A Tale of Three Compositions

Upon first seeing this water tank, behind the beach at Sanna, Ardnamurchan, I perceived it as an “installation”, some kind of artwork or religious monument. In reality, it is just a water tank, placed high on a hill in order to achieve the greatest head of water when serving the nearby homes.

However, the monumental idea guided me towards its central placement in the frame, where the environment is no more than a setting for the object. I also used the square format, rather than landscape or portrait to make a stable, solid arrangement that also further reduced the quantity of visible background. The low viewpoint also amplifies the sense of it being monumental.

Does this work?

The tower is certainly the largest and most important element in the image, but it seems lacking in breadth and depth of meaning. I feel there is insufficient context available in the square format and its central positioning.

Version 2 has far more visible context, especially in the foreground. The distant mountains, although, in reality, far higher, appear to be below the level of the tower. The Tower seems more dominant, more commanding of its environment.

In this 3rd version it is very much more obvious that the construct is a water tank rather than something of religious or artistic importance. It has become industrial and mundane. The houses now also visible in the frame make the scene feel quite domestic. The tower is still impressive, but its sense of otherworldly power has largely gone.


My first ideas for how to compose this image came out of previous deconstruction exercises where I had turned mundane objects, like a concrete block and a bonfire, into “installations” by using similar techniques. However, in the water tank image they did not work (for me anyway).

Somehow the first composition is confusing. The tower feels more like a geometric shape than a thing. It lacks substance and does not inspire the same complexity of narrative as the other two compositions.

The 3rd composition is better but does not result in the monumental power that I was trying to achieve.

However, the second composition does. In this the tower could be a religious monument, or, some kind of conquering warrior surveying their new domain. The tower has become a statement of power.