Shift your viewpoint
Here’s a classic case of bringing order to a complex scene by shifting the viewpoint, and then waiting...
t was the complexity of this sharply lit and highly colourful entrance gate to a Tibetan monastery that attracted my eye, and this made it natural to want to fill the frame with what seemed like a multi-hued mosaic. This became the whole point of the picture, but it also demanded some effort to give it some structure. Busy images like this usually need more work to find a composition that holds them together. In this case, an obvious way to fill the frame was to step back and use a longer lens for its compressing effect – 170mm on a 70-200mm zoom – but it also called for a sideways shift in viewpoint so that the four visual parts of the structure made sense in the way that they fitted together: the ornately roofed piece in the foreground, the low wall in front of that, the background and the doorway.
As the illustration shows, moving the camera position shifts the pieces by parallax. The lynchpin, however, is the figure at the bottom. He’s in silhouette, which will be better defined if I can get the moment in profile. As it’s such a busy frame, he also needs to be outlined against a clear bright part of the scene. There are never any guarantees with this kind of situation – the figure may or may not move into a position that’s useful for your composition – but waiting is important to give it a chance.
Although the mosaic of colours and detail, all sharply focused, confuse the actual physical structures here (partly the point of the image), there are four ‘units’ to consider: the gate behind, the free-standing structure at left, the foreground wall and steps, and the man. Moving around by a couple of metres in any direction controls their arrangement, but the man’s posture was down to chance.