Different Spatial Arrangements

As suggested by my tutor I’m giving myself a refresher on spatial arrangements in order to improve my compositions. So I’ve pulled out my copy of Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye again. Freeman gives a list of methods to strength perspective (Freeman 2007: 52):

  • A strong perspective gives a sense of depth and makes the viewer feel that he/she is in front of the scene
  • Try and choose a viewpoint that shows a range of distance.
  • If I use a wide-angle lens this will include enough close foreground interest as well as enhancing linear perspective and showing foreground-to-distance range.
  • Placing warm tones subjects against cool backgrounds
  • Using direct lighting
  • Keep bright tones in foreground and darker tones in background.
  • It helps to include familiar-sized objects at various points to convey scale.
  • Let the focus become unsharp towards the distance.
Photo by Lynda Kuit, 2018

Perspective deals with the spatial arrangement between foreground, middle- and background. A wide angle lens will tend to emphasize the foreground elements, while a telephoto will make everything about the same size. There should be also be something of interest in foreground, middle- and background. If I look at my logging truck image above I can see that the road does indeed have a diminishing perspective, as well as the trees on either side of the road. My viewpoint does show a vast range of distance and I do have some close up foreground interest in that dandelion and the sticks in the road. The only warm tone in the image really is the red truck which is advancing on the viewer and that contrasts with the cool surrounding green tones of the lucerne field and pine forests (opposite side of the colour wheel) and grey/blue skies. The bright tones are definitely in the foreground and the darker tones towards the back. The light tones advance while the darker tones recede and this increases the illusion of depth. The distance is unsharp although I’m not sure if it is due to my photography skills or to the fact that there is a rainstorm in the distance.

Photo by Lynda Kuit, 2018

On the other hand horizontal lines have what Freeman calls “a more placid effect” (2007: 72). The horizontal lines of the mowed crop fields and corn fields offer a stable base to the image above. Not a lot of movement is implied in this image. But it does offer up clear distinctions between the cultivated and the wilderness and the diagonal line of the tree line provides some movement to the image.

Layering implies putting different planes of the image into planes of differing distances as well as the implied meaning through careful choice of subjects and subject placement. With implied meaning a level of ambiguity is usually present. To help ambiguity along the subject does not always have to be in the foreground, or in focus or be the largest object in the frame. It just has to be the visually prominent. A certain element of subject isolation needs to happen – this is when something breaks or doesn’t conform to a pattern. The human eye will then single it out for attention. The mechanics of isolating a subject come down to light, specifically the colour, intensity, directionality of it. There are five ways to separate an area of the frame from another: colour, depth of field, contrast, texture and motion. According to Thein in his article on subject isolation,  contrast, texture and motion and really the same.  “Texture is spatial frequency which is represented by a change in contrast; motion is spatial frequency, that only changes perpendicular to the direction of subject motion, which is again represented by a  change in contrast.” Colour is the one of the strongest tools to use to achieve subject isolation. Directional light is key to producing good contrast so that good shadows can be produced.

Thein actually backs up what my tutor conveyed to me regarding an artist’s statement – that I should create it upfront of the assignment before shooting. Thein states: ” it’s equally impossible to create a visual one [story] without knowing what you want to say first” (Layering article). By knowing what you want to say you will be able to take a “photo-journalistic approach” and be able to find those interesting anchors for the images.

Reference List

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press. Lewes, England.

Thein, Ming. Back to basics – Subject Isolation [online] Available at: https://blog.mingthein.com/2016/01/13/back-to-basics-subject-isolation/ (Accessed 13 September, 2018)

Thein, Ming. Layering [online] Available at: https://blog.mingthein.com/2016/06/14/layering/#more-12134 (Accessed 13 September, 2018)


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