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Of all the magical elixirs that make up a successful photograph, composition is perhaps the most fundamental, and at the same time the most elusive. What makes a composition “good”? It’s hard to define exactly, but we instinctively recognize good composition when we see it. There is an undeniable emotional response when a composition resonates with and complements the subject matter of an image.
But traditional attempts to define “good composition” and to pass on rules for good compositional construction are often doomed to failure. The truth is, there are no hard and fast rules. Rules eliminate experimentation and spontaneity, which are crucial for creating compelling, dynamic, and exciting compositions. The best compositions contain an element of the unexpected. “Expect the unexpected!” is perhaps the only viable “rule” of composition. To create exciting compositions, you must have a willingness to embrace serendipity and change as part of your artistic practice. After all, composition is a process, not a result.
Edward Weston once wrote in his Daybooks that “to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.” To this, Ansel Adams added that “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
To resolve these two semi-paradoxes, in this hands-on workshop we will approach composition as an instance of open-ended two-dimensional design. Photographic exercises will start with simple shapes, such as lines and circles, and proceed through patterns and repetitions, and onwards to spirals, fractals, and abstractions. Field sessions will take advantage of the “target-rich” mid-coast Maine scenery. Classroom discussions will be intended to provoke thought about composition basics and continuing to enable individual integration of the process of composition into each participant’s creative practice.
Please bring to the first session twelve of your “best” photographs (digital preferred), a copy of Composition & Photography, and be prepared for some serious creative fun!
Instructor: Harold Davis
Harold Davis is an internationally known photographer and a sought-after workshop leader. According to Popular Photography Magazine, "Harold Davis’s ethereal floral arrangements have a purity and translucence that borders on spiritual." He is a Moab Master and a Zeiss Ambassador.