Composition Consistency

In a lot of ways these photos could not be more different. The top one was taken at Beaverhill Lake, which at this point is a big marshy field in the prairies. The bottom was taken near the Saskatchewan Glacier in the mountains. The top was taken in spring, the bottom one in fall. The top is macro, the bottom is a landscape.

But when I was developing the top one today, my mind immediately went to this bottom photo that I took four years ago. The tones of the images help to group them, but what really strikes me is the similarity of composition. Both are triangles with the base at the bottom of the photo. They both have interesting lines thrusting up at angles through the frame.

When I’m composing an image, I don’t often consciously think about what to call a composition or what photo it will be like. I’m usually trying to balance the elements in the frame once an interesting line catches my eye. After the fact, when I’m looking through my images though, I start to notice themes. In some ways I like this — consistency is good. But I also don’t want to overuse themes and become boring. It’s a constant struggle of evaluation, and I probably overthink it. But it’s something I’ve noticed and thought was kind of interesting.

Wild Asters

150mm, f2.8, 1/1250 of a second

150mm, f2.8, 1/640 of a second

Interesting Macro Fact of the Day:
These pictures were taken a few seconds apart at the same iso, aperture, and in the same lighting conditions. So why the different shutter speeds? Macro lenses, when they start focusing really close are actually a lot darker than the aperture suggests. If we measured the amount of light coming into this lens when it’s focused really close, it is probably about half the light (around an f4 value), even though the aperture blades haven’t moved from their open position. This happens with all macro lenses.

Shy Alder Leaf

A honeysuckle vine wrapping around an alder branch, with an alder leaf peaking out from behind.

Taken with a Canon 5d, Sigma 150 macro at f4 and 1/200 of a second.

Drawing in Space

In my design studies at university, we had a fascinating sculpture assignment called “Drawing in Space”. We used strips and small blocks of wood to create a sculpture with interesting lines when viewed from any angle. Both the lines and the negative space they defined were equally important. I really enjoyed framing spaces and cutting into volumes of space, and that is something that I don’t get to do quite as much with photography. But when opportunities present themselves, as they did this last week, I get lost in the creating. I’m not sure how long I spent in this particular treasure trove of grass curls. The shallow depth of field I’ve used here really adds to both the ethereal-ness and the depth of the photo, letting you almost feel the space around the grass.

All taken with my 5d, 150mm macro, f6.3, 1/200 – 1/640 of a second.
Taken on the Beaver Pond Trail in Elk Island National Park.

If you’re still reading and interested, I’ll just write a quick note about composition. In the last two photos I’ve done something that is generally disapproved of in standard compositions – there is a strong line running vertically through the frame (even directly in the middle of the frame! the horror). In these cases I think it works as an unusual visual device to emphasize the depth of the photo. If the grass curls did not wrap around the vertical line it would not work.

Strange Sideshows

When there’s a awe-inspiring waterfall in front of you, it’s easy to miss the interesting shots and instead take waterfall pic #269. It pays to explore the small, unnoticed corners around the edges of spectacular sights. This is something I often need to remind myself of when I’m out adventuring.

Bubbles in foam beside Livingstone Falls, Alberta.

Rain Makes Everything Better

Rain quells crowds of tourists. It adds a little sparkle to everything it touches. It softens distant scenes, and adds vibrance to close ones. The only thing I ask is for a dry place to sleep.

Taken near Lake Louise, Alberta.

Friendly Wildlife

Some animals don’t require much of a telephoto lens. The chickadees at Elk Island (and almost everywhere else too) are a lot of fun to photograph, and are quite brave. They will come very close, even sit on you (briefly) if you stay perfectly still or if they think you have food. They’re also very acrobatic in the air, so it’s fun to try to catch them in flight.

This was taken with my slow-focusing and not very telephoto 150mm macro.