Framing Your Composition with the Tip of Your Nose

People talk of rules. In photography there are no rules, only guidelines.

People talk of rules. In photography there are no rules, only guidelines.

To better understand how to take a good photo we must understand how our own mind sees the world.

Breaking rules is how we discover our own creativity. We focus on the meat of the thing, and not the tool.

If you’re always about the quality of the tool, then you’re simply in the trap of blaming the tool for a bad outcome.

Sometimes, if a person asks me which camera I use, I tell them I only have a shoe box with a pin hole at the end. It has a coat hanger poking out the side to wind on the roll of film. As a Brit, I can do the straight faced humour quite well.

If for a moment they believe me, their eyes pop, and they see my work as an amazing feat for such a primitive contraption.

If a photographer wants to create vision, then they should work hard on their creativity. That’s the kernel of the thing, of everything in life.

Understanding our own motivations, learning to see objects on our own terms, and formulating visual ideas within the frame for ourselves, leads to a better photo.

I’m always mucking about with settings. When I first got my digital camera, I noticed how sharp everything was, how amazing the finely honed glass is, and how I could zero-in on my subject like a hunter in the fields.

I took lots of photos with the lens at F 2.8, it made me wish for enough money to buy a lens that would crunch everything into a F 1.4 field of vision. Then I stopped, and asked myself why?

I realised that I’d been caught up in the techie world of, “my lens can isolate the tip of a nose” — and yours can’t.

When you feel the motivation to photograph an object, it helps to know something about that object.

Artists tend to look at the world as if it’s already a piece of art. We see trees, and streets, people, and all the variations of humanness before us as one large moving artwork.

We do our best to square off a piece of that world, and frame it, capture it and keep it for reference and enjoyment. Inside the frame, there is something meaningful. We can only hope that it is also of visual value to other people too.

Creativity and vision drive us to share things with others.

Knowledge about what we look at helps us compose the photo, and gives us information about what to look for when we frame the shot.

I’m always watching people on the street. I try and guess what they are doing, observe whether they are harried, blustering and sweaty as they make their way home from work, or if they are simply out for an evening stroll.

I went to the centre of Berlin, walked through the Brandenburg Gate, then strolled along the side of the Tiergarten. There’s a thick tree line that separates the grassy areas where people lol about in the sun, and dogs bark and run after Frisbees.

It was evening, the sun was already dipping behind the houses and trees, but I wanted to get some interesting shots with people in the frame.

I adjusted my settings to capture the highlights that streaked across the dark floor, to get details in the darkened pathway beyond.

A woman hurried out into the light, she looked flustered, in a hurry and sweaty. I was crouching, framing the woodland pathway that led into the darkened areas. I took the shot.

As far as I’m concerned, she walked into my frame, and I took the opportunity to capture a little drama that she created.

I get anxious about street photography. It’s the times we live in. Where I live the laws are strict; don’t photograph people directly without their permission — not even your family. That’s the law. In spite of that, several German judges have already stated that they aren’t going to crush an artist’s work with petty claims in court.

Still, I feel that it’s right to allow people their privacy.

I love the challenge of trying to make something out of, what appears to be, nothing; if it attracts my eye, then I’m sure there is something of value in the shot. I just have to look more deeply, and find it.

The photo below is a small space in a busy city. The frame can create the deception of silence and tranquillity. Yet, it’s in the middle of a busy city, behind me there is road with a constant flow of traffic, and behind the trees swathes of tourists and locals basking in the evening sunshine.

I was attempting to capture the streaking lines of sunshine that cut across the dark evening ground. The small gritty stones help to create a nice texture.

Sun Splash

Often, photographers become obsessed with their camera settings. How to adjust, and balance them to get the perfect shot. But, if you have no knowledge about what you are looking at, you’ll be shooting into the mist.

You can’t adjust properly without first thinking about what you want. Photographic Intention leads to the decisive moment.

A Group of Lads by the River

Groups of people create flow. Sometimes people can bottleneck, stretch out, separate into smaller groups, and all of this is wonderful to observe. Watch out for the waves of people who unwittingly create intriguing formations of body and colour.

There comes a moment that offers a great opportunity for the photographer who has strong intentions — the decisive moment.

Lovers in the evening sun. Copyright; Sean P. Durham, Berlin, 2022
An Ancient gap with Lovers

When people fall in to step they create a moment of harmony. The opposite, disharmony can create juxtapositions that offer more complex shots.

Street Photography by Sean P. Durham, Berlin, 2022. Potsdamer Platz structures.
Structured Thought

Thanks for looking and reading. I’m off out to take some landscape photos before the summer disappears for another eight months.