The Rule of Thirds is a compositional principle that is widely used. And for good reason because, well, it works. At least, it works in a lot of situations.
What is the Rule of Thirds? You superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid on your image, two vertical lines equally spaced and two horizontal lines equally spaced. Then you place the key elements of your image on or near those lines, or at one of their intersections. They don’t have to be exactly on the lines or intersections, just near them. This is art, not engineering, so it’s important that it feels right. But the Rule of Thirds gives us positions that are visually very strong and command the viewer’s attention. That’s why you want to use this principle for the key elements of your composition, the elements you want to draw the viewer’s eye to.
One should be cautious in overusing the Rule of Thirds. It should not be applied mechanically and certainly not universally. It does not apply to all compositions. After all, aren’t our ‘Rules’ of composition made to be broken? But on the other hand, sometimes a composition gets just a little bit stronger when you move the key element just a tiny bit to place it closer to or right on a 1/3rd line.
The fact is it works so well in so many situations that the camera manufacturers give us the ability to display the grid on our camera’s LCD screens and viewfinders. Also, software publishers like Adobe display the grid when we use the crop tool. This is true of Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop. And these aids can be very helpful in achieving strong compositions.
Why does the Rule of Thirds work so well? To answer that let’s talk about Visual Tension.
The results are in and you have selected your favorite photographs of 2012. Before presenting the results let me just say how much I appreciate the input from everyone that participated. This has been an exciting experience for me and I hope you had fun.
So, on to the results. There were eight photographs in the final runoff. They were the top two of their categories – California Deserts, Big Sur, Eastern Sierra and Zion National Park. So each one is a winner in it’s own right.
Let’s start with number 8 – Sunrise, North Lake.
North Lake is in the Eastern Sierra just outside the town of Bishop,, California. It is one of three lakes that are up Bishop Creek. North Lake sets itself apart from the other two (Sebrina and South Lakes) in that it is naturel. Besides being the smallest there is no dam to back up water and generate electricity. The only development is a pack station at its head. And there’s a rustic campsite upstream a little ways. I always return to this same location because of the boulders in the foreground, the soft grasses and the snag in the middle ground. The colors at sunrise are magnificent with the cool blues and greens that are still in the shade and the bright warm morning light on the peak in the back. I get a strong feeling that all is well with the world when I’m there.
We are continuing our selection of the best of my 2012 photographs. In the first round we selected the best California Desert photograph. Four photographs were presented and the one that ranked the highest was Death Valley Sunrise. See Best Photographs of 2012 – California Desert for the other three.
We have just concluded the second round in which you selected the best Eastern Sierra photographs of 2012. There were six to choose from in this category. I’d like to share them with you one by one and tell you a little bit about each of them.
As I drive across the Mojave Desert late one Thursday night not long ago, heading north on I-15, I have a sense of harmony, of unity with the night, the highway, my car. The pavement ahead eases into the beam of my headlights, grows brighter as it draws closer and then slips back into darkness as it slides underneath. Nights like this are a joy. I’m in a groove, a state of calm serenity and anticipation. Tomorrow I’ll be returning to Zion National Park, something I always look forward to. I didn’t notice the faint flashes of light.
Powerful thunderstorms were roiling over eastern California and southern Nevada that night, The dark clouds glowed with flickers of light and precious water dropped on the parched desert. it was a huge storm and I was chasing it. Approaching the state line the casino lights of Prim were reflected, bright and shimmering, on what is normally a dry lake bed. A half hour later as Las Vegas finally came into view, the glitz and glamor of the gaudy hotels was dwarfed by the grandeur of bolts of lightning streaking for miles across the turbulent sky.
The following morning workers were cleaning up after the storm but it hadn’t fully passed. Storm clouds still blanketed the sky for the remainder of the journey to Zion. A detour to Kolob Terrace to check the aspens was, I suppose, inevitable. The falling snow up in the high country was a surprise. And a delight. Sunrise the next morning was looking promising.
The best location in Zion that gets the full sunrise treatment is West Temple. I’ve photographed it many times but never got anything that I was excited about. The most popular location to shoot from is the ‘patio’ behind the museum but on this morning I chose a less visited one – the 2nd switchback on Tunnel Road. The expectation of clearing storm clouds, the choice of shooting locations – everything worked out just right.
The 2012 Joshua Tree Fine Art Festival is coming up next weekend. The dates are Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 8. I’m excited to be returning and catching up with old friends. This is the first art festival I ever did and so returning is like a homecoming. The festival is at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, CA. The hours are 9:00 to 5:00. Come on out and see some great art.
I’ll be showing some old favorites along with some new photographs I’m very excited about. As far as the old favorites go I’m planning on showing Virgin River and the Watchman from Zion National Park.
This has proved to be my most popular photograph and has won awards. It was captured on Thanksgiving day back in 2008. I was in Zion with my wife and daughter for the Thanksgiving weekend. I slipped out for this sunset and caught a beauty. Beginners luck! I’ve returned many times but never with light this good. (By the way, to get a better view of the photographs you can enlarge them by clicking on them.)
To go along with the Watchman is another photograph taken that same weekend along the Riverside Walk to the Gateway to the Narrows. When my family is with me we always do this walk. It’s our favorite – for obvious reasons.
I use a device called Spot while in the field. It keeps track of where I am and transmits my location to a communications satellite. I can check in whenever I want (and call for help if I need it). This all gets captured on a map. It shows many of the locations where we were shooting during the workshop. I added pictures from flickr and presto, changeo, we have an account of the workshop.
Click on the title above the map to see it in interactive mode. Enjoy.
Well, no shooting with the new toy yesterday or today. As I haven’t given up my day job yet it’s necessary to get some consulting hours in to bring home the bacon. Besides, the client is happer when I pay some attention to them. However, the RRS L bracket came today. So I’ll be able to attach the camera to the tripod without having to use the long lens – always a good thing to be able to do.
But this weekend is going to be very exciting. First of all, it’s the 1st Annual Joshua Tree Gathering, open to anyone who owns a camera and isn’t afraid to use it. See the post. But I’m going to attempt a series of sunrise shots from first light to the sun fully up. The thing that makes this interesting is I’m going to attempt to do this as 360 degree panorama. I hope I don’t have to add HDR to the mix. Arg!