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There are no rules in composition, really?

WTF!
Red lines over nice pictures.
Proving what?
Demonstrating what?

Blessed are those that follow the red lines for they will be received by the foolhardy.

Absolute and utter bullshit.

It is reminiscent of Christine still maintaining she's a size 8 when she tries a dress on.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Tom,

The major point is not just whether one can indeed draw these lines to fit so well, as they do in these particular pictures, but whether or not the photographer was guided by such imaginary lines before the picture was taken.

The next point might be a study of the relevence of such fit to the success of the picture to whatever measure you might consider worthwhile.

You might be correct that this connection to ideal ratios turns out to be a flight of fancy, but mere dismissal, based on your dear wife's persistent delusions, is not going to get traction and be persuasive of anything!

I imagine that some studies have been done in various art departments. Maybe someone with good search capability can find some solid work on this.

Asher
 
Tom,



The major point is not just whether one can indeed draw these lines to fit so well, as they do in these particular pictures, but whether or not the photographer was guided by such imaginary lines before the picture was taken.

The next point might be a study of the relevence of such fit to the success of the picture to whatever measure you might consider worthwhile.

You might be correct that this connection to ideal ratios turns out to be a flight of fancy, but mere dismissal, based on your dear wife's persistent delusions, is not going to get traction and be persuasive of anything!

Asher
Fit so well.
To what?
How do you see that?
Maybe I'm seeing it upside down.
I don't see anything fitting, well or otherwise.

I'm dismissing the approach, Ash.
Ideas are fine, even bad ones.
But using bad science to prove a point or demonstrate a misconception is tantamount to writing fairy tales.
The approach you suggest is bullshit.
It has no meaning or legitimacy.
It simply continues the myth.
We don't look for examples to fit the idea.
We look for examples that don't.
Try proving yourself wrong for a change instead of sticking to the idea that you are probably right and if you come up with a enough examples we'll be convinced.
I repeat: this is bullshit science. It's fuccking religion, that's what it is.

Besides, do you only want people with contributions you like to respond?
Where's the idea of freedom of speech and a fair go for all.
I know you don't agree with most of what I say or the way I say it but let me assure you,
I'm not being dismissive.
I'm deadly serious

After all, I'm taking the time to read this stuff. I went to a Flat Earth Society meeting once.
I'm reminded of the similarity of the approach.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Tom,

As a scientist, I also look for times when theories don't work and gave you one of the finest examples. You can find it here, post # 53. To recapitulate, In the accepted "Central Dogma" of molecular biology, DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein and it's unidirectional! Then came the discovery of RNA tumor viruses causing cancer in mice. These coded for an enzyme, "reverse transcriptase" which allowed RNA to make genetic DNA and get incorporated into the mouse chromosomes and be inherited to every following generation.

So this was added to our knowledge and the "rules" we're expanded. Similarly in Physics, Boyle's Law.

If you read carefully, you might notice that I inferred that it was entirely possible that the lines drawn on Henri Cartier Bresson's photographs just happen to fit and had nothing to do with his premeditated design. After all, even if the theory is invalid, testing enough famously successful photographs one could find an apparently perfect fit. I asked that question, did that photographer think of said formula or guide before the shot? (Even if he didn't, use of the Golden Mean could be innate.)

So this is why I wonder if this subject has been rigorously studied academically. Likely as not, it has. However, failed proofs hardly ever get published!

Asher
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
As you correctly suggest Asher, of importance to photographers, specifically, should be the quest not to find some immutable law/s of photographic composition. But, to see if some of these compositional aids have any merit. Are they something one should be aware of. Could these concepts help one achieve a better composition.

Experiment and discard. If one thinks of these concepts as useless, well and good. If others want to include them as part of their toolkit, well and good too.

As to rigorous studies conducted on such matters..there have been many. And there have been as many proponents of such as their are opponents.

An example is a study conducted of the works of a painter mentioned here, Piet Mondrian. And the drip America painter Jackson Pollock.

Here
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
As to rigorous studies conducted on such matters..there have been many. And there have been as many proponents of such as their are opponents.
Do you have links?


An example is a study conducted of the works of a painter mentioned here, Piet Mondrian. And the drip America painter Jackson Pollock.

Here

Two very different artistic approaches!

I am trying to get to grips with Mondrian's work right now, as applied to photography. Pollock is easier, as his work has complex form with dimensionality.

Asher
 
Since no one has mentioned it so far I will.

There is a vast art discipline called Formal Analysis in which a picture is evaluated as a set of forms, tones, masses, lines, proportions, balances and imbalances. Identification of subject matter is irrelevant. People draw salary expounding the principles of formal analysis. Others pay money to be taught how to do it and what conclusions to draw. Maybe there really is something to it. Perhaps a picture can appeal to the eye on the basis of how it is laid out rather than what's it of.

Now a confession. Because I use large view cameras I physically can't just wave them about hoping that a fetching composition will eventually land on the ground glass. I search my surroundings with a framing card which sometimes has strings across it measuring out the "Rule of Thirds". No, not to be bound by the rule of thirds, but to give it a fair look just in case it's perfect. If thirds don't work I'll try fifths, Golden Ratios, symmetries, repoussoirs, diagonals, leading lines, all the tricks, whatever works. Because I've memorised a lot of "rules" I can scan them mentally and discard the ones that don't work in a few seconds. Without a systematic way of approaching picture composition I fear I'm only rolling the optical dice in the service of hope and wishful thinking.


Here is a picture of a nondescript stretch of woodland. But by striving to place components on thirds and fifths I think I got a coherent composition even though there's nothing in the middle. I could be mistaken.


Views of Snow Gums, number 3
Gelatin-silver photograph on Freestyle Private Reserve VC FB photographic paper, image size 19.6cm X 24.5cm, from a 8x10 Fomapan 200 negative exposed in a Tachihara 810HD triple extension field view camera fitted with a Fujinon-W 300mm f5.6 lens. Titled, signed, and stamped verso.
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
Maris, thank you for giving us a valuable insight into your method of working on some of your photographic undertakings. It is very helpful.

And as you mention, most aides to photography are just that…a small starting point when/if required.From thereon the photographer adds his/her own experience, knowledge, visual and aesthetic compositional requirements and vision to make an image. And you have posted an end product for our benefit.

As usual, the images you post are simply wonderful. They need to be experienced and viewed in print form, hanging on a wall. Internet viewing cannot do them justice. No sir.

Once again, thank you for sharing.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
A Diversion on the Contribution of Social Significance or References to Iconic Motif

Compositions with the major "fabric" being emotive, and exact structure being far less important









Fahim Mohammed: Pull




Antonio Correia: Untitled



What's so fascinating to me in both these examples, is the strength of visual impact despite each being seemingly incomplete. We don't see the entire load either is pulling. But perhaps the very lack of a finite end to their respective burdens is indicative of their oppressive work conditions, each with no respite! After all, the strength of these images are akin to pictures of a mother nursing or caressing her infant. We do not care about having everything in sight, just as long as there's enough to grasp the social significance and generate empathy and wonder. Here we need enough to build up our resentment and pity for what we observe. There's therefore little need for such a robust formal structural composition, just that it be adequate.

Interestingly, while the figure in Fahim's picture struggles forward and seems to be making progress, albeit very slowly, this fellow on the bicycle-wagon appears he might have stopped from exhaustion. Notice the front wheel is not completely seen. There's no free space to the front. He's blocked and stopped, at least from the picture's structure. Also, the sun is so strong on the cycle-wagonnner's back. This increases his visibility and rank, enhances sense of his suffering and the blown-out highlights just enhances this impression of oppression.

Subliminal Reference to Widely Recognized Cultural Icon:

If one can surreptitiously evoke the strong societal memories of mythological figures, fantasies or fears then the very fabric of a composition gets energized. In this case, the struggles of both men might be made even more resonant with our heart strings as this bent over laboribg man is reminiscent, at least subliminally, of a New Testament scene that many artists have painted over the centuries. I would offer that this strong motif is buried in our Western societial subconsciousness, irrespective of our beliefs.





Hieronymus Bosch: Christ Carrying the Cross

Oil on panel

150 cm × 94 cm

Palacio Real, Madrid


Here the motif of "suffering with a cruel load" is seen once more. This time, the story of a Jesus figure hauling a giant cross through the streets before his death - at the hands of the Romans, (for which, together with a host of other crucifixions of Jews, the psychopathic Roman Governor was summoned back to Rome) for unnecessarily moving a rich province so dangerously towards revolt).

Notice, I have not addressed Golden mean, the 4 intersections of the "Rule of Thirds" or other guides in these three pictures, as the overwhelming power of the social content steals the show in the first glance and thereafter!


Asher
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Composition devoid of passion or empathy:




"Untitled" by Tom Dinning, on Flickr​


This picture may surprise you as a choice as it's flat and has no one in danger, in love, beautiful, under stress or celebrating - worse the colors are all faded and not in a part of town one would go for inspiration! Yet, to me, this is well constructed and has significance as a work in photography. But why?


Tom's picture, originally posted here, there's not even a sliver of empathetic connection for us! On first glance, it might seem so ordinary that you would pass it off as insignificant. However, there is much to it's composition to engage us, if we allow ourselves to take in the segments that seem to balance one another. We can be inspired the structural simplicity and yet balance of asymmetric zones and lines.

The weathered blue in flat rectangular segments ARE the main subject - a feat of asymmetric balance. It works because of the tension is generated in the combatting of the lines and rectangles, I'd suggest, much like a Mondrian painting.






Piet Mondrian: Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue

Painting, 1921

Gemeentemuseum, The Hague


Asher
 
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Andy brown

Active member
Now a confession. Because I use large view cameras I physically can't just wave them about hoping that a fetching composition will eventually land on the ground glass. I search my surroundings with a framing card which sometimes has strings across it measuring out the "Rule of Thirds". No, not to be bound by the rule of thirds, but to give it a fair look just in case it's perfect. If thirds don't work I'll try fifths, Golden Ratios, symmetries, repoussoirs, diagonals, leading lines, all the tricks, whatever works. Because I've memorised a lot of "rules" I can scan them mentally and discard the ones that don't work in a few seconds. Without a systematic way of approaching picture composition I fear I'm only rolling the optical dice in the service of hope and wishful thinking.
Excellent Maris.
And thanks for another one of your fantastic words (repoussoirs) although bathykalpian remains my favourite.
Interesting etymology it has too.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Since no one has mentioned it so far I will.

There is a vast art discipline called Formal Analysis in which a picture is evaluated as a set of forms, tones, masses, lines, proportions, balances and imbalances. Identification of subject matter is irrelevant. People draw salary expounding the principles of formal analysis. Others pay money to be taught how to do it and what conclusions to draw. Maybe there really is something to it. Perhaps a picture can appeal to the eye on the basis of how it is laid out rather than what's it of.

Now a confession. Because I use large view cameras I physically can't just wave them about hoping that a fetching composition will eventually land on the ground glass. I search my surroundings with a framing card which sometimes has strings across it measuring out the "Rule of Thirds". No, not to be bound by the rule of thirds, but to give it a fair look just in case it's perfect. If thirds don't work I'll try fifths, Golden Ratios, symmetries, repoussoirs, diagonals, leading lines, all the tricks, whatever works. Because I've memorised a lot of "rules" I can scan them mentally and discard the ones that don't work in a few seconds. Without a systematic way of approaching picture composition I fear I'm only rolling the optical dice in the service of hope and wishful thinking.


Here is a picture of a nondescript stretch of woodland. But by striving to place components on thirds and fifths I think I got a coherent composition even though there's nothing in the middle. I could be mistaken.


Views of Snow Gums, number 3
Gelatin-silver photograph on Freestyle Private Reserve VC FB photographic paper, image size 19.6cm X 24.5cm, from a 8x10 Fomapan 200 negative exposed in a Tachihara 810HD triple extension field view camera fitted with a Fujinon-W 300mm f5.6 lens. Titled, signed, and stamped verso.
Yes, the picture's well balanced! Any chance the actual negative has a tad more on the left to get the end of the tree trunk. If not, why not - just as we are discussing design. Are you so certain when releasing the shutter that you do not need that extra sliver of imag too?

Asher
 
No, Asher, there is no more (or less) on the negative to the left. The black line around the picture is from the clear rebate left on the negative from the film holder. The 8x10 contact photograph is a "deadly" contract between photographer and subject matter. Nothing can be added or subtracted. Subject matter may not co-operate. That's why it's possible to carry the heavy camera outfit all day, get back dog tired, and not a piece of film exposed.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Maris,

In your 8 x 10 picture, are you willing to dodge and burn to bring out the weights and contrast of elements in the composition to better follow your esthetic taste, or must you settle on what light nature let into the camera?




Views of Snow Gums, number 3

Gelatin-silver photograph on Freestyle Private Reserve VC FB
photographic paper, image size 19.6cm X 24.5cm, from a
8x10 Fomapan 200 negative exposed in a Tachihara 810HD
triple extension field view camera fitted with a Fujinon-W
300mm 5.6 lens. Titled, signed, and stamped verso.



As in this picture, there are a lot of possible paths for lines and especially potential diagonals. Do you just take what nature gives you and only work on the contrast and exposure of the paper?

Asher
 
=Asher Kelman;166036]Maris,

In your 8 x 10 picture, are you willing to dodge and burn to bring out the weights and contrast of elements in the composition to better follow your esthetic taste, or must you settle on what light nature let into the camera?
I'll burn and dodge at the stage of making the paper positive so the relative brightness of tones on it are reminiscent of the original subject luminances. The light-sensitive materials used in photography don't exhibit a linear response to light and the final product, a piece of paper with visually decipherable markings on it, has a very limited range of reflectances from max black to max white.

As in this picture, there are a lot of possible paths for lines and especially potential diagonals. Do you just take what nature gives you and only work on the contrast and exposure of the paper?

Asher
Yes, that's the deal. Either nature delivers the elegant or evocative arrangement required or the film doesn't get exposed. There can be a lot of effort expended in placing the camera in the exact position where all visual elements "come together". If it's in the photograph it's in the scene; and vice versa. That's why photographs claim an authority to describe subject matter that paintings or drawings can't.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I'll burn and dodge at the stage of making the paper positive so the relative brightness of tones on it are reminiscent of the original subject luminances. The light-sensitive materials used in photography don't exhibit a linear response to light and the final product, a piece of paper with visually decipherable markings on it, has a very limited range of reflectances from max black to max white.



Yes, that's the deal. Either nature delivers the elegant or evocative arrangement required or the film doesn't get exposed. There can be a lot of effort expended in placing the camera in the exact position where all visual elements "come together". If it's in the photograph it's in the scene; and vice versa. That's why photographs claim an authority to describe subject matter that paintings or drawings can't.
Maris,

The authority of the film, you refer to, surely comes from the vision of the photographer and the craft in reproducing not just a verisimilitude of light coming off the scene. That requires its aura of "presence" too!




But there's no breeze blowing in the darkroom bringing
the scent of poplars and wild flowers or the damp moss
on the dead wood. There's no rustle of leaves or chirp of
crickets or birds flying up from the woods when you cock
a shutter or when a cassette slides and locks in the back.



So if you would just reproduce exactly the relative light intensities along the different sections of wood, likely as not you wouldn't reproduce either the depth or the mood of the scene. That should be the job for the workmanship in the darkroom. That's when the creative capabilities cannot be replaced by a an average film lab or good technician. It needs the photographer.

But are you just trying to allow the innate idiosyncrasy of the film to decode the ranking of all the marks on your positive print? Or do you craft the image deciding on the weight of each elelements contributing to the whole.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Active member
Hi, Antonio,

My (humble) contribution to this thread.

I'm sure if I had actually read all the palaver in this thread (I really can't bear to), I would know just exactly all the reasons this is a wonderful picture.

But I don't know why. I just know it is a wonderful picture.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Antonio Correia

Active member
But my friends, this is so simple...
LOL
I have even hesitated to post this photo because I would not know your reaction...
I was quite anxious when I read "no further questions" from Wolfgang which I could not understand. However, moving on I because glad and understood.

Thank you to all of you. :)
 

Cem_Usakligil

Active member
Hi Doug,

Hi, Antonio,

I'm sure if I had actually read all the palaver in this thread (I really can't bear to), I would know just exactly all the reasons this is a wonderful picture.

But I don't know why. I just know it is a wonderful picture.
For a while I've tried to follow the discussion but I eventually gave up. I agree that this is a great picture by Antonio indeed.
 

Steven Rialto

New member
Asher,
Do you think humans are wired to view things as compositionally satisfying or do you think it is a learned cultural aesthetic? I understand there are some particular innate tendencies regarding symmetry and beauty (of faces in particular) but does it extend beyond that? I think the question is important because if its not innate then essentially arguing composition is arguing the values of one culture over another. Thoughts?
 
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