Sunday, February 15, 2009

Simplifying images

click photo to enlarge
One way of reading a photograph is to consider it as a story with a narrative: to ask the question, "What is it trying to say to me?" That question can be easy or hard to answer, and the extent to which it is one or the other often depends on its complexity.

Complicated photographs can tell stories well, but it's probably done better by simpler images. In fact, a good rule of thumb in photography is to decide your subject, and then see how you can depict it with the minimum of content. A shot that is constructed on these principles will often be more striking, forceful and pleasing. Over the years I've found that high contrast and silhouettes are effective means of simplifying a photograph, and this blog is littered with examples of both these techniques. Today's image is a case in point.

The subject of my photograph isn't the gulls, rather it's the gulls in their setting and a particular kind of light. The shot depends on the gulls (and the posts, water and colour) for its content, but achieves any quality that it has by simplifying all of these elements, and presenting a semi-abstract, asymmetrical, but balanced composition in silhouette. I could have photographed this location from a different angle, and had a fairly well-illuminated picture, but I think it would have been quite dull. I find that when I'm photographing early or late in the day I actively search out such images, and am often pleased by them. But then perhaps that's just me, and I'm easily satisfied!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 134mm (268mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On