Shapes and forms that link one subject to another can add interest to your images, explains Michael Freeman
How shapes and forms that link one subject to another can add interest to your images
Agood half of the creative paths that I’m proposing this year have to do with composition. While other ingredients that go into a photograph, like lighting and timing, aren’t always under your control, composition normally is. Unless you find yourself totally stuck in one shooting position with one focal length, there is always something you can do to frame and compose in your own way.
This month’s creative path is what I call a graphic echo, which is about finding some purely graphic correspondence between two things in the frame. It’s one of those compositional techniques that’s obvious once it’s been pointed out, but which doesn’t happen by accident. It demands that you reserve a small part of your attention to be on the lookout for visual connections.
A Chinese aesthetic
In this case the situation was certainly planned, but the echo, which the illustration highlights, became obvious only at the moment it happened. In retrospect, if I’d thought carefully about it in advance, I might have been able to anticipate it. As it was, the movements of the arm and hand simply fell into place in front of the camera. This was a commercial shoot for a Chinese client in Chongqing, and we were both filming and shooting stills (with the same camera, a D4). The subject was kung fu master Chang Ying, and I needed a backdrop against which to shoot him as he performed a tai chi routine. Fortunately, right next to the client’s premises in an area of natural hot springs is an old, venerated temple, Wen Quan. Scouting the area early in the morning I found this drum tower, and in front of it, like a proscenium, a platform. On a wet, misty morning, the light was ideal, and the heavy atmosphere pushed back the drum tower nicely, providing good separation. It was one of those happy occasions where all you have to do is lock down the camera and shoot. This made it all the better when about a minute into his three-minute set Chang Ying turned camera left and executed this particular movement. Out of nearly a hundred frames, this was clearly the one. The graphic echo took the image up one extra level.
The way the subject’s gesture echoes the two rooflines is obvious once it’s been pointed out
If you enjoy this article and want to learn more, there are 50 more paths to be discovered in Michael’s new book Fifty Paths to Creative
Photography (NB: all 50 are different from those that will be featured here in the magazine)