On composition and snowboarding…

and how light affects them both.

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How the visual world appears is important to me. I’m always aware of the light. I’m always aware of what I would call the ‘deep composition.’ Photography in the field is a process of creation, of thought and technique. But ultimately, it’s an act of imaginatively seeing from within yourself.

Sam Abell

I’ve been thinking a lot about composition lately. I am going to use snowboarding here as an analogy to one of its components. Being winter in the Northwest I have encountered a lot of flat light which makes riding with your feet strapped onto a waxed board down a mountain just a little more challenging. Even when there is just a hint of light one can see the curves take shape and it becomes far easier to pick a line.

And so it is for photography; just that bit of light allows the eye to move through an image highlighting a curve here, marking a shadow there. When the light is not available composition takes on a different tone and I find myself relying more on a braille approach where I move around framing the shot using visual clues until it just feels right.

Years ago one of my mentors told me to learn the rules first, then break them. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at first but it does get you into the habit of looking at the whole image instead of just whatever it is that you perceive to be the main subject.

Composition can be aided by so many factors: color, light, lines, vanishing points to name a few. It is an interesting process to look at other mediums in addition to photography and see what draws you in.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on finding your style and developing something that you become known for and I think that this spans across the different mediums, not just photography. Composition and how you see things can play a huge role in this.

January is a great time to look back on the year’s body of work and see what is working and what is not. Think back on those times when someone returns from a trip and you get invited to see the slide show or to look at the photographs and… there are hundreds of them. Nothing has been culled and more than likely, nothing has been edited. This for me is the quintessential difference in being a photographer and being someone who owns a camera.

It’s the start of a brand new year which makes it the perfect time to see where you are at and more importantly where you want to be.

One picture is worth a thousand words…is your voice being heard?