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03/15/2010 08:42:02 PM · #1
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by 21.gif wheeledd

I had plans to post this tread from the very first moment I saw this image at the Fine Arts Challenge. I was just waiting for the Juried Results to go ahead.

Let me start by telling you my interpretation of Fine Art.
- I really donít care much about sharpness and other technical issues as long as the final result works as a great composition. So, my definition of fine art is:

Fine Art = Fine Composition.

Composition building up of harmony is the fundamental process for a great work of art. Now, how to identify a fine composition? Easy! You just need your eyes and your sensibility. Itís 1 million times much easier to identify a fine composition than to execute it. An educated eye easily captures the harmony inside any composition. But to have an educated eye you need to watch and spend some time studying and learning from the masters. Yes, itís the only way, just like any other thing in life; you must exercise and work hard to be better. But letís be more precise about these arguments.

A composition is build of:
1. Lines - the structure (just like the structure of a building or your skeleton)
2. Shapes - ďfrom Dark to LightĒ (the quantity of light reflected or the massing of tones of different values)
3. and Color.

All these 3 elements combined together are the key of any composition. Mastering the way to deal with them is mastering composition and creating fine art.

Lines/Structure in a composition is the easiest element to deal with. You already are familiar with rules of thirds (a simplified solution from the Golden Ratio). The first place on this challenge (voted by the members) is a good example of a composition made almost with lines. When you start to add Shapes, things start to complicate for the artist (for the viewer too) because shapes have weight and you need to carefully balance them in your brain. Adding color is the most difficult element in a composition. Itís really difficult to control color and have all the composition balanced. This is the reason most photographers, even the best ones, donít work with color. They canít control it and itís better to leave it out of their work. Photographers are more comfortable with shapes/light. On the other hand, painters are very comfortable with color and that is the reason why the great masters of painting are colored guys and the great masters of photography are grayed guys ;) Photoshop is changing this, and the next generation of masters will be composed of photographers working with color. A fine composition with color is one step ahead from a fine composition without color. The problem is to control it, with fine precision, at a master level, like the great masters of painting.

But letís examine the image:

1. Lines.
Iíll use the Golden Ratio for the Lines:
hidden.png
As you can see, the structure of this image is perfect and very solid. The great harmony that you can find on it comes from this rigor. Background and almost all elements on it are supported by the lines of this amazing and classical structure. There are other structures, but the Golden Sections are one of the best for perfect harmony.

2. Shape.
The best way to build shapes is to fill the spaces on the structure. Dynamic can be achieved connecting corners with diagonals creating new spaces to be filled. The shapes on this composition are distributed almost evenly, with the main subject symmetrically positioned at the center giving a strong impression of serenity. The idea to not put the main subject at the center is a false and bad advice. In a composition balance is the key! and that means having the eyes of the viewer crossing the center of the image from one side to the other and going back to start all over again without leaving the picture. The way you achieve that is up to you. As you can see here, the image/composition isnít static and itís easy to stay looking at for more than the usual amount of time you spend with many ribbon winners.
hidden.pngCopyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_861021.jpg

3. Color.
It was a great decision to leave color very subtle to not loose the calm harmony. The warm tones are very well connected and the amount of strong red is perfectly balanced with the dark green. I really think (at this point) that the composition could go far with more color, but that means other background and more problems to solve with the risk of loosing the fine balance.
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_861022.jpg

Just to finish, I must say that I donít like the subject/theme on this image, but it is a great composition and I couldnít gave less than a 10 to show my recognition and support to the photographer (you can read my comment during the voting dates).

Hope more Fine Art Challenges will occur, in the near future, on a regular basis.

~Jorge

PS1: Please feel free to find good examples of composition, examine them (Lines are the easiest) and post them here for discussion about composition. We all have a lot to learn about this subject and maybe this will help to clarify what the hell is Fine Art.

PS2: There are some good software out there that helps with lines/structures: Atrise, PhiMatrix and a photoshop plug-in PowerRetouch

Edited to Hidden the images

Message edited by author 2010-03-16 16:09:17.
03/16/2010 07:36:13 AM · #2
Bumping for the East Crew
03/16/2010 08:03:50 AM · #3
Thanks for the tips. Very interesting and I need all the help I can get.
03/16/2010 08:20:21 AM · #4
Le Manmoiselle D'Oxygen -Pablo De Sousa

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_861022.jpg

I find one of the images greatest strengths in composition is the leaden placement and posture of the subject. It heightens the burden. It's a reasonably simple choice and perfect in it's simplicity but nothing more is needed. Great post.

Message edited by author 2010-03-16 08:38:06.
03/16/2010 08:29:03 AM · #5
Originally posted by pawdrix:



I find one of the images greatest strengths in composition is the leaden placement and posture of the subject. It heightens the burden. Great post.


Yes, that is what sold the image to me as well. The image leapt from the thumbnails when voting first started for me, and it was that tired and resigned/accepting posture that did it. Lacking a better way of explaining things, it brought dignity to the indignities of age.
03/16/2010 11:22:39 AM · #6
Beautiful post, Jorge. I second everything you say, 'cept you said it better than I could have.

R.
03/16/2010 11:55:01 AM · #7
Thank you very much, Jorge, for this analysis. I was not aware of all of this as I took the picture.

I did take about 30 shots in three batches to get this image. After each batch, I loaded the images into the computer to look at them. Then I went back and tweaked the setup to improve the image.

This is "my" chair in our living room. That aspect is realistic, but of course I don't usually sit there naked. I also don't normally have the oxygen cylinder next to me. When I am at home, my oxygen is provided by a concentrator that looks something like a dehumidifier. I use the cylinder only when I go out. I needed it in the image as a symbol that people would recognize as oxygen.

The centered composition with balanced sides is very deliberate. I'm squarely in the middle with the lamp and oxygen tank balancing the sides.

I switched tables for the image. The table that is normally next to my chair was too colorful and ornate. It upset both the compositional balance and the color balance so I used another table from across the room.

~~Dan

03/16/2010 12:23:42 PM · #8
I still don't appreciate this photo as fine art, nor as art necessarily, per my comment on it. I don't find the composition technically perfect nor particularly engaging (despite the helpful technical decomposition Jorge posted). I am encouraged that I don't particularly like this photo, and can find fault with it, as it seems to be putting me on the outside of popular opinion once again -- and that's a good thing. :)
03/16/2010 12:33:44 PM · #9
The conscious part of my mind doesn't enjoy this image but that back part of my brain say that this is kinda cool. I certainly appreciate it as art thought I may not actually like it if that makes any sense.
I guess I like it in an artistic sense but not an aesthetic sense?

Message edited by author 2010-03-16 12:34:01.
03/16/2010 12:52:28 PM · #10
A hundred years ago, certain painters abandoned representation entirely. Some hoped for the purity that De Sousa implies in his breakdown of composition to objective rules.

This purity is never achieved. Pure abstraction is never achieved. Why? Because we have brains. We think about stuff. We feel stuff. There is no aesthetic sense entirely distinct from our animal nerves and guts.

There is no element in the visual arts that is more important than composition. However, composition itself will never be sufficient to gauge a work of art. A work of art will always contain a web of meaning. It simply cannot be avoided. And art must be judged by how technical qualities like composition interact with those meanings. And because those meanings are subjective, changeable between individuals, cultures and eras, the judgment of art will always be subjective. *NOT* worthless, *NOT* arbitrary, but subjective and debatable, always.

The composition is balanced, *why* is it balanced? The composition is unbalanced, *why* is it unbalanced? The composition keeps your eyes in the frame, why? The composition leads your eyes out of the frame, why? This is how art is critiqued.
03/16/2010 04:30:02 PM · #11
Originally posted by wheeledd:

I was not aware of all of this as I took the picture.

I did take about 30 shots in three batches to get this image. After each batch, I loaded the images into the computer to look at them. Then I went back and tweaked the setup to improve the image.

This is "my" chair in our living room. That aspect is realistic, but of course I don't usually sit there naked. I also don't normally have the oxygen cylinder next to me. When I am at home, my oxygen is provided by a concentrator that looks something like a dehumidifier. I use the cylinder only when I go out. I needed it in the image as a symbol that people would recognize as oxygen.

The centered composition with balanced sides is very deliberate. I'm squarely in the middle with the lamp and oxygen tank balancing the sides.

I switched tables for the image. The table that is normally next to my chair was too colorful and ornate. It upset both the compositional balance and the color balance so I used another table from across the room.

~~Dan

Dan,
Your words say a lot about all the work you putted on the composition and fine tunning it. For sure you don't need to have lines to build your setup and you can just follow your intuition and your sense of harmony, but one thing is for sure; the structure must be there, and it must be solid and harmonious for the picture to work. I just made a quick analyse to validate what my eyes saw at first sight.
03/16/2010 05:06:57 PM · #12
Originally posted by Louis:

I don't particularly like this photo, and can find fault with it :)


It's also possible that the image is finding fault with you...?

I'm not trying to argue with you here but keeping with composition...there might have been a better choice but I don't see one, as the simple choice he made was quite effective. I mean, rule of thirds(?), shot from above or at a lower angle would not really improve on the image or choices that he made. It ain't dazzling but should anything about the image be dazzling...if you get my drift. One of the nice things about the picture is it's stark simplicity.

It's not an artistic manifesto (or maybe it is?) but the power of the shot lies somewhat in it's bare nature...pardon the pun.
03/16/2010 05:09:04 PM · #13
Originally posted by De Sousa:

Dan,
Your words say a lot about all the work you putted on the composition and fine tunning it. For sure you don't need to have lines to build your setup and you can just follow your intuition and your sense of harmony, but one thing is for sure; the structure must be there, and it must be solid and harmonious for the picture to work. I just made a quick analyse to validate what my eyes saw at first sight.


It just like the relation ship of prosody to poetry. Pedantic (some would say anal) poets and appreciators-of-poetry will take the concept of, say, an iambic pentameter and measure the lines against it and judge the work based on its faithfulness to the prosodic "ideal", which is exactly backwards.

Prosody, and its visual equivalent, the artistic "rules of composition", are valuable primarily as an after-the-fact measuring tool. If a verse, or a composition, seems "right" then it's very, very useful to have tools by which we can measure it and find out *why*. How else can we discuss, how else can we learn, how else cane we evaluate and progress?

I'm with Dan, in the sense that I've never known a meaningful artist or poet that created from a template. I'm with Jorge, int he sense that his reasoned analysis of *why* the image is so successful is an immensely useful exercise, and we all ought to be engaging in this sort on analysis on a regular basis, IMO.

R.
03/16/2010 06:04:10 PM · #14
Originally posted by pawdrix:

Originally posted by Louis:

I don't particularly like this photo, and can find fault with it :)


It's also possible that the image is finding fault with you...?

I was very impressed with something an English lit teacher once told us many years ago... very Nietzschean I think.... "When you read that book, remember that it also reads you."
03/16/2010 07:15:34 PM · #15
Originally posted by posthumous:

A hundred years ago, certain painters abandoned representation entirely. Some hoped for the purity that De Sousa implies in his breakdown of composition to objective rules.

This purity is never achieved. Pure abstraction is never achieved. Why? Because we have brains. We think about stuff. We feel stuff. There is no aesthetic sense entirely distinct from our animal nerves and guts.

There is no element in the visual arts that is more important than composition. However, composition itself will never be sufficient to gauge a work of art. A work of art will always contain a web of meaning. It simply cannot be avoided. And art must be judged by how technical qualities like composition interact with those meanings. And because those meanings are subjective, changeable between individuals, cultures and eras, the judgment of art will always be subjective. *NOT* worthless, *NOT* arbitrary, but subjective and debatable, always.

The composition is balanced, *why* is it balanced? The composition is unbalanced, *why* is it unbalanced? The composition keeps your eyes in the frame, why? The composition leads your eyes out of the frame, why? This is how art is critiqued.


Let me stress the idea of this thread. It's not about subjective discussions like taste, cultural backgrounds, or any other meaning.

It's about discussing composition and harmony in Visual Art.

Every one here knows how useful is the rule of thirds for creating basic compositions. Now, can a basic composition be considered a fine art piece? The answer is NO! Just because it's basic and have poor aesthetic value. Note that I used the word "basic" and not the word "simple", cause a simple composition, as long as it contains subtle relations bounded together in harmony, can be a fine art piece. What I'm trying to say is:
Fine Art = Fine Composition = Advanced Composition,
where advanced composition is only a working out of simple elements into more complex and subtle interrelations. If a picture has figures and landscape, the lines of each run in such directions, intersect and interweave in such ways as to form a musical movement, tones and colors are arranged to enrich one another.

So, we already have Advanced Editing and it's a great tool to improve the final result of an image. Why not to discuss Advanced Composition? One thing is for sure:
- There's no Fine Art unless there's Fine Composition.

Let's discuss composition and post here some examples of pics that you (or any other DPCer) consider to be a fine composition and why.

PS: Words like taste and other subjective meanings are not recommendable in this tread. But discussing the main structure of the composition, the flow of the lines, the relations between the shapes (light and Dark), the way the elements are placed in space or the way the colors are arranged to enrich each other, that is the idea of this thread.

Message edited by author 2010-03-16 19:23:45.
03/16/2010 07:26:27 PM · #16
I've always relied on my own internal metre for calculating whether or not an image has aesthetically pleasing composition. Everyone does, I assume -- that is, there's no internal dialogue going on dissecting the technical merits of composition when one finds an image that clicks.

Here's one that has outstanding composition, in my view. Just about everything's going right here: the line that leads from the girl's eye, down her neck, right arm, right hand, and finally left hand; the vertical brace of the her earring below the angle of her ear; the gentle shape of her profile, which acts as a kind of counter-balance to her bent right arm. But you don't "see" all that immediately, and it's on investigation that these elements are responsible for the beauty of the composition, in my opinion. I think that internally, one "knows" a beautiful picture when one sees it; the way it is structured is most successful when you are not conscious of the structure.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_754386.jpg
03/16/2010 07:58:42 PM · #17
Great thread guys. Technical meets substance as symbionts.
03/17/2010 03:39:31 PM · #18
Originally posted by Louis:

I've always relied on my own internal metre for calculating whether or not an image has aesthetically pleasing composition. Everyone does, I assume -- that is, there's no internal dialogue going on dissecting the technical merits of composition when one finds an image that clicks.

Here's one that has outstanding composition, in my view. Just about everything's going right here: the line that leads from the girl's eye, down her neck, right arm, right hand, and finally left hand; the vertical brace of the her earring below the angle of her ear; the gentle shape of her profile, which acts as a kind of counter-balance to her bent right arm. But you don't "see" all that immediately, and it's on investigation that these elements are responsible for the beauty of the composition, in my opinion. I think that internally, one "knows" a beautiful picture when one sees it; the way it is structured is most successful when you are not conscious of the structure.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_754386.jpg

Great post, excellent point of view and outstanding image, Louis. Itís for sure a very good composition done by Richard Toro 21.gif yanko. When I saw the final results at the Best Of 2008 challenge, and this pic didnít shared the top places, as usual, I got sad by the poor criteria used by the voters when choosing an image for the Best Of the Year. I really think this image can belong to the group called ďFine Art Photography. Thereís a high sense of harmony and the expression of the artistís vision through a fine composition.

I would love to see more examples of pics with fine composition, or the arguments of these considering this image is not Fine Art.

Message edited by author 2010-03-17 15:39:51.
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