My Exercise In the Dynamics of Composition

The same location yet never the same. Kerry and Rizal Parks are probably the perspectives most photographed of Seattle, and while everyone has seen them, no two days are the same.

Most photographers, especially those whose focus is on landscape photography, may already know this. However, I get asked often, by friends and strangers alike, “why do you keep shooting from the same spot?” The answer is what I like to call, “dynamic composition.” This is the fact that, while some aspects of composition are under a photographer’s control, others are not. You can choose the location, direction and field of view, but other factors, like time of day, season and local weather aren’t. And then there’s light, which can be both relatively static as per the season and time of day, or controlled by the photographer through the use of strobes or, in the case of long exposures, light painting. Just like the addition of light to your scene, the use of ND filters and ND grads can also affect the exposure. Familiarity with a location can allow you to more easily identify the effect on the exposure in a real world scenario.

Landscapes and cityscapes are also subject to the progress of time. Flora lives, grows and dies, leaving the evidence of its existence through the changing of its leaves through the seasons or the fallen trunk or branches after a storm. Architecture also changes, as structures come down or are raised all the time. This affects not only the composition but can be a project all on its own; the simplest being a time lapse to visually document these changes.

So get out there and try new things, and don’t let anyone dissuade you from repeating old compositions because, in the realm of landscapes, that composition is never the same if you don’t want it to be.

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