Monthly Archives: June 2014

Breaking The Rules: Composition

One of the rules of composition in design and photography is the “rule of thirds”. Draw lines that divide the frame in three equal parts horizontally and vertically. Then place your subject at the intersection of a vertical and horizontal line.

Edinburgh Hermitage of Braid Blackford Hill landscape composed using the rule of thirds

This photograph taken at the Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh, was composed using the rule of thirds

The above photograph taken at the Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh, illustrates this. The tree is located approximately at the intersection of the bottom and right thirds of the frame, creating a pleasant composition.

Edinburgh Hermitage of Braid Blackford Hill landscape  not composed using the rule of thirds. The cloudy and dramatic sky has more importance

In this photograph of the same scene as above, I gave the cloud sky much more importance.

In the second photograph (above), I wanted to emphasise the sky and purposefully broke the rule of thirds to only have a very thin strip of landscape at the bottom of the frame. Which one do you prefer?

Impressionist Photography: Spring Forest Multiple Exposures

I strongly believe in personal projects, because this is how I’m getting to find my style. Ever since discovering Bryan Peterson’s books on photography, I’ve been intrigued by some of his more creative experiments involving impressionist photography.

Multiple exposure photograph of spring forest in Blackford Hill Edinburgh

I used the lone tree in the foreground to break the pattern.

One can create some fascinating pictures using multiple exposures in camera, but it does require quite a bit of experimentation. The end result is something one must learn to anticipate, because it is not possible to see it in the camera viewfinder.

Multiple exposure photograph of spring forest in Blackford Hill Edinburgh

The green colour of the leaves in the spring is something I really like to photograph. It looks really ‘fresh’.

Usually, a subject with patterns works well. Like a forest. This is something I discovered last autumn, and this spring I went back to Blackford Hill to capture the spring colours using impressionist photography techniques.

Multiple exposure photograph of spring forest in Blackford Hill Edinburgh

The bluebells in the foreground attracted my attention, since they added an interesting new tone to the colour palette of the forest.

No Sun, No Problem!

I still remember talking to a friend years ago about one of her relative’s wedding. The Met Office had predicted cloudy skies for the Big Day, and she was very disappointed because she thought the photos of the event wouldn’t look their best.

Landscape photograph of Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill Edinburgh with vivid green and yellow colours and a dramatic sky

The light was perfect to nicely render the vivid colours of this landscape at the Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. The dramatic sky provides an interesting contrast to the foreground.

To her great surprise, I said that on the contrary, cloudy skies could be a blessing for wedding photographs. Weddings usually take place in the early afternoon, and when the sun is out, it casts deep shadows on people’s faces. Like “racoon eyes”, where the eyes go nearly black in the photograph because of the shadows cast by the sun light coming from above.

Landscape photograph of Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill Edinburgh with vivid green and yellow colours and a dramatic sky

Same scene as in the picture above. One of my favourite photographers is Bryan F. Peterson and he is fond of saying “What is the best time to take a vertical photograph? Just after you take the horizontal!”

I don’t and won’t shoot weddings, but the above story is still relevant for what I do. I don’t like to shoot people in the midday sunlight. I much prefer to wait until the sun is low on the horizon and the light is softer and warmer. In midday, I look for shade or hope that the clouds will come to the rescue and diffuse that early afternoon light.

Landscape photograph of Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill Edinburgh with vivid green and yellow colours and a dramatic sky

Another view of the landscape at the Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. My eye caught the top of the tree peaking out of the hill and the lines leading to it. The overcast sky was sufficiently interesting that I decided to make it the dominant element in the composition.

An other advantage of an overcast day is that the colours are generally more saturated. This works well for flower photography for example. In the case of landscapes, it can work too if one doesn’t show the sky, which is generally uninteresting. But one can get lucky and find some interesting clouds in the sky to complement the vibrant colours of the landscape, as in the few pics shown here.

The Advantages Of Time-Lapse Over Video

In a previous blog post, “The Advantages Of Video Over Still Photographs”, I argued that video has a definite advantage over photographs when it comes to telling stories. I believe it’s because stories feel more real to us when narrated with video, and they tap into our emotions much more.
You may have witnessed people getting emotional in a movie theatre. Have you seen people cry at a photo exhibit?

Still Photograph of Edinburgh at night, taken from the time-lapse "Edinburgh Winter".

This is a still frame from my time-lapse “Edinburgh Winter”. Cities look much better at night.

But storytelling with video is an art form. This is why great movie directors are few and far between and command very high fees. A general rule is that one only shows the scenes that make the plot advance, in order to keep the audience engaged.

The problem with the real world is that it is inherently boring. Look out your window for a minute or so and not much happens. The pace is very, very slow. This is the problem one faces when trying to showcase a location with video. In the absence of interesting characters and a riveting plot the action unfolds too slowly to keep the viewer’s interest.

This is where time-lapse shines. By speeding up the action one hundredfold or even a thousandfold, the location comes alive and you see the movement of the clouds in the sky and the moving shadows they cast on the ground or the changing light as the sun sets. For city scenes, time lapse is at its most spectacular when day turns to night, because the contrast between the city during the day and the same scene at night is dramatic.

We are by nature attracted to things that look new. They grab our attention. Time-lapse is a relatively new medium and the public hasn’t been overexposed to it. So time-lapse is very popular.

I got into physics because I wanted to get a better understanding of nature. I find time-lapse fascinating because this medium allows me to see the world in a different way and gain new insights into nature’s inner workings and beauty.