Saturday, February 18, 2006

A radiant tutorial on composition

As mentioned in the February 15 entry on photojournalism as art, analysis sometimes cannot say entirely what it is that makes certain photographs so evocative. Masterworks particularly seem to communicate at some intuitive level, and the effect becomes almost ineffable. At such times it is best to look and to be silent. (In much the same way, this phenomenon is similar to what happens when someone tries to explain why a particular joke is funny. The explanation is always decidedly unfunny, and the effect is ruined.)

That does not mean, however, that basic principles of composition cannot be identified and taught. Will studying composition somehow stifle a person's innate, creative power? Perhaps a case can be made for that. Conventionality probably has hindered some unconventional talents, and Ansel Adams is one example of how avoiding a formal education had a positive outcome. Most photographers, however, can benefit from considering composition. As a painter once said about art lessons "If you're a genius, they probably won't hurt you. And, if you're not a genius, they probably will help."

A relatively new web site, Radiant Vista, has posted a multimedia tutorial on composition (link here). [Be aware, though, that this is a download of a QuickTime .mov file that, with a broadband connection, takes a minute or so to get started. If you don't have a broadband connection, the wait will be long.] The tutorial runs for almost 18 minutes. To its credit, it takes the practical view that the "rules" are guidelines, not chains intended to enslave.

Hearing ideas explained while seeing them illustrated visually can be an enjoyable experience. Radiant Vista also has tutorials in .pdf format, as well as audio files ("podcasts"). The site posts daily critiques (again QuickTime movies, but much shorter than the tutorials) of photographs submitted by readers. Some of the tutorials about photo editing are specialized, and some of the daily critiques are less insightful than others, but Radiant Vista has enough of general interest to prompt its addition to the list of links (top right) here at Variable Focus.

A reminder. If you know of a web site of interest to those who make photographs and for those who enjoy photography, pass it along. You can provide your own mini-review if you'd like, although that's not necessary. Scroll down to the introductory entry of Monday, February 13, to find the procedure and an email address.


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