On composition and snowboarding…

and how light affects them both.


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?

10 thoughts on “On composition and snowboarding…”

  1. No, my voice is just a whisper as yet. I’m one that just owns a camera. But in this new year of 2016 I will strive to do better, your wise words being my helper. Thank you.

  2. Oh, good, I’ve been waiting for another horse picture. It’s a great one. And I’m imagining how you managed to get the picture, or maybe the horse was curious about you, too? It’s clear that you love animals, and the individuality of each one you photograph shines through so wonderfully.

  3. I think that Composition is often considered an ‘Advanced’ skill in photography. While the novice photographer (sometimes) struggles to learn the complexities of aperture and shutter speed, the mystery of what makes a photo visually appealing may not get the attention it deserves. It’s one thing to read those ‘rules’ and another to translate them into an internalized guide that will assist the eye, brain and heart in working together as a unit. I like your term ‘braille approach’ and use it with camera in hand and during post-production. Lately I’ve been trying to ‘limit’ myself, taking fewer shots, trying to make each shot really ‘count’. I very much appreciate this blog, Sheryl. It encourages me to slow down and think about my photography.

    1. Very well said. Slowing down can make a huge difference. I always tell people get the shot and then, work the shot if you’re able. How can you make it better? Appreciate you taking the time to comment.

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