Ross Hod­dinott on... Light & com­po­si­tion

Practical Photography (UK) - - Coastal Masterclass -

“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.

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