Every Friday (once again, another Sunday) I will be posting a Photo of the Week. Here I’ll be sharing the details on how I got the shot, where I was, and the backstory that went into it. I hope you find this enjoyable, and helpful in your own photography.
I’ve written endlessly about this one trip I took back in 2017, at nauseam most would say. But when I was scrolling through my photos, deciding which I should post about today, I stopped on this shot. Not for the obvious, incredible colors of the trees in the background, but because of the composition. Photographers talk all the time about how important composition is in a photo. It’s not enough just to take a pretty picture these days, it takes many more elements to bring that shot to greatness.
Composition noun com·po·si·tion \ˌkäm-pə-ˈzi-shən\ : the way in which something is put together or arranged : the combination of parts or elements that make up something
My take on composition is how much does a photo make your eyes work. Not like a “Where’s Waldo” picture, but how much do you discover every time you look at a photo. Someone who really perfects this is Chris Burkhard, and if you don’t know his work, then you’ve been living under a rock. When looking at a well composed image, your eyes are immediately drawn to the subject, or focal point of the photo. That’s obvious. And with that, the subject should be interesting and worthy of catching the audience’s attention. The parts that follow are where true greatness is found.
Once your eyes have been drawn to the subject, where do they go next. This involves leading lines. Our eyes naturally follow lines when we see them, for whatever reason. In this photo, after you see the loaded bicycle that Eddie is riding, your eyes naturally follow the lines in the road and the guard rail towards the upper left portion of the frame. The two lines merge at an infinity point in the distance where the road seems to disappear around a corner. This is where you eyes notice the stunning colors of the leaves in peak foliage. You almost ask yourself how you missed it when first looking at the photo, even though you subconsciously knew those colors were there the whole time. Your eyes scan left, then look right, up and down the beautiful trees. The warm tones of the changing leaves are hard to believe at first. After you’ve taken the landscape in, you tend to “sit back” to take the whole photo in one more time.
The last part about why I love this composition so much, is the “ah-ha” moment when you realize theres a mountain in the distance, covered in equally stunning colors. The cloudy day acts as a boundary to keep you focused on the colors in the middle of the frame. If it was a blue-bird day, this photo would not look nearly as good, almost distracting you from the purpose of the photo. The white sky outlines the summit, piercing into the blank sky. And not that it’s a major peak, or even a famous one at that, but it just adds to the layers of the photo and the reasons why I love this shot so much.
I also tend to love this photo more than most because I shot it with one hand, while riding a +60lbs bike up a climb. But this is all my impression of a single photo. Everyone sees and interprets photos differently. As a photographer, its my job to “tell” the audience what to look and where to look, to engage them and tell a story through this medium. And if you want to hear more about this story, check out the 4 part trip report.