April 24, 2018

Decisions on Composition

Decisions on Composition

Coronado Bridge Aerial View

Coronado Bridge Aerial View

This photo was recently shared on Facebook, and only afterwards I realized that it will serve as a great reference to illustrate the decision-making process in composition.

I think I have mentioned this before: The science of composition is a subject that can be studied, and anybody can learn how to apply the rules of composition to his/her own images in order to enhance it, and make it more pleasing and understandable to the viewer. A long sentence, but powerful content!

The bridge, with its natural curve served a triple purpose:

In the first place it forms the lead-in to the photograph. It leads the eye from the left bottom of the image, right through to the right, and then stretching into the upper half. Because the bridge goes from left to right, filling the width of the photo, there is very little negative space towards the right-hand side.

It is used to frame the photo at the bottom, and the right.

Most important, it is the main object. Everything evolves around the bridge. The more purpose a subject has, the stronger it becomes, and the more the eye will focus on it.

The city-scape in the background subconsciously becomes an object in itself, but sub-ordinate to the bridge. The bridge leads the viewer to the city. If I would have excluded the sky from the photo, the city would have become the background, and the bridge would just disappear in the background. Now the bridge fulfills a purpose by leading the eye to the city-scape.

In western culture, we read from left to right. Therefore the eye is trained to go from left to right. That is why the bridge is used to lead the eye from the left to the right, and up. If the bridge was flipped horizontally, i.e. lead-in from right to left, all the water would have formed a negative space. Now it is not.

The anchored sailboats, forming a diagonal line, forms an imaginary line, starting from the top left of the photo, and leading to the bridge.

The boat in the middle left, heading towards the bridge also tends to lead the eye in that direction. If the boat was going the opposite way, it would have had a negative impact on the composition by leading the eye from right to left, and away from the bridge.

The arch formed by the top of the helicopter’s dash (bottom right) replicates the arch of the bridge in the opposite direction, thus mimicking the flow. If it wasn’t there, there would have been a negative space.

By splitting the photo in three horizontal lines (water in the front, city in the middle, and sky at the top), a setting is created that is much more pleasing to the eye. People, by nature finds uneven numbers of objects more pleasing than even numbers.

Diagonal lines, parabolas, and horizontal lines were used to support the composition as a whole.

Submit your own photos for critique

I want to extend an open invitation to everyone who wants me to comment on the composition in their own photos to send it to me. It will then discuss on this blog-site. In the process we all will learn from it. Photos can be sent to photos@fcschwartz.com. Just a few rules, it must be family friendly, and by submitting the photos you grant permission that the material may be used for training purposes, digitally, in print or any other media.

Quinceañera – Kimberlyn Chiroque



Last Saturday, while taking photos on Coronado Island, I came across Kimberlyn Chiroque and her mother.  She was all dressed up and at first, being a wedding photographer, I thought that she was a bride.  I went along to congratulate and compliment her for being such a fine bride, when I learned that this was her Quinceañera.

 Not knowing what that meant she explained to me that this was a Latin American tradition when a girl turns fifteen.  I found the following, very interesting, information on Wikepedia.com.

 “Quinceañera (lit. meaning One (f.) who is fifteen), is the celebration of a girl‘s fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America and elsewhere in communities of immigrants from Latin America.  This birthday is celebrated differently from any other birthday, as it marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood.[

In Mexico, the birthday girl is fixed up with fancy makeup. Traditionally, this was the first time she would wear makeup, but more recently this is no longer the case. She also has her nails and hair done especially for this occasion and dresses up with a fancy dress that she had chosen in advance.  In the Mexican tradition – and if the teenager is Catholic – the quinceañera festival begins with a Thanksgiving mass.  For this mass, the teenager comes dressed with a formal dress, usually quite creative in fashion and reminiscent of what a western bride or princess would wear. Traditionally, the quinceañera would wear a pink dress to symbolize her purity.


Mexican girls cannot dance in public until they are fifteen except at school dances or at family events. Thus, the quincenera waltz with the chambelanes is the girl's first ever public dance. There can also be other rituals such as the ritual of the last doll (“La Ultima Muñeca”). This ritual based on a Maya tradition and it is related to the birthday girl's possession of a childhood toy of her liking. It makes reference to the last such toy in her life since, after the quinceañera event, the girl is now coming closer to marriage and adult life. Another ritual is the ritual of the shoe. In this ritual the teenager's father changes her flat, low-heel shoes to high heels, symbolizing, again, the girl's passage into maturity.”

 When they realised that we are from South Africa and have not attended any of these celebrations before, her mother kindly invited us to Kimberlyn’s celebration in September.

 We’re looking forward to attend this big event!

Mist, Skyline and a Sailboat …

The preparations for capturing this scene started early morning with a pancake breakfast at Point Loma Café  (the psychological preparation).

From there I had to take the ferry from the San Diego Harbour to Coronado Island.  The trip on the ferry was a cheerful experience.  With the passengers, accompanied by their bicycles, we arrived at Coronado Island.

What impressed me was the ability of the famous San Diego “June Gloom” to be able to interpret the calendar.  This was basically the end of June (3rd July) and the fog was draped densely across the city skyline.

While walking on the shoreline, along came this sailboat, composing itself right in front of my camera lens begging to be included in my photo.  I willingly abided, because the buildings in the background was so elegantly covered by the mist and the sailboat was the ideal focus point to round it off.

I hope to be able to share many more of my precious San Diego moments in this blog!