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Your Composition Toolbox

Photography is both a science and an art. Not only do you need to master the technology of the equipment you lug around, you have to find a good way to frame the creative possibilities of what you find in front of you.

When I go on a photography outing, I load up the car with everything I anticipate I might possibly need. When I get to the site or trailhead, I fill a photo backpack with an assortment of lenses and other gear that can easily total 30 pounds or more. I sling the added weight of a tripod over my shoulder, and head out on foot. Whether I hike yards or miles to my final destination where I plan to shoot, I want to have everything I might need with me. There's nothing worse than reaching for something I left back in the car or at home. I want to be prepared.

Of course the flip side of this is that I can easily carry gear with me that stays unused if the possible situation that might call for its use doesn't pan out. So at least some of those pounds of gear I carry back and forth, from and to my car, typically serve no other purpose than exercise. Weight lifting in the service of being prepared to photograph what might have been.

But there's another side to photography. All that heavy gear would be of marginal use if I can't come up with creative ways to put it to full use. Photography is a lot more than just pointing a camera and lens at a subject and pressing the shutter release.

When I go out shooting, there's something else I try to load myself up with: creative ideas for composing and shooting images. Some of these I've picked up over the years from books, internet articles, or by studying the work of others photographers. Other ideas I've developed on my own through trial and error on site, or as a thought problem in my spare time wherever and whenever I have time to contemplate this sort of thing.

There are obvious creative tools such as the rule of thirds, perspective, color, and viewing the world as a collection of graphic shapes and lines. But the list of possible ideas and tools for the creative side of photography is endless. And even as you sell old cameras and lenses to replace them with new cameras and lenses to further your quest on the technical side of photography, the creative ideas you have accumulated live on. You can continue learning and growing creatively year after year, your entire life as a photographer.

You need tools to help with both sides of photography. But those for the creative side weigh a whole lot less that the lenses and gear needed for the physical, technical side. If you're like me, you carry around a lot of lenses and other gear when you go out shooting. Don't forget to help yourself by also accumulating and carrying around as many ideas on how to compose good photographs as you can. Photography is both a science and an art.

Date posted: March 10, 2013


Copyright © 2013 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Related articles:
Composition: Thinking Graphically
Composition: A Look at Color
Composition: Pre-visualization
The Rule of Thirds
Working with Perspective, Subject Distance and Focal Length

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