The Composer

I will begin with a few varied images, but the autumn pictures and text half way down the page gets to the heart of what this post is about.

As always the images will clear slowly after they download.

Storm in the valley.  Monument Valley Arizona/Utah

God Beams.  Lake Michigan.

White-throated Sparrow.


Recently I received a personal email asking  for opinions on autumn photography.  So as we get closer to June and summer let’s visit fall just one last time.

In the past I have tried to show a variety of types of fall imagery.  Autumn grand landscapes with lakes and rivers and waterfalls.  What to do after the last leaf has fallen.  Of course I have covered techniques concerning close-up images of leaf patterns as well.  Most of all I have tried to address what some of you might do if you are in similar locations  as to where I cut my teeth as a nature photographer.  Southern Wisconsin and similar landscapes in Illinois, Iowa, southern Minnesota as well as certain areas around the world.  I am speaking of the art of taking one or more trees and composing color, shape, dark and light and creating pictures that are just as powerful as anything from the world’s premier locations.

This style of fall photography can be a great teacher of composition.  Not so much about the rules of composition, like the rule of thirds, power points or leading lines.  It is about developing your instincts for composing tones, colors and texture.   Photographing fall’s “small landscapes” will translate into more success with more different types of photography than anything I have experienced.

The images below all have one thing (besides fall) in common.  They were all made in low contrast overcast light.  If any of these pix were made on a sunny day they would be filled with contrast issues and hot spots.  The overcast light I chose allowed for heavy color saturation and a clear evenly lit view of all areas of the image.  If it would have been sunny on these days I would have backed up and made bigger pictures in which the blue sky became a major part of the photo.

I love the first blush of autumn.  I mean that time when you have multiple shades of green, gold and red.  The image below was a methodical exercise of placing colors and tones in a fashion that appealed to my esthetics.  Those tree trunks were just as important to the composition as were the leaves.

Our next image is pretty simple in its design.  This image is a vertical by the very nature of that tree trunk.  You will notice that I placed the trunk a bit off-center. Leafless open areas existed in both directions from the trunk or I would have moved it even farther from the middle of the picture. 

While our next image is different from the above shot, it shares the same principles.  Notice that the Aspen trunks in this picture and the fall foliage, are actually two separate subjects.  Despite that fact I wanted them to appear somewhat inseparable so I used a 300 mm lens to compress the trunks and background leaves onto a single plane.  I had many choices to make as far as tree trunks were concerned.  It took a while to come up with trunks that held some variety in appearance.  I then wanted them sandwiched in front of colors that I thought would make the most graphic shot.  I am speaking of personal choice, not compositional rules.

I took an entirely different approach with my next two shots.  I want to visually stretch this scene from the foreground to the background.  Normally I would employ a wide (14mm-35mm) lens to accomplish this feat.  The problem was this meant that a bit of blank white sky would show in each picture.  I decided to use short (100mm-110mm) telephoto lenses and aim that lens toward the bottom of the foreground trees.  This kept the shot open to the background.  That and the differences in color and tone, especially in the second photo, gave the us (the viewers) the perception of depth.  Remember that “perception is reality”.

I view the art of nature photography as if a great writer of symphonic music has given me (and you) a musical score to read.  It is inherently beautiful but we are given the privilege to interpret (compose) the written music and turn it into a finished symphony that will then be shared with the world.  It is a privilege.  The writer of that music is indeed perfect and only wishes each of us the challenge and the satisfaction of making that subject a personal thing so that we can become a genuine part of the writer, the subject, and those who will read it as well.

God bless

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One Response to The Composer

  1. Pingback: Photographers Make Pictures | Wayne Nelson's Earth Image's Blog

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