Tag Archives: Relationships

Geometry and pattern in photography

• Groundsmen •
There are patterns and geometries in so many things…
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• Groundsmen • By Netkonnexion on Flickr

Geometry and pattern appear everywhere.

Spotting it is about having an eye for lines and curves. The essence of a geometric relationship is what we look for in order to bring out pattern and balance.

How does geometry get into an image.

Geometry and pattern are closely related. They interact because the eye is able to pick out patterns. We are adept at spotting the non-accidental relationships involved in lines and curves. When these lines and curves intersect in a meaningful way we recognise something – something constructed.

By way of example, one such relationship we see in pictures is bridges. They often appear in landscape photographs. They add a geometric potency to the apparent chaos of nature and seem to pull a scene together by drawing one end to the other in an image. They do this because the eye is trained to follow lines. Bridges represent significant lines, and sometimes curves, so that they are distinguished from the surrounding natural landscape. To us this is a powerful draw to the eye.

The patterns we see in so many thing around us are not just an accident. They are part of our man-made landscape. So getting these patterns into our pictures is about becoming sensitive to them and then pointing them out. Pointing them out is interesting to the eye, and so you capture your viewers attention.

On a tour visit to the new Wembley Stadium I took the picture above. It all came together by chance. I was listening to the guide and noticed these three groundsmen working on the grass. They were doing something where they stopped every few moments and did something to the grass. I watched them for a few minutes and took five photographs of them and their surroundings. Then, just as our guide told us to follow him, the three groundsmen stopped to work and, for just a moment, they were in a perfect line. They fell into a wonderful geometric relationship with the rest of the scene.

The different geometry’s in this scene are varied and expressive. The whole scene is about lines, angles and intersections. The grass is contained in a surrounding of geometric shapes in the seats and the stadium itself. The grass is marked out for Soccer. The grass has been mowed and the patterns coincide with the soccer markings. The lines of seats in the stands line up with the grass lines… and so on. The great thing about this shot is the new layer of geometry created by the groundsmen. How they fell in line was a bonus. The fact that their geometry intersects with the other geometries around them creates a new reality. The implied line of the men bisects the angle of the goal mouth marking. They also line up with the grass mowing lines. Thier position is at a lovely angle to the other lines that are so strong around them…

For one glorious second all the geometries in this scene have an intimate correspondence. They accidentally created a wonderful new synthesis. A synthesis that was deliciously temporary.

Correspondence

The extraordinary thing about photography is its ability to bring to notice things that would pass you by in other situations. Patterns and geometries in the world around us are really great ways to pick up the essence of a scene. Geometry can be a great linker in a scene. Or, it can be a counterpoint, organisation to emphasise chaos. Similarly pattern can draw a scene together by structuring similarities.

Being sensitive to lines and curves and their relationships is a useful skill for a photographer. When you are out and about make an effort to allow your eye to run along lines and follow curves. When you start to do it regularly you will begin to find some extraordinary relationships between them.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.

How to tell a story with your picture

Photo storytelling with your picture will capture the imagination of your viewer and draw them into the image.

What is photo storytelling?

Help your viewer to be involved in your picture. Get them thinking. Then they will look hard at it. So, tell a story with it. To get viewers thinking draw out the threads of a story with a time line. Aim to help them see how the story came about. Show clues for what might happen next. Photo storytelling is about making your image clear on what is happening.

The best photo story-tellers are photo-journalists. They capture an event or activity. They try to show the progress of a story. Things you see in the shot tell you what’s happened, what is happening now, and what is possible. In short, it is a time-line.

Photo storytelling :: Keep it simple

Don’t obscure the story. The more interesting you can make the shot, the more viewers will want to look at it. Your story should portray the fullness of events.

Try to make the shot as simple as possible. If there is too much going on it distracts the viewer. Too much clutter does the same. If you do distract the viewer it will confuse or obscure the story.

Have a plan

Ensure clarity in your story. Have a complete plan of what you want to convey. You should:

• Know what you want to say.
• Have a clear idea of the main subject.
• Know the story line (as simple as possible).
• Know how to express the storyline.
• Know the composition you will use.
• Be aware of light, mood, time.
• Know what to exclude (de-clutter).
• Know how you are going to work the scene.
• Have technical settings worked out.
Behind the subject

It is easy to confuse the viewer with the background. Ensure it is consistent with the story. The little romantic exchange in my picture above fits with its background. If this were an urban scene the knights would be out of their expected context. That throws the story off.

How people and things relate to each other

As the story unfolds show the relations between people. That is juicy eye-candy for viewers. The relationship between people and things, in the scene helps too. Working with one photograph, your photo storytelling is going to have to show these links.

There are three relationships in the photo storytelling above. The horse is engaging with the viewer. It stares back at us. The knights are engaging in light-hearted flirting. The peasant is clearly amused by the whole scene. The story tells the viewer where the people are, but also about the feeling between them. Looks, and the direction of gaze, are important. Facial expressions speak volumes. The position of things and people show how they relate to each other.

You must be careful to pick up these traces of relationships. Without them you don’t have the sense of interaction. Then you don’t see photo storytelling in progress.

Time

Time in photo storytelling usually comes from action, expression or movement. In this picture the horse shows boredom. The knights show an on-going and flirtatious conversation. The peasant clearly enjoys the moment. These things show the story is not static. And, it has a future because the knights are clearly enjoying the exchange.

In another type of photo storytelling you might see strong movement. A race is a story. The action shows the progress of time. The race positions tell of the competition. The place where the race is sets the scene.

Clearly there are many ways to express progress through the story. The important thing is that you do actually make sure that it is obvious to the viewer.

The fresh, candid look

Clearly, if the story is staged and forced, the fresh look will be lost. Capture it as if it was unscripted. Captured on the spur of the moment makes it look fresh. Even better if it was a complete candid shot. Nothing beats an honest, true expression. The best scenes are spontaneous. The whole discipline of street photography is based on that concept. However, make sure that the elements of a story still hold true. It will look false if they are not.

If doing candid street shots your post-production work can help. In your editing look to find the shots with the elements above. Then crop or work your post processing to bring it out. Don’t try staging them through a plan. Urban scenes make poor acting scenes for photography.

Patience

Photo storytelling takes patience. So does trying to spot a story in progress. To shoot a scene like the one above takes a few moments. It may only involve a few quick few shots. But the right result may not happen the first time. Take your time and work on the elements needed for your Photo storytelling. As you get better at the things mentioned here you will bring out the story easier.

Photo storytelling :: In Post-production

A story is almost always completed in post-production. Often the composition has to be done quickly in order to capture the right moment. As a result you may need to think about the framing and the crop later. Also think about cloning out clutter and distractions. When Photo storytelling, that is especially true for candid shots.

Photo storytelling is helped by a title

If my image above was called “knights on horses”, there’d be less interest. The title sets the scene. It shows the viewer the link between the knights. A good human relationship or a juicy gossip-phrase gets attention. Photo storytelling is all about those human things. Bring them out in a title.

The actual story

Most important is the actual Photo storytelling itself. To get that right you have to check you have a story at all. That means finding the shot that expresses the story. That is an editorial task. Be ruthless when you try to tell a story with a picture. Show only the shots which actually tell one. Otherwise you will have a fudged concept. There is nothing worse.

Enjoy your Photo storytelling. It’s fun and a challenge. Your skill as a photographer and as an editor of your own work will improve.