Here are some possible ‘eye tracks’ which may result from the placement of the point object. I have no way of knowing whether they would be true for any number of people but they seem plausible, based on my assumption that the eye of the viewer is most likely to be drawn to the lighter, shinier object first. Having started there, it may be that a connection is established with the next object ‘further into’ the frame and having examined that, other similar objects may attract attention. Continue reading
The purpose of this exercise is to see how the compositional element ‘point’ behaves within the frame. A point is small by comparison to other elements. It’s not big enough to be a ‘shape’, but by virtue of its positioning and size it has a disproportionate effect on the image. To be effective the point must be distinct and stand out from its surroundings. In practice this usually means that it will be lighter in tone but where the image is generally higher key it may be darker. The position of the point within the frame can draw the viewer’s attention to a particular area or induce eye movement in its direction. In this way the point affects the viewing dynamics and in particular the way the eye may travel within the bounds of the frame.
Although the image above illustrates the basic criteria for a ‘point’ – small, lighter, not a shape… it doesn’t really work as a compositional element because it has nothing else to work with. The sea and sky are flat and there’s nothing for the point to influence. I made it monochrome because the original colours were yellow (buoy) and blue (sea,sky) and that undermined the contrast. I didn’t intend to produce an example of ‘how not to use point’ but I can see now that is the case.
This one’s a bit better because it has the identity of a point and it has something to work with – it acts as an effective counterweight to the curve of land even though it is a good deal smaller in size. It also prevents the sea from swishing off the bottom right hand corner of the frame, acting as an anchor for the eye.
Where a number of points fall in any reasonably coherent direction the eye is inclined to follow the incipient line, in the above instance from the larger central point through to the rightmost, then away to the left. Again the example would have been more effective had there been a destination for the eye but no vessel obliged.
The idea of the excercise is (I think) to see how the positioning and relative size of a ‘point’ element affects the balance of the composition. But It’s difficult to frame a particular image with the point in different places because the other elements within the frame move around too. This only applies when making comparative exposures of course; in the real world a composition is unlikely to make use of roaming points for effect.
No shortage of navigational marks for me. Moving this one around has no comparative effect because there is so much change in the rest of the image. The only effect I perceive is that it spoils a rather nice ‘view’.
Having noticed this I set out to make a series where the frame remained static but the ‘point’ assumed different positions. The frame was chosen to include some compositional elements – the large stones and the lighter bits between them (tree bark). The ‘point’ is the inner from a 3 litre wine-box. Imagine the difficulty I had finding one of those. Here are the photographs; although the framing remains the same the point unavoidably changes in size within the frame as it is moved further away from the camera. Putting that aspect to one side, some notable changes occur as the point assumes its various positions.
Has a noticeable relationship with the centre stone Suggests unseen content outside the frame
‘Weights’ the otherwise empty lower right, forms eye tracks with the stone and the wall rock
Looks hesitant, mimics shape and size of centre rock. Adjacency implies an association with other elements
Looks ridiculous – forms a nonsensical compound shape Invites direct comparison between the two elements
As above right Just looks silly and contrived
Provided it is noticeable and tonally contrasted (or colour contrasted) a point seems to have an influence on the composition despite its relative size. In fact it may well be the smallness which accentuates the effect. Natural point such as faces are an obvious example. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the ‘point’ of a face; it is often lighter, smaller and in contrast with the surrounding elements. The placement of the point relative to the frame edge is influential. Should the edge transect the point it may suggest activity or content lying outside the frame. There are some places where the point looks decidedly unbalaced in relation to the frame as in the ‘pendulous’ placement above.
Dundee, Scotland, 1959; Michael Peto
The photograph above is, I feel, an excellent example of the point in action. Here the white bowl is a direct counterbalance to the grey monotony of the left half of the image as well as echoing the shapes of the faces turned towards the camera. The crop decision on the right frame edge is interesting – it allows the viewer to see the other side of the wall and may not have been deliberate but it emphasises the ‘lean’ of the brickwork, hemming in the figures even more. This point appears dominant and illustrates the assertion:
In simple images it is possible for points to exist as independent elements. However most photographs are complex enough that the point will typically coexist with other points, lines and shape. In such cases points can exist either as dominant elements or subordinate ones. A point is dominant if its importance to the subject matter and its position in the image determines the overall effect of the image. Photography The Art of Composition; Bert Krages, Allworth Press 2005