mm: Thanks for jumping in the pond
.Before I say anything specific, let me pontificate about some general elements of photography
(maybe even art, though without a camera, any attempt at art by me would be hopeless). First, "rules" (or I prefer "guidelines," because they don't seem so carved in stone) are made to be broken. Second, having said that, it is important to have a firm grasp of the guidelines before you do break them - and when you break them, you can then do so purposely (or at least knowingly). One really important guideline, in my view is to make sure your horizon is level (which, I believe you have done very well in both images). I am astounded at how many facebook images of sunsets I see where there is a lake in front of it - which should be physically impossible, because looking at the horizon, the lake tips so far to the left or right that it should drain!
Another firm guideline in my mind is the "placement" of the horizon. Most
of the time, placing a horizon dead center is something to be avoided. Middle of the image placement is static and "boring," One particular time this rule is often broken is in reflection images. You have to think about what in the image is the "horizon" and where you place it specifically every time you compose an image. If you don't, I believe our eye/mind has a tendency to place it centered.
Likewise (note that I mentioned this in the photo posted by Janice), placement of the subject (or central elements) in the center of the image is also something to be avoided (something I call the "bullseye" effect). It is again often static and can make an image look like a "snapshot." In my experience, "portraiture" (including human and wildlife subjects) can and often does, successfully avoid this guideline. But landscape images, in my view, demand careful attention to placement of elements within the frame.
Many cameras have a feature in the viewfinder or the frame usually referred to as grid lines. I set mine to divide the frame into thirds (which most of my cameras have not successfully really done - but close enough). There are 4 points where these grid lines intersect that I use as guidelines
for placement of elements.
Most images have a clear subject. Good composition thinks about how to best put the subject at the center of the viewers attention. There are many ways to do that. Sometimes we do it with focus. Sometimes the good lord does it for us with lighting or other elements (though it is still our stewardship obligation to correctly use and place these things - don't ya like how I got my Sunday Sermon in there, too
). In doing this, we want to try to avoid wide expanses of things that have no photographic or compositional interest (though this may be the guideline I break the most often). Using things like foreground and background elements, and leading lines, gives the image 3-D Texture. I think Al has the best explanation and approach to this when he explains how he likes to see a foreground, a middle ground and a background with clear and well thought out elements (easier for us to say than to demonstrate).O.k. There's probably more - but to the specifics
For the reasons above, I like what you have done with the composition of the second image better than the first. The ditch in the foreground gives some interest and adds a leading line into the image. The placement of those beautiful white marshmellows (UGH! I absolutely hate what white vinyl has done to the Vermont landscape - but I "get" why the farmers do it), at a diagonal continues the lead in to the barn, which is, in my view the subject. You have Al's three zones, the foreground, the barn and the mountains receding off in the distance. Horizontally, you have placed the barn away from the direct middle, and the large golden Maple to its left gives the image "balance." I also note another thing going on here: Balance in composition often depends upon "weight." The barn is very large and the tree is smaller. But the bright color of the large tree and the red tree further to the left give--because of their relative brightness and "eye-interest" equal weight.HOWEVER
(damn lawyers, always using that word), I look at this image and ask: where is the horizon. Some would say its the sky above the mountains. I would still look at the point where the eye expects things to begin
to recede off into the distance as the "horizon" of the image. To me that is the point somewhere behind the barn where the farm field "stops" and the tree line begins. And that is still almost dead center. Some are going see that is perfectly fine. I am not saying it is "wrong." And sometimes you just cannot help where it is if there are other important elements which must be included in the image. In this image, I think you could still crop more of the foreground, which would have the effect of moving that line down into the bottom third of the image, without losing any of the leading elements' impact on the foreground.
Is there anything missing in this image? It stands on its own as a nice image, but the dramatic sky in the first image is where its all happening in my view!
So, lets look at the first image. First of all: The SKY!!!! There an old film photographer's saying: "F8 and be there." Al says: "You have to get to work on time." In other words, you caught it because you were there at the right time (not really totally unplanned. You knew it was the right time of day, so you went and hoped Mother Nature would be cooperative - and clearly she was). Great capture.HOWEVER
), this is where those pontifical guidelines above come in. 1/2 of this image is the green grass in the foreground. There are some nice leaves on the left, but not strong enough in my view, to create a dramatic foreground. And the green expanse in front of the barn detracts from the "real" image here, in my view. It makes the composition static and there is simply too much "uninteresting" green expanse.
If you crop that green expanse somewhere just below the ditch in the foreground (to your taste), I think it totally transforms this image. The subject, here, is still barn -- right? The sky is just a magically delicious element that sets the barn in that little slice of heaven that is Vermont landscape. We still keep the leaves on the ground at the right foreground. We also move the horizon way into the bottom 1/3 of the image, and give that magnificent sky some breathing room.
Horizontally, I think you've done a great job of balancing the elements again. Again, there is enough "weight" in the bright maple and the barn and buildings, to offset the larger trees on the right. When you make my suggested crop, do you see that the image takes on an almost panoramic look? Brings up another point. It is one that I struggle with a lot. Our cameras give us a certain shape "box" to work with. I don't think outside the box well
. But that is exactly what I am suggesting here. This will not result in an aspect ratio that is "normal" for your camera. And it may not fit - if printed - into a "standard" mat/frame dimension. But that is boxing us in. More and more, I am cropping to "look" rather than trying to stay inside my 35mm "box." James Moore, who is a pro that I have learned a huge amount from over the past 2 years, points out that we are working with digital tools and there is no reason we cannot take our images in separate "parts" and then blend them together when we get home (kind of like the way a panoramic is done, but his point is that it doesn't have to be limited to one direction). I need to start working that thought process more into my own shooting habits
In both of these images, there are some post-processing things that could be done to make the image stand out a bit, but I think these are just such great examples of composition, that that is where I concentrated my remarks.
My comments are my opinion, only. They are not "right" and they are not "wrong." That's what makes each of us the artist. I appreciate the opportunity to look at, review, and even critique the work of others. Having to think about these things and articulate them is as much a learning experience for the critiqer as for the critiquee. Thanks for these MM. Hope you'll keep doing this. I have not had a lot of time for my own processing lately, but in the coming weeks, I'll try to toss out a few more of my own images.