My Mom used to pull out her Kodak box camera and line up my sisters and me, look through the viewfinder, and when she could see us smiling and looking at the camera, and in the center of the frame, would push the doohickey. One click and we were done till the next photo occasion.
There was no thought having to do with composition other than having everyone in the center of the frame and smiling at the camera. There were no photos made of any other subject and it probably never occurred to her to use the camera for anything other than documenting her kids, friends, and relatives. I remember, but don’t know why I didn’t like those occasions and see that proof in early photos with everyone smiling and me crying or having tears streaming. Perhaps I was making a social comment about Mom’s lack of compositional skills. (But my dear Mom did record her growing family for documentary purposes–that otherwise would be lost.)
When I picked up a camera, I would look through the viewfinder turning the camera this way and that, amusing myself with the difference in perspective that we don’t get in normal non-camera seeing. I recorded some of those seeming strange scenes to see how they looked in prints. (In her frugalness, Mom might comment that I was wasting film–and I probably was.)
In my early photography, I would point the camera at something that caught my interest, and record the moment. My images could be considered ‘documentary’ being that I was merely documenting that something existed. Later, I would learn that through careful arrangement of elements in the viewfinder and choosing conditions, that the image made could tell a story. I got hooked on using graphical descriptions vice verbal.
On a recent excursion across Puget Sound from my home on the Kitsap Peninsula to Seattle, I made this composition. It was one of a few I made as we crossed the foggy-rainy sound with the city coming into view. At first, I concentrated on the texture of the water, then, the rail of the ferry, then as the skyline in the distance started to reveal details, I included it. Just what was the subject and why?
an early rainy gloomy morning trip on a ferry to Seattle across Puget Sound, Washington, USA (Ed Book)
Was it the water–because it was in the center of the frame? (my Mom might think so). Was it the railing–because it was in focus? Was it the city skyline? or was it the mood? In my mind’s eye, what I wanted to depict in this image was a feeling of being secure and looking out at a gloomy day… The security from the in-focus high-contrast railing, and gloom being the low contrast water and distant shore.
In the image, there are points of interest and counterpoints, the cleat on the railing and, of course, the city skyline. I think both are needed to give a sense of place.
But… It wasn’t really foggy or gloomy when I made the image. It was a gray day though with a slight hint of the promise of gloominess–I felt that this image just needed it. So, in Photoshop Lightroom, I used a brush with decreased midtone contrast (“clairity”) and reduced the contrast on everything except the railing. I also darkened the top of the image to duplicate the dark shadow of the railing so the image wouldn’t be too bottom heavy. (Looking at the image now, Ithink I might like the dark band at the top minimized a little.)
What do you think? Did my handling of the image make my point?