The Conversation

Posted on November 14, 2013

Normally I try and walk a different way to work in the morning to explore the world around me and look for something I’ve never seen before. But on the day this image was captured I was taking a more direct route to work, one that I’ve taken many times before. Little did I know that I would capture one of my best images on such a routine walk to work.

Just outside the train station staircase I noticed two men having a deep conversation at the newsstand that I normally walk right by and pay no attention. But I got my camera out as the as quickly as I could and snapped 3 or 4 shots. The first 2 shots were taken from the hip, I wasn’t even looking in the viewfinder. The shots were Ok but I then used the viewfinder and composed this shot. I was luck they were still deep in their discussion.

To look at this image in its original state as it came out of the camera you wouldn’t really think much of it. The color didn’t add anything to the composition and the light was very flat. But when I converted it to black and white, the composition revealed itself to me in a stunning fashion. The structure and the placements of the elements are exactly what followers of Henri Cartier-Bresson would call “The Definitive Moment”. This is when everything in the composition comes together, the meaning and structure become one. This image is a quiet moment and the composition reflects that. There’s a slow rhythm that starts with the people walking on the left side. The viewer makes their way to the first conversationalist and then follows the papers, hanging in the background, to the second figure. From there the eye is free to explore the rest of the frame discovering little things like gestures and interesting objects. Without this slow tempo, this image would have just been a jumbled mess. Not only does the composition support the theme of a quite moment in the city; it allows the viewer the chance to slow down and explore a little, it give them a chance to discover something they’ve never seen before.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/60, f/2.8, ISO 50

Visual Balance

Posted on November 12, 2013

This was taken at the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It’s a simple composition but that’s why I feel it works so well, less is indeed more!

Size comparisons are always a great compositional theme but there’s always a bit of a balancing act to get the composition to work. When including a human figure in a environment composition, you have to account for the unusual balance that happens as figures always grab so much of the viewers attention. To counter that you need to have something with a lot of visual weight to balance the frame. In this case I used a very large tree that takes up almost half the frame. The figure’s gaze into the branches also helps move the viewers attention away from the main focal point and let the viewer wander around the frame. So with just a couple of elements I created something a little interesting.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/250, f/4, ISO 200

Light, Tone and Gesture

Posted on November 11, 2013

As I was walking thru the dinning alley across the street from work, I saw the light coming thru the arbor that framed this little outdoor restaurant. It just happened that the waiter was taking a little break so I snapped a photo and just kept walking. I don’t even know if he realized I took his picture but knew I had a keeper.

This images has the three things I always look for in a successful composition; light, tone and gesture. I really like all of the directional light shapes that bring the viewers eye from the right side of the frame to the figure. It’s a really strong series of lines that could overwhelm the composition but it’s countered by the towel hanging from the waiter’s belt. It’s subtle but a really powerful compositional element. It wouldn’t have been the same composition without it.

SONY, SLT-A77V, 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM
1/350, f/5.6, ISO 100

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