Monday, March 29, 2010

6 Revisited

If photography is about anything it is the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world. By virtue of walking through the fields and streets of this planet, focusing on the small and the unexpected, conferring attention on the helter-skelter juxtapositions of time and space, the photographer reminds us that the actual world is full of surprise, which is precisely what most people, imprisoned in habit and devoted to the familiar, tend to forget. - John Rosenthal

The world is one great big photo opportunity. Anywhere you go and everywhere you look, beautiful images abound it's simply a matter of recognizing and recording them. In order to do this effectively, I believe it's worthwhile to periodically review the building blocks of all visual communication: the 6 Elements of Design.

Line, Shape, Space, Value, Color, and Texture -- these are the elements that combine to create the composition, hence the painting, or the sculpture, or any work of art. (Note: for a more informative discussion of the 6 Elements of Design, please see 6 and 15 in the November 2006 archive). As photographers we often become obsessed with capturing "The Moment" while carelessly overlooking all the details that collectively comprise an interesting photograph. If you feel you're in a creative rut and want to challenge the way you're "seeing" or refresh your point of view, try this simple exercise.

Choose any location outdoors. You have 15 minutes and 3 frames (exposures) to produce one solid picture featuring at least one dominant element of design. This activity was designed for Sean McGeeney's 3rd grade class at Hopkins Elementary School in Sherwood, Oregon, after I gave a presentation on the 6 Elements for their yearly art fair project. Using only the playground and adjacent courtyard as their photo sites, the students excelled -- their vision was amazing! I'm now incorporating this exercise into many of my own photo classes.

So, with some time on my hands during a recent fishing (not catching!) trip to the Crooked River, I decided to take the test. Focusing on an orange moss-covered boulder, I quickly discovered a Space of Value bursting with Colors, Lines, Shapes, and Textures offering an abundance of photographic possibilities. I only wished I had more time and maybe a few more frames . . . and I was a third grader again!
. . . a good photograph must have the element of good design: everything within the photograph has to be essential. It's never like a painting where you can have it perfect. It shouldn't be absolutely perfect. That would kill it. - Leonard Freed