Corner to corner
Corners offer a more dynamic and active target for alignment, and bring diagonals into play
WAdd some direction
This image was taken in Yunnan, China, as part of a series on cormorant fishing. This is a traditional method in which cormorants dive to catch fish and return to the boat to disgorge them. From a shooting sequence in which the fisherman releases the bird into the air, this was the strongest image, and it worked because the cormorant flies straight into the upper corner.
The alignment begins with the man and boat in the lower-right corner, and there’s a flowing diagonal line of interest up through the frame that is helped considerably by the man’s arm and wrist as he releases the bird.
Would it have been a better shot if the cormorant’s wings hadn’t clipped the frame? I don’t think so for a moment, and I’m not just making excuses. Apart from the slightly strange but sweet gesture of the man as he releases the bird on its way – which helps the diagonal movement up and to the left – the wings actually close off the upper-left of the frame into a neat triangle that strengthens the composition (as the diagrams to the right illustrate). hile the sides of your frame are already lines that invite some kind of matching with edges or subjects inside, the corners of an image can often work more strongly for alignment. It helps if the corners are ‘clean’ and without clutter, so that they stand out clearly – as in the upper corners of the main image here, which are just sky.
Fitting things into a corner inevitably means working with diagonal lines, which simply have more graphic energy than horizontal and vertical lines. One way to use corners is to take one long subject and align it from one corner to its opposite. Another way is to project the subject into one corner, as seen here. It’s quite a simple technique, and if the pieces fall into place it can be surprisingly effective.
A cormorant takes off to fish on Erhai Lake in Yunnan, China. Tilting the camera slightly makes a broad diagonal of the action, and ensures the bird is heading directly into the upper-left corner, its beak and body pointing the way. Breaking the frame with its outstretched wings, it also creates a strong triangle out of this corner, so emphasising it.