What’s wrong with this picture? Part 2

A couple of days ago I posted about my struggles with a particular view of Eridge Green and a tree that refused to pose properly:

DSCF4814

I wasn’t pleased then with the flaring of the sun and the difficulty I faced with bringing out definition in the base of the tree.

Since writing the post, I’ve thought a bit more about this image and what holds it back. I mentioned then how one of the things I try to do in a picture is to help the viewer to know where to look- you can do this by creating a composition that is simple without too many distractions as I did when I moved from having a number of trees in the image to just the one above. You can also make the picture easy to navigate by working in three dimensions as I tried to do when I moved from a shot with no foreground to featuring the tree up front.

Another issue that I feel stops this one from working is to do with light, contrast and colour. Our eyes are naturally drawn in images to the brightest, most contrasty bits and frequently those where the colours are warmest. In the image I posted above, the sun has all of those features and so wars for our attention with the tree, making it all a bit too much of a muddle.

So I needed to go back and in fact did so yesterday. This time I wanted to avoid shooting into the sun unless I could get it right behind the tree. Less contrast away from the tree would allow me to focus on it instead.

As I approached through Eridge Green I could see that it was quite a different kind of morning with some amazing clouds rather than bright sun and also frost which is both cold in reality and in colour:

DSCF4821

These were promising conditions for the kind of image I wanted- there is nothing like the sun from the earlier shot to draw us away from the tree down below and the mist that wraps around it makes it stand out even more.

When I got to the location itself, I was able straight away to get something that seemed to me to be an improvement:

DSCF4823

This is from exactly the same spot as before, but because the sun is so much dimmer it isn’t fighting with the tree for attention and the trunk is more contrasty with what is behind. The warmth of the mist is still a bit distracting, but if I am being kind to myself, I could say that it points viewers towards the tree. The lovely bright band of cloud at the top certainly has the same effect of being a giant arrow in the sky- I wish I could say I put it there on purpose.

Here’s another angle:

DSCF4827

I’m reasonably pleased with this also. It is a bit more muddled with the different trees warring for our attention, but it is an attempt to exploit a strange “rule” of composition- our love of odd numbers. For some reason that I’ve never seen adequately explained, viewers would rather see things on their own, in threes or fives rather than in twos or fours. I have three main trees here, but the middle one is too indistinct and furthermore I should have got into the field to change my viewpoint and preferably get the three trees in a more interesting 3d formation rather than neatly lined up like this.

Here’s a final one which gets the 3d more:

DSCF4825

This also possibly has the advantage that I’ve got my main tree more in front of the light so it gets its own contrast, but still the composition isn’t quite there with the middle tree too out of view.

There’s no escaping the fact that I need to get on some boots and stop fearing the muddy field.

To be continued?

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