Friday, May 01, 2009

Poplars and composition

click photo to enlarge
Look at most landscape photographs, and for that matter, figurative paintings, and you see the influence of Romanticism. The lofty peaks, lakes with reflections, asymmetrical groups of trees, vistas through gateways, ramshackle barns and fields with grazing horses all owe their genesis to the rise of Romanticism in the eighteenth century. I've talked about this development before, and acknowledged the debt and gratitude that we owe the painters, musicians, philosophers, writers and poets who opened our eyes to this view of nature. Most of my landscape photographs can be described as being in the "Romantic tradition."

But, every now and then, I produce a landscape that falls outside this style. The antithesis of Romantic is Classical, and today's image is one that I would describe in those terms. Why is that, you might wonder? Well, where Romanticism has to do with deep emotion, melancholy, the sublime and asymmetry, Classicism is about order, repose, clarity, symmetry, and intellectual control. There is more to it than this, particularly in the area of literature, but if I were forced to use a one word summary of the two styles in terms of art, I'd say that Romantic is diagonal and Classicism is horizontal (and/or perpendicular)!

Passing this row of vertical young poplars near Great Steeping, Lincolnshire, I immediately thought to compose them against the horizontal line of the horizon. Moving the viewfinder up and down I found I preferred it when the horizon cut the fame in half (allegedly a photographic faux pas, but one that deserves to be ignored.) This allowed me to create a composition of, essentially, quarters - sky, tree tops, grass bank and tree trunks, road and shadows. A vanishing point is located near the middle of the photograph. The slight curve of the road, and the "quarters" that are not quite regular, disguises the underlying structure. However, any qualities the image has depends on these "hidden" controlling elements that give it those "Classical" overtones.

Here is another of my "controlled" images.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On


Bill Webber said...

An interesting "reflection" and an interesting photograph here. I like to hear about why people compose photographs the way they do. Too many of the photogrpahy websites concentrate on gear and too few on art so I'm glad when your posts turn to this side of the hobby.

Tony Boughen said...

I appreciate the feedback Bill. You're right, it is quite difficult to find people analysing photographic composition on the web. Maybe there's an opening for a website that emphasises that side of the hobby.

Regards, Tony