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Thread: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

  1. #21
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    The Golden Mean came from the Greeks. I don't think there's much doubt about its deliberate use in the Parthenon. They did have their own rules about visual balance. ... Otherwise, I'd hate to see anyone try to copy Stephen Shore's strategy for color, which was based on the hue errors inherent to Vericiolor L : poison green (cyan inflected) juxtaposed with pumpkin orange in almost every picture. He likened it to having just exactly the right amount of tension on the line when fly fishing. Good analogy. In anyone else's hands it would have been an awful hue clash.

  2. #22
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Good points, joe.

    I make both platinum prints and single-transfer carbon prints. The single-transfer prints by their nature, reverses the image. I usually have one or the other process in mind when I decide to make the image. I do rough composition before setting the camera up, then do the majority of the work on the GG. I must do some mental gymnastics (automatic now) to translate what I see on the GG into what I expect the image to end up being. I no longer notice that the image on the GG is upside down, unless I want to. The image on the GG is not backwards, so the gymnastics I do is basically how I flip the GG image...just rotated 180 degrees for platinum prints and spun it on its horizontal axis for carbon prints. Occasionally an image will work in either process. If I think it might, I'll expose two sheets of film -- each exposed and then developed for its specific process.

    Once processed, negatives go on the light table, emulsion up or down depending on the final process to be used. This lets me judge the images -- I often take compositional risks and am either pleased or disappointed in what I see. Every negative is a learning opportunity. For example centering the subject -- I love breaking this rule, but also pay for it occasionally with an image I decide not to print. A couple of centered images...a 16x20 SGP and an 8x10 pt/pd print;
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Falls, Franz Josef Glacier, NZ_16x20.jpg   RedwoodVineMaple.jpg  
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  3. #23
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Remember when Eggleston would put the conspicuous subject of a print smack dab in the geometric middle of the picture, breaking every compositional rule on the books?

  4. #24

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    As simple as this sounds (but not always easy) is to remember that when we are looking at the world, we see it in 3D, but our camera sees it in 2D, or our picture looks flat in depth... So we have to bring up information from close and far that provides the viewer some sense of depth... This is called layering, where we have some contrast between close and far (or even far to very far) to provide some spatial information so someone's brain thinks "depth"...

    The ideal is where we can have areas that are brighter and darker, as this establishes depth well, that's why we like dark trees in the foreground framing our scene (dark in foreground tends to stretch the depth, and the style of darkening skies also...

    If we can put information on different layered planes, it can break the 2D effect, and produce different illusions of space...

    Steve K

  5. #25

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Hi Drew,
    I've been reading the forums here for a few months, and always appreciate your straightforward posts. Having said that, there's a pretty well-referenced summary of disputed use of the Golden Ratio/Golden Mean/Golden Section/Golden Rectangle in the Parthenon here . While there's clearly true believers, there's also plenty of doubt.

    Regarding Shore's The Nature of Photography: for those who haven't read it, the focus is photography in general, not the photography of Stephen Shore. Of the 80 or 90 photos in the book only five are the author's. And again, it's not really a how-to book, but more how-photographs-function (visually). To your point, he writes about the ability of color to add another layer of description to an image, as it shows "the color of light and the color of a culture or an age." I think about that a lot—Shore's photographs (and others from the same era) read differently now than when they were first taken. As do virtually all photographs. Which is part of why talk of 'timeless' images doesn't make much sense to me.

    Eggleston somehow gets away with doing all sorts of things and still making fantastic pictures.
    Last edited by DDrake; 19-Jun-2019 at 22:35. Reason: clarity

  6. #26

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Stephen Shore (not heard of this photographer until mentioned by Drew, had to look), photographic images follows the classic composition rules, he applies more than one to his images which is precisely what any artist will do once there is enough understanding of classic composition forms (formulations) then applied to express in the image making process.

    Sample image as presented on the web in color:
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Stephen Shore 006.jpg 
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    Same image with color removed to easier illustrate foundational composition forms which follows and uses the more than one classic composition forms.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Stephen Shore 006_mono.jpg 
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    This analysis should be applied to any expressive image as a means to dissect what tools the artist is using and why they are effective.
    It's all part of the learning process.

    Color images are an adder to the basic foundational geometric forms within any expressive image. It can be a distraction or an adder, just another expressive image tool in the box. For any color image to be truly effective the basic foundation of composition must be there or the image becomes "trying to hide" using color.



    Bernice

  7. #27

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernice Loui View Post
    Know the "rules" before breaking the rules applies.

    Examples in the link are some of the basic geometric compositions commonly used. If one does not believe this is important to effective expressive 2D images, spend some time at any art museum, art gallery and other facilities that display 2D images then analyze them for basic geometric composition... to find these basic geometric composition forms or combinations of them in any given 2D image.

    IMO, it is arrogant and naive to believe foundational form by mean of geometric composition is not with adhering to when one of the great gifts of the human condition is pattern recognition directly tied to emotional response then memory.



    Bernice
    I completely agree with you, Bernice.

    After High School I attended the local Community College for Commercial Art. The classes I took there helped me immensely when I later picked up a camera. When asked how to improve one's photography I always recommend art classes, especially Composition 1 and 2.

    I ended up becoming a Sheet Metal Worker instead of a Commercial Artist and kept photography as a hobby. That is another story.

  8. #28

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    There are those who take up Photographic image making initially in color then in time, possible they will venture into Black & White images. Some will discover their images being less than satisfactory, yet do not fully understand why. The difficulty often comes down to a lack of understanding basic composition as color images can hide foundational problems with composition.

    Any view camera can be an excellent composition teaching tool as the image maker is often forced to slow down their image making process and consider the image they are trying to create. In the world of small sensor digital where the cost of image capture is the cost of using up memory and power with the ability to capture images in rapid succession tends to be far less conducive to deeply ponder and consider image composition. Yet, once good composition skills have been properly learned and well understood, they can be applied to any image creation tool or format. Or, why this very basic artistic tool is so very important to effective and expressive image making.


    Bernice

  9. #29
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Yes, by pre-framing your composition within the confines of a big ground glass and thoughtfully studying that, which the slower methodology of a view camera helps you do, you learn a lot. But there are also photographers who use big cameras just like they do small ones, and don't seem to learn much at all. They just want bigger machine-gun kill. A lot of calendar types were like that.

  10. #30

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    Re: Basic Landscape Composition Formulas..

    Years ago I studied several books of Atget photographs. One thing I took away that I could apply to my own photographs was that he always had differing and interesting corners. He seemed to pick an image subject, be it store window or ragpicker, then frame it compositionally by choosing the corners.

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