Up to now I have been identifying “successful” images and trying to analyse why I considered them successful. I will now look at others that failed to appeal to me once I had made them. At the time I thought they would be great but later they were not.
I include some images that, by my criteria, are a longer-term success as a comparison.
The light here was spectacular, and I thought the juxtaposition of the seats half buried by snow would be interesting rather than just a record.
It wasn’t intuitive. I had a “Belief” that this image would work. However, the spectacle and narrative are insufficient to create an emotional connection for me. It is a good record of the moment but little more. It is too obvious and lacking in intrigue.
This image is better. It was also based upon a “Belief” that a good image
was to be found in these fences. There is an element of intrigue in why this awkward and varied collection of fences plus the wall are here and what is beyond the frame. However, I found myself having to make the light more dramatic to focus attention on the shapes rather than the surroundings. The basic composition is not simple, nor strong, enough to provide the mood I was hoping for. Perhaps this is due to the inherent 3-dimensional, realistic perspective of the image resulting from the lack of horizon and the front to back gradation in light levels. It is also an unusually romantic style of image for me.
Conversely, this next image, of the fumarole at Reykjanes, is very simple and certainly not romantic. The foreground is wide but almost empty of complexity. Then there is a narrow band of subjects, the fumarole, the wooden staging and the intrigue of a disappearing bus. Beyond that is a horizon and space but little further information. Despite being bright the light is not spectacular. It is very even and lacking in contrast. Consequently, this image is more 2-dimensional than 3d. The perspective is quite flat in comparison to the above and the image has an unreal feel to it as well as a strong narrative potential.
I believe the composition of this image of a temple at Paestum, Italy, works for the same reasons as the image above. All the interest is in the middle of the frame. What is beyond those trees? Maybe a void?
However, I find the clouds a little too detailed and demanding of attention. I think this image would be more powerful with a simpler sky.
Despite the far simpler sky, this next image does not work as well for me.
The composition is good by traditional standards. The light is dramatic and perspective depth is obvious. This is not a 2-dimensional image. It is an interesting record of a place but has little intrigue within the image itself. It is not about the place nor is it about the photographer’s emotions. All the narrative potential comes from the viewer’s knowledge of the history of the subject, not from the photograph itself.
Here are pairs of images to demonstrate the differences between compositions that are “records” versus those that have intrigue and or capture something of the photographer.
This first, of Kalfshammarvik lighthouse, is dramatic, spectacular and records the moment well.
The angle of the waves and of the lighthouse both emphasize the 3-dimensionality of the scene. However, it does not satisfy me as much as the next image, of the same lighthouse. Both images were taken within minutes of each other.
The drama of the light and waves has been replaced by a calm, quiet, stillness. The lighthouse is now facing the viewer and is centred so the image appears more 2-dimensional. The path, snaking its way up the image should counteract the 2d effect but instead just leads the viewer.
The lighthouse could now be a sculpture or perhaps a religious monument (is that a cross at the bottom?), whereas in the previous image its function was obvious.
This image of a derelict house at Eyvik, north Iceland works, for me, by showing calm, silence, and loneliness but its narrative could be enhanced with some additional information.
The small addition of the snow and increased detail for the ditch in the foreground, now provides a barrier to the viewer that enhances the sense of isolation of the house. This is similar to the effect in the painting “House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper.
This image was an attempt to juxtapose the remains of a WWII building against the Sullom Voe Oil terminal. It was a rare (for me) “pre-visualised” image. It has turned out the way I had planned but fails to excite me emotionally.
As with the earlier image of the fences in the woods, it is very much a 3d image and also needed a lot of brightening and darkening of different areas to create a mood that was not present at the time.
This is a wind turbine on Yell. The lighting here is spectacular and very much the reality at the time. It was an “intuitive” composition based around the narrative of a soldier leading his troops into action.
As with the image of Sullom Voe I think it is a good traditional image with its dramatic lighting but it no longer excites me. I think that is because I find the spectacular lighting too demanding of attention, and this somehow becomes a barrier to appreciating the subtler aspects, like calm and silence, and the narrative potential of the image.
The image below is not excitingly lit or dramatic, yet, for me, it says far more about place and its isolation. I realise now that the size of the main subject in the frame is part of this effect. The large size of the turbine, which is above my viewpoint implies that it has power and control. Whereas, the small size of the turbines below, almost appearing to hide behind the shed, implies a timidity that is reinforced by the vast expanse of their landscape.
These images were taken from locations just a few metres but 2 days apart. They convey very different messages. One is of the turbines taking over and the other of a much more benign presence, that, if anything, adds interest to the landscape. They demonstrate how very different messages can be contrived by small changes in viewpoint and using another quality of light.
I find dramatic, spectacular light can be a barrier to revealing the subtler moods and narratives that I want to convey in my images.
Similarly, too strong a depth perspective is itself a source of compositional drama that distracts from moods and narratives. I tend to prefer compositions that have little depth and are almost 2-dimansional.
The size of the primary subject in the frame can determine whether the subject is the story or whether the story is its relationship to the environment. Size and angle of view are both key to the power relationship between the viewer and the subject.