus points:
Am I right to suspect a trick question? I'm thinking a 25-foot tripod, a lens with an image circle measured in feet, and maybe five feet of fall...

FWIW, the Palaso Dogal plays a starring role in Casanova's autobiography--one of the more famous literary jail breaks!

8. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

Any rote formula or set of formulas is worth burning. An idiotic camera algorithm could do that. Autofocus, autoexposure, now autocomposition, or should it be, auto-compost? But some familiarity with art history can certainly help.

9. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

I don't necessarily disagree with what anyone said above. In fact I would strongly urge anyone who wants to make better pictures to look at many, many successful pictures by others. Both paintings, and photographs--although I would say especially photographs, because there are things that can be done with the camera that were
never anticipated by the painters of the past. If there is a photographer whose work you really like, take a book of his or her work and study each
picture, and try to see what it is that makes it special, why the picture was made (it is usually not the subject matter itself).

And, study the art of China and Japan especially. The use of "negative space" (actually an oxymoron IMO in the context of picture-making), partially-rendered, obscured, or
hinted-at subject matter, all have much to teach us as photographers.

Then, look at the world, find something that moves you, and arrange the camera and lens to make the best image.

It is actually kind of striking the way the image "clicks in" when everything is just right. It's as though the composition lets you
know when it is as it should be.

And if you're not sure, try anyway. Film is still cheap (even TMax at >\$2.00 a sheet for 4x5) compared to the value of our limited time. You may
surprise yourself, or at least learn something.

10. ## Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

I used to ask my sculpture, drawing, and design students to think of compositional 'rules' as 'strategies' instead, although 'formulae' isn't a bad description either. Or 'recipes.'

Want to make pictures perceived as pleasing and harmonious by viewers embedded in Rennaissance-through-Modern Western visual cultures? The strategies linked by the OP will probably help. But they are hardly universal, or something humans innately understand or desire. There are plenty of other visual traditions (including landscape traditions) that fly in the face of these. As Philip U. implies above, compositional ideas are often predicated on a viewer metaphorically reading the image—the fact that some cultures read right to left and some left to right (and most traditional cultures didn't read at all) should complicate easy notions of universality.

And there's a good argument to be made that compositional rules/formulae/strategies supposedly employed by artists from the Rennaissance through Early Modernism were actually post hoc rationalizations by 20th century art historians, trying to create an historical arc that lead inevitably to Formalism. As in, 'See the pyramidal composition used by Gericault for Raft of the Medusa? Well, Ellsworth Kelly's doing the same thing, just without the figures.' You can find Golden Ratios in the Parthenon if you look hard enough; that doesn't mean the Greek architects put them there.

FWIW, I think Stephen Shore's excellent little book, The Nature of Photographs: A Primer does a great job of discussing how photographs work, without veering into airy-fairy subjectivity or arguments from dubious rules. Plus, it's 90% images, with a bare minimum of text.

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