Thursday, 6 February 2014

Composition by numbers

On Sunday I had the best part of a full day out with the camera. In the morning I headed to look for twitchers by the coast when the tide was at its peak. I had one shot in mind of a flock of birds flying over twitchers looking elsewhere, but blew every chance I got. The bright sunshine wasn't pleasing me much either. As the tide began to ebb the flocks of birders thinned out too.

After lunch I decided to go and see if I could add to my drainage portfolio, visiting a small pumping station I have idly photographed in the past. The harsh shadows were putting me off and I couldn't get to grips with what I was trying to depict.

It was all too easy to make clich├ęd shots relying on techniques like shallow depth of field, or pictures which were no more than records of the place. Bright sunshine might be thought of as 'good' light but I don't find it to be interesting light.

I wandered off upstream to have a look at a similar pumping station on the opposite bank as the sky clouded over and dusk approached.

Here I tried to make a picture that incorporated more than one relevant element. Whenever I remember I try to include at least three elements of interest in a picture. By taking a high viewpoint I could include the drain that the station pumps into the main river. That gave me two features. I set off back to the car when the sun broke through.

thinking it might improve the picture I wet back and as I did the pump switched on When the pump switched on adding a third feature. The flat fields with distant hills already provided a context and sense of place and space with the pool of water in the field illustrating the need for the pumping station. The picture was becoming more complex, but the sunshine wasn't pleasing me. The atmosphere it gave felt wrong.


I much prefered the simpler, low angle, frame I'd made earlier in flatter light. It seems to set the scene better even if it doesn't say quite as much.


This afternoon the sun was in hiding so I thought it might be worth another hunt for pictures. I left it a bit late to get out and the light faded quickly so my opportunists were limited. However I did get to look around a different area and get some new ideas for the future. Typically, I left the tripod in the car. not to worry, I'm not a perfectionist!

The frame on the left shows the same pumping station from the pictures above. Again I tried to show three significant elements. These are the pumping station, the drain, and the tyre tracks in the foreground mud. A greater depth of field might have been nice. But I had to bump up the ISO and had hold. Praise be for vibration reduction. Sometimes technology helps you get the shot - or a shot.

One thing with pursuing projects is that you have to think of how pictures will, or can, work with other pictures. It's not a case of making single 'stunning' images. The aim is a collection of images which work as a whole to tell a story or draw a bigger picture.

Looking through all my images tagged with drainage and irrigation from the last few years I've found over 70 which are relevant. Some are variations on a theme, there's a need for alternatives. A landscape orientation might not fit in a set as well as the same view in portrait orientation.

Going through the older pictures has got me thinking and given me a direction to take this project. Or some gaps to fill in if nothing else.

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