Thinking About Composition

I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time considering the composition of my images. I’ve been known to reshoot a still life 10-20 times until I get it composed exactly how I see it in my mind’s eye. Back in the days when I shot and developed all my own film, it was quite a long process compared with my digital workflow of today. I think that extra time was worthwhile though—it essentially gave you time to forget the exact images you had shot while you waited to have enough rolls to mandate mixing a fresh batch of chemicals, developed and dried the film, and then scanned and archived. You got fresh eyes

Thinking About Composition

Thinking About Composition: About 99% There. Click To Enlarge.

Then again, being able to adjust your composition and see your digital results immediately on a screen (I mount a LCD monitor that is considerably larger than the screen on the back of my Canon either in the hot shoe or on the tripod) is immensely useful—especially in the case when it is impossible or incredibly difficult to return and reshoot if you are not happy with the results. The downside for me with digital is that I will shoot a huge number of images each of the slightest variation, and after a period, I start to lose my sense of what is the best composition—sort of a visual overload. Anyway, let’s consider the image above (this shot was taken in a medical facility in Laos that I can currently revisit without too much trouble), with which I’m mostly satisfied.

What I do like:

  • I like how the two light fixtures appear in such a way as if you drew lines through their centers lengthwise, the lines would cross at a point somewhere outside the building. They appear to point at that spot in the distance; this is know as a vanishing point. Of course, in reality, the two light fixtures are parallel.
  • There is a window to the right, and it is ‘spraying’ a shadow from where the base of the ceiling fan connects to the ceiling.
  • One of the tips of the three blades of the ceiling fan appears to be touching the exact spot where the spray of shadow emanates from the base of the fan.
  • I like the light distribution: the blown out area from the fluorescent on the left; the relative darkness from the powered off fluorescent on the right. The wide expanse of middle tones in the upper right quadrant of the image, and, the very dark corner where the ceiling and the two walls meet toward the lower right side of the image.

What I don’t like, which is really only one thing:

  • I really don’t like that the two lower fan blades are crossing over the intersection between the left wall and the ceiling. Is that an OCD nit pick? Probably. But it distracts me to see the intersection line through the blur of the lower blades.

From looking at the geometry of the objects in the images, I may not physically be able to compose this exactly the way I’d like. I think I’ll try an ever so slightly lower camera position and see if I can change the relationship between the lower blades and the intersection of the ceiling and wall. However, I suspect that if I do that, I’ll no longer be able to catch the tip of the blade ‘touching’ the base of the ceiling fan.

Is this image worth the extra work, a reshoot? I don’t know. But you know what? I think I’m gonna try.

Tech specs:

Camera: Canon 5D MkII
Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens

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Thinking About Composition.

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