Have you ever listened to a song multiple times, and after doing so, suddenly heard something you hadn’t before?
Maybe it was the phrasing the singer imparted to the lyrics. Perhaps is was a series of notes that directed your attention to a different portion of the song.
Or perhaps it was just a single instrument in the background, providing only a few accenting notes.
I’ve done this often, listening to the same song for many miles.
Regardless of how complex or simplified the song may be, I always find something that I didn’t notice before.
My self-directed education took me on many paths, ultimately developing my personal vision, and honing my skill.
Composition in Photography
Composition in photography is often used to describe how the elements within the image are place together.
There are a number of rules (most of which I like to break), that assist in composition.
It is the photographer who purposefully decides prior to clicking the shutter how each element should play against the other. The photographer – at that time – is the composer of the image.
Composition in Music
Composition in music is the written musical notes on staff paper. The musician who creates arrangement has composed the song.
Perhaps there are many rules with musical composition that aide the songwriter, but in the end, it is the songwriter’s choice how the notes are assembled.
Each are Composers
Both artists – the photographer and the musician – are composers.
Their products (the image and song) may go through further transformations before each artist considers their work complete.
The photographer may add contrast, exposure, adjustments, remove unwanted elements or spots, and tweak the image to the vision of the photographer.
The musician will most often make adjustments, adding additional notation, harmonies, etc.,to bring the arrangement to the desired terminus.
Composition – extends to the print & performance
Composition, at least in my mind, extends well past the initial (and developed) image, and the initial (and reworked) musical score.
To me – composition is the totality of the viewer’s experience when viewing the final print, or the individual’s listening experience to the musical score performed live or recorded.
The nuances of each artist comes forth.
Emotional aspects of the image
As mentioned earlier, I often break the rules of photographic composition. I do this in part, perhaps, because I’m slightly a rebel on many topics, and in part because I like to experiment.
When I committed to landscape photography, I knew that simply following all the rules would never allow me to develop my own personal style. Only I could create that on my own.
- How does the image I am creating make me feel?
- What emotions do I want the viewer to feel?
- What story does this image share?
A number of thoughts go through my head as I view and create the images before me.
Even though I shoot all manual, very little attention is given to the technical issues.
These items tend to be self-addressed as I work through the emotional aspect of the image I’m creating.
However, for me, this isn’t enough to have that successful composition.
Music powers my photography
There is one key element that must occur for me to successfully create the image I envision, and the resulting image that will resonate with the viewer.
Though I never have music playing when I’m on my photographic expeditions, I’ve found – and this might sound strange — my truly successful images are created when I hear music. This doesn’t have to be any particular song, though often a John Denver tune will come through.
As the song silently floating around in my head, I become one with the scene.
This silent tune will come to me as I’m hiking the area or as I consider what lies before me.
It is through this music that the composition of the scene starts to explode before my eyes. Looking through the viewfinder, I become one with the image I’m creating.
Images with singular elements become the solo guitar player, skillfully finger picking the notes and chords supporting the lyrics of the song. More complex scenes open the doors of the orchestra, with the numerous instruments playing their separate parts merging in one complex, yet remarkable rendition.
Without music – dissonance
It doesn’t matter where I am.
Without the music floating in my mind, I’m just not quite in tune with the environment around me.
My senses are not open to the possibilities that exist. There is dissonance, and my photography shows it.
With music – harmony
However, when I do hear music, I’m very much in tune with my surroundings. My mind and senses are totally consumed by the creation of the image.
The result – the photographic composition in the final print offers the viewer an emotionally attached at some level, feeling that same energy that I felt the day I created the image.
It all comes together when I listen to the music that nature offers.