Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Composition and the Impact on Human Vision

Composition, a very theoretical beast, and boring, or is it?
Composition of an image can also be the power to determine the behavior of audience. In the movies, that happens all the times.
Here is a study of a photo I was lucky enough to shoot today.
Have a look:
Trees 'n Moon
I guess, you are not sure what to think of say about about this. And there are reasons for this!

First, I would like to go into the technicalities of the photo. 
This was shot at low sun, with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, with a polariser, as a -3/0/+3 Ev HDR at f/4.
Maybe HDR was not necessary, but, I did it anyway... Since the wind was blowing hard, moving the clouds and shaking the trees, so I had to use a lot anti-ghosting, so much of the image is just the 0 Ev frame anyway.
There was no cropping involved in post processing!

Composition and why this image is so tense.

First "problem", actually I waited for this, is the divided frame. Left and right, clearly different, right through the middle. That is very disturbing!

The moon is placed in the upper right thirds, that attracts the eye. However, the entire rest of the right side is negative space!

The trees are placed in the lower third, ending in the lower thirds, opposing the moon. This creates a tension between the the two.

And now to the most disturbing element of this photo, the element that actually does the trick, the clouds... dominating the entire image and the left half of the frame.


This is pure hardcore composition... which most wont find appealing in an image...
Why?
Ask yourself: Where to look first? Where to look at anyway?!

Irritating, isn't it?
 

Ahh, I love photography!

Explanation of the dilemma:
=> Human vision is attracted to the brightest part, the highest contrast and structure.
 

Right, there is one place, in this image we are not attracted to, the lower right. Nothing going on here, just empty blue sky...


The moon sits in the upper right thirds, having high contrast makes it very prominent (rule of thirds). The moon also contrasts strongly to the blue sky.


But, at the upper left, the brightest spot in the image attracts our senses. Actually, the brightest spot quite on the edge of the frame, which is very disturbing. Some photographers would probably correct that by darkening the brightest part of the clouds.

Surviving the clouds, just to be caught by the tree's detail... detail and structure, that's what we really like too look at!
 
And there is our vision, jumping in a triangle not sure what to look at... the moon, the bright clouds, the trees, or the moon?!


As I said, I love photography.

And, btw, here is the same scene, a few seconds later, when the clouds were gone.
Moon n' Trees
Technically the same photo, although, this is the 0Ev frame only.

As I said before, there was no cropping in post, neither here, nor above.

And yes, I did some tricks in post production (GIMP) on the upper image, besides HDR, none of which I did to this photo.

Composition wise, this photo is also cut in half, but by a diagonal rather than a vertical as we see above. Now there seems a pointy relationship between the moon and the tree, which seems supported by the faint structure visible in the otherwise pretty dull sky.
In terms of eye-movement, you may find yourself looking from the trees to the moon, crossing the dark diagonal. Once arrived at the moon, which now is the brightest part in the picture, your vision will rest.

Yes, this second picture is in balance and creates some rest, but, is it as interesting as the other one?


I am sure my audience is divided as to which of the 2 photos is more appealing, but that was not the point of this post. The point was what composition can do to the observer!


ps:

I was too busy with the composition and stuff... so that I actually did not note myself that the clouds form a face, staring at the moon. A dear friend of mine pointed the face out to me...
And here we have another component, which draws the eye, faces, e.g. the man in the moon.
Isn't it wonderful how our human brain works... locking on whatever is familiar!
When editing the photo, I personally did not notice the face at all, since I was so focused on the general lines...
rules of thirds
Here's what I see in my image now:
looky looky ... a face is staring at the moon!
Now, let's have a look/analysis to/of the image without clouds:
no clouds!
The moon and the trees are essentially in the same position as in the image before. However, there is a very different imperative to the image now. First of all, the vertical division is gone, and so is the "face".
What is left is a moon casting a frame to the trees (green lines), causing a diagonal negative spave (red lines). Incidently, some clouds form arcuate patterns across the sky (blue lines), pulling the image into balance.

Thanks to Richard for pointing out additional visuals... As I said, I was so busy with the general lines, that I missed the face.


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