Composition of a Volcano: You Keep Shooting with Bryan Peterson
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Composition of a Volcano: You Keep Shooting with Bryan Peterson

September 14, 2019

Look when it comes to landscape photography there is a rule that I really, really, really want to stress follow it almost religiously. You can have the occasional religious doubt be my guest but for the most part believe. Believe in the rule of thirds. Okay it’s particularly when it comes to the landscape. One of the most common problems people have when it comes to landscape is where they’re putting their horizon line and let me just give an example I’m here in Hood River Oregon it’s a beautiful summer day on the roadside ditches along the way. We’ve got some purple veg and there sits mountain Hood in the background. Now let’s set this up. I’m shooting f/22 why because it’s a storytelling image. Everything I want to be sharp I’m at about 35mm on the focal length and here’s classic, classic, bullseye and split horizon line. We got half sky, half flowers and of course the mountain right smack-dab in the middle. For the most part this is pretty common execution by a lot of amateur photographers. So how do we improve it? You might be thinking to yourself, I wouldn’t touch a thing. Well I’m going to make a suggestion that you do. Consider in the first part coming down low okay we’re going to put more emphasis on those flowers, we’re going to move just to touch, a bit I’m going to bring these flowers out over here just a little bit higher, over there which I can do. I am after all in charge of my composition and with the mountain off-centered a bit. Take a look at the new composition. We’ve moved that horizon line near the top third and the reason is, is because interest is greatest in my estimation in the lower two-thirds that being the veg the purple flowers and that one’s there regardless and the sky is nice too but let’s really emphasize the foreground, so we give it more time and attention in the overall frame, but before we move on I want to stress one more thing and that is this, with so many compositions that you’ll come across you must pay attention to the fine print as I refer to this in my book Bryan Peterson’s Field Guide to Understanding Composition and that fine print means simply this, you see the big huge ads in the newspaper or on the internet as the case might be and it said 80% off and you think wow I’m heading down the store now and you didn’t read the fine print you get down there you find out it’s 80% off on one specific item or on one specific size or it’s 80% off in the year 2019 yeah something like that there’s always a fine print and you end up being disappointed, well you have fine print in a lot of your pictures believe it or not, and we have one here. I’m not sure if any of you noticed it but it’s what we call a subtle contrast shift it’s a very small thing but let me point it out to you. Take a look, it’s right here, right there okay? That’s got to go so I’m going to remove it and now that it’s gone let’s take a look one more time another photo and action okay. Take a look at that, look at the two images side-by-side. The one with the fine print and the one without the fine print. I think you’ll agree your eye no longer goes to the fine print, again it’s the small things that will come back and haunt you when it’s all said and done. You’re excited to get the big picture and you didn’t look at the small little details before pressing that shutter so just something to keep in mind and until next time this is Bryan Peterson reminding all of you to read the fine print and you keep shooting.

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  1. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! So many people say "Rules are made to be broken." Yes, but only you have fully mastered the rules, and no, I haven’t as yet. Not verbatim but Picasso said something like "I had to learn to paint like a master before I could paint like a child"

  2. I prefer the first shot less cluttered and sharper. It looks like you added some "Fine Print" towards the end or did you post the images in reverse order?

  3. Bryan would it make sense to zoom somewhat closer so you had less of a sky to worry about and more of flowers + mountain? Fill in the frame?

  4. Great presentation by a great presenter.I have gained so much from watching Adorama and Brian Peterson.
    Look forward to more.Thank you.

  5. Dear Bryan, this time I honestly couldn't follow your words. I have no idea what you removed from the veg for the final shot and I just couldn't take my eyes of it in the comparison, because it was displayed larger than the shot before on the left hand side :/

  6. IMO the shot would have been stronger with all of the flowers in focus, and letting it fall off towards the mountain. Great shot either way though.

  7. I would have used a line of those circles in the background by walking out too them and then line them up pointing to the mountain. Might be really interesting! Keep on shooting!!!!

  8. Mr Peterson's book Understanding exposure was the first book I bought to start my photography journey in 2008. It's still one of the best decisions I've made. I'm glad to see he's still st it.

  9. I'm guessing now but would "fine print" be something small that should not be in the composition. Like something in the foreground blocking something in the background??

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