Ross Hoddinott on... Light & composition
“There is no such thing as the perfect composition – how you best arrange and balance the elements within a scene is a very personal and subjective thing. Some of my photographs are pre-visualised, while others are opportunist shots. Experience helps – the more images you take, the more your style and taste grow defined.
“Planning and preparation are important, particularly with coastal photography. For example, tide height can have a huge impact on a seascape, either revealing key interest or allowing you to obscure uninteresting areas of foreshore. Therefore, I always consult a tide table. I live in north Cornwall and know my local beaches well – and an intimate understanding of a location will help you realise its full potential and character. When composing your shots, trust your instincts. While it is important to be aware of the rules of composition, don’t be governed by them.
“Although the majority of successful landscapes adhere to the rule-of-thirds in one way or another, I rarely consciously follow rules. Instead, I try to compose images intuitively in order to achieve the most harmonious and balanced frame. I’m not worried either way if my shots adhere to the rules or not. Composition is more a ‘feeling’ then a conscious process. As always, light is important – it can make or break your shots and help dictate mood. Coastal landscapes don’t always need great light, though. The motion, texture and flow of waves can adequately compensate for a lack of light. Overcast conditions can generate great mood, and suits long exposures.
“Good shots are possible throughout the day, but the atmosphere of dawn and dusk will normally create the best shooting conditions, and are my favourite times of day to head to the coast.”
Above Ross’ shot of Sandymouth Bay has strong compositional elements.
Left Ross consults tide tables before shoots. The Tides Planner app is a very useful tool.