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.
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Not long ago I was photographing dawn in Joshua Tree National Park. I must confess, dawn is my favorite time of day. And I have thrilled to more spectacular dawns in Joshua Tree than anywhere else. There are ;often clouds that ignite as the sun approaches. And the other morning was no exception.
I’d like to share with you three photographs taken that morning. The alarm went off at 4:30 and we left the motel in Twentynine Palms a 5:30, an hour and a half before sunrise. There were clouds in the morning sky, the first ingredient for a spectacular sunrise but by no means a guarantee. I selected Sheep Pass at the west end of Queen Valley because it offered both Joshua Trees and some impressive granite outcrops for an interesting foreground. We arrived about 45 minutes before sunrise. It was still dark with the barest glimmer of light in the east.
Continue reading “Mastering Light – Dawn” »
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I just finished posting a batch of new photographs on my website. They are from three different ‘shoots.’ I’d like to tell you a little about each of the shoots and share the photographs with you.
I don’t put anything up on my website until I get prints that I’m satisfied with. Another way of putting it – a photograph isn’t done until it looks great on paper. I’ve made large prints of all of these and, I must confess, I’m very pleased. I’ll be matting and framing them and showing them to the public for the first time this weekend at the Old Monterey Fine Arts Festival in Monterey, California. If you’re in the area Saturday or Sunday, stop in and say Hi.
I have two photographs to share from last month’s Big Sur photography workshop. We covered famous Highway 1 from San Simeon to Carmel-by-the-Sea. The weather was clear, the sun was bright and an on-shore wind made for some great surf.
I chose two photographs to put on the website. The first is Bixby Bridge. I’m not normally into photographing man-made structures. But this one turned out so well with great light and a sense of its gracefulness and size that I had to include it. Click on the link to see the photograph and read more about it.
View Bixby Bridge (2012)
The other photograph is China Cove in Point Lobos State Park. I’ve always been impressed with its rugged serenity and, with the soft light of an overcast day helping out, I think I finally got a photograph that captures it.
View China Cove (2012)
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