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HomeCOMPOSITION AND ARTThe Importance of Simplicity, Patterns and Details

The Importance of Simplicity, Patterns and Details

When my wife and I are out and about on a photography tour I like to let my mind wander and keep my eyes ‘fresh’ so I don’t get too locked in on one particular type of image composition. We recently spent a couple of weeks in Nova Scotia doing some field work for an eBook project. Since the emphasis of that endeavour is landscape, seascape and shoreline photography we did focus the majority of our time on those subjects. As a result, visits to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, and many small, seaside communities were on our itinerary. Many of the images captured were fairly complex scenes as could be expected. This article shares a couple of dozen photographs that highlight some of the simplicity, patterns and details in Nova Scotia that we experienced and included in some images.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/160, f/8.0

This first image (above) was captured in Peggy’s Cove but it could have just as easily been found in any one of dozens of small fishing villages in Nova Scotia. At first glance this seems to be just a jumble of buoys and coloured ropes but I saw some interesting balance and nice angles in the mayhem. I purposely shot this image from a lower angle so I could frame the buoys and ropes with blue tones top and bottom. To my eye this helped to balance the composition and its colours.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/320, f/8.0

During our two weeks our intent was to circumnavigate much of the province along the coast roads. This led us to many small communities with their churches and the occasional lighthouse. I noticed an expansive field of wild grasses adjacent to the lighthouse above, and hiked out a little bit to compose this image. Having an expanse of grass, an absence of other structures, and a clear blue sky helped create a feeling of simplicity and isolation in the image above.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 94.2mm, ISO 160, 1/1600, f/5.6

Flowers make obvious choices when looking for single, detailed photography subjects. This image above was captured at Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. This particular bloom was in bright sunlight and I certainly appreciated the improved dynamic range and colour depth of my J5’s sensor (compared to my V-Series bodies) as that helped to avoid some blown-out highlights. What caught my eye with this particular flower were the gentle curls of its petals. Being able to frame the blossom off to one side with a standard ‘rule of thirds’ composition, shooting at an angle to the flower to cause some of the petals to go slightly out of focus on the right-hand side, and using a monochromatic green pallet along the right edge of the image, all help guide a viewer’s eye to centre of the flower.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 81.8mm, ISO 400, 1/1000, f/8.0

My wife and I love to get off the beaten path and explore small side roads. One of those explorations led us to an anticipated dead-end, but it did provide an opportunity to photograph this rather unique looking vehicle. I shot this image from a low angle so I could frame the vehicle against a clear blue sky, rather than having some of the farm animals that were in the field on the downside of the slope just past the vehicle, included in the composition.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 31.9mm, ISO 400, 1/400, f/8.0

Speaking of simplicity, how much simpler could an image be than a black, painted shape on a grey metal building? This image above was captured at the harbour in Halifax. Much preferring rural settings, we only spent about an hour and a half in the city of Halifax during our two weeks in Nova Scotia. All of that time was spent in the harbour area capturing a few photographs.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 17.1mm, ISO 160, 1/800, f/8.0

While in the town of Pictou we visited the Hector Heritage Quay. This museum features a replica of the Hector, a sailing ship made famous for its involvement in the first major Scottish migration to Cape Breton Island in 1773. The site also has a number of buildings that replicate settlements of the time. What caught my eye was the convergence of various roof angles and the primary colours of the buildings, resulting in the composition above.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 27.2mm, ISO 1600, 1/40, f/5.6

We spent a number of hours exploring the Fortress of Louisbourg which was originally constructed between 1720 and 1740. This national park is the one of the largest historical reconstructions in the world, featuring a wide selection of buildings and battlements. As I looked at the leg iron captured in the image above I couldn’t help but think about the battles fought between the French and English in this part of Nova Scotia, and what it must have been like to be held captive.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12.1mm, ISO 160, 1/500, f/8.0

I composed the image above while visiting Hector Heritage Quay. It took a bit of time for me to get the framing exactly as I wanted, with the spaces between the boards on the right and left bottom corners both making clean corner exits, and the overlapping boards forming a balanced line in the centre of the frame.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 11.5mm, ISO 160, 1/500, f/8.0

In 2005 the city of Sydney Nova Scotia unveiled the 60-foot, 10 ton giant fiddle pictured in the photograph above. This fiddle celebrates the folk music and traditions of Nova Scotia’s Celtic community, and welcomes cruise ship visitors. The day we were in Sydney a large cruise ship was in port and the area was bustling with throngs of tourists. Rather than capture an image cluttered with people, I decided to create this image from the base of the giant fiddle, shooting up against a bright, blue sky. I like the drama and simplicity of this composition.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/8.0

As we drove along the coast roads in Nova Scotia it was very important to pay attention to fleeting glimpses of beaches etc. along the roadway. I noticed this chair set and table out of the corner of my eye, and doubled back to capture this image. I had to hike down from the road along a rock strewn path to reach this small part of secluded beach. After trying a few different composition approaches I decided to shoot this image from the back of the chairs, looking out over the water. I adjusted my camera’s shooting angle to ensure an unbroken horizon as I felt it added to the feeling of vastness of the water in the scene. I used a ‘curves’ adjustment in CS6 to help bring out the colour of the blue-grey rocks on the beach, helping to create a monochromatic flow between the beach, water and sky, and further accentuating the colours of the chairs and table. An important image framing consideration was to leave an equidistant amount of stone beach on the bottom and left-hand side of the beach chairs.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 52mm, ISO 400, 1/40, f/8.0

The tide was out during the time we were capturing images at Halifax harbour, revealing this pattern of colours and textures. When composing this image I made sure to get in fairly tight to accentuate the strong, vertical lines. I applied some perspective control in OpticsPro to ‘square up’ the lines.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 33.6mm, ISO 160, 1/160, f/5.6

At the beginning of our trip while in Lunenburg (one of only two urban UNESCO World Heritage sites) we had a chance to see the iconic Bluenose II in port, where it was undergoing some maintenance. Then, on the second last day of our photography tour we came upon the Bluenose II once again while at Halifax harbour. I loved the repeating pattern of the name plates on this pair of lifeboats that were on the deck of the Bluenose II and used the bow of one of the lifeboats as the focal point of the photograph.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22.9mm, ISO 800, 1/400, f/8.0

Travelling along the some of the more remote coast roads in Nova Scotia will bring you to many small, fairly isolated communities. The image above was captured at Neil’s Harbour, a small village just off the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 20.3mm, ISO 160, 1/500, f/8.0

My eye is always drawn to repeating patterns and shapes. This image was captured at the Hector Heritage Quay while aboard the replica of the Hector.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 58.3mm, ISO 160, 1/160, f/8.0

This roof-line and dormer image was captured at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Park. To create a smooth contour between the roof line and the dormer I made sure to frame this photograph at a very precise angle where the slope of the dormer flowed directly onto the edge of the roof line. This also enabled the image to achieve a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio between its two fundamental components of sky and roof, and give it a strong sense of balance.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 42.4mm, ISO 160, 1/400, f/8.0

The image above was composed at the Sydney Ferry Terminal, utilizing the shapes directly above the entrance of the building. When composing this photograph I paid special attention to the parallel lines of the structure. I also wanted to achieve a 3-D effect by using one of the circular cut-outs to frame part of the structure behind it. Strong sunlight reflecting off the white painted surfaces helped to define the edges of the structure and add to the desired 3-D effect.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22.9mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/8.0

This carving was found at the Hector Heritage Quay. I used a full image bleed with this composition to create a strong sense of drama and to accentuate the emotion in the carving.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/8.0

From time to time I like to experiment with minimalist compositions. I captured this image at Martinique Beach, shooting up at the grass on some of the beach dunes and framing it against the sky. I used a 50/50 sky to earth ratio to give the composition balance between these two realms.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/8.0

This ‘peek-a-boo’ photograph was captured during our brief visit to the Halifax harbour. I liked the juxtaposition of the modern curved lines of the sculpture revealing an older wooden dock, boat passing by, and classic-looking lighthouse in the distance. As I was initially composing this image the yellow boat entered the frame. I waited until the boat had passed the lighthouse and formed a triangle with it and the other white building in the distance, before capturing this image. This helps to create some balance in the distance.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 25.7mm, ISO 160, 1/30, f/5.6

I loved the strong, concentric lines of this coiled cable. I held my camera out straight in front of me, with the rear screen at a 90-degree angle to compose this image. Applying some micro contrast in post helped to bring out the fine details in the coiled cable.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 31.9mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/5.6

The musket image above was captured at the guardhouse at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Park. I loved the elegant lines of the musket, and when composing the image I made sure to include some of the reddish paint on the frame of the guardhouse door frame to give the image a touch of added colour. This also helps to highlight some of the subtle shading of the wood on the stock and metal details of the musket.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 56.2mm, ISO 160, 1/320, f/8.0

This is another image captured at Hector Heritage Quay. It is one of the carved details on the Hector replica ship. I left some sky on three sides of the carved head to frame it and add to the 3-D effect of the composition. A corner exit in the bottom right was used to add image flow.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 46.1mm, ISO 160, 1/640, f/5.6

This photograph of some rusty, riveted side plating on a ship was captured while shooting at Halifax harbour. I angled my camera to create a strong top-left to bottom-right image flow. A key consideration of the composition are the two, precise corner exits which help bisect the photograph.

NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 31.9mm, ISO 400, 1/320, f/5.6

The final image in this article is of a replica church at the Highland Village located in Iona, Nova Scotia. To me, the beaten, weathered look of this church captured the original pioneering spirit of the settlers of Cape Breton Island…persevering in the face of adversity. I purposely captured this image with a tourist entering the church as I thought that detail helped to signify the importance of area churches as local gathering points. As you drive through various rural Nova Scotia villages you will pass by numerous small, community churches, each having their own unique history and impact on the local area.

Technical Note:

All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. To calculate the equivalent field-of-view when compared to a full frame camera, multiply the focal lengths in the EXIF data by 2.7. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

Article and all images are Copyright 2017 Thomas Stirr, all rights reserved. No use, adaptation or duplication of any kind are allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Readers who call out websites that steal intellectual property by posting comments on offending websites are always appreciated!

#Composition #Travel #TravelPhotography

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The Photograohers
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