Ignoring Rules

Parasailing, Joe Whitten
Parasailing in a storm.

Adhering to the rules of composition is important. Well, usually. 99.9% of the time I try to place elements of my images according to the rule of thirds or golden ratio whenever possible. This frequently requires post shoot cropping since elements in the world are not aware of how important their placements are to my photography efforts. I like the idea of drawing a person’s focus to the intended point of interest in an image and doing so without conscious effort on the viewer’s part.

Sometimes though, I find that an image I’m working on has no specific center of interest and it’s the scene as a whole that matters. I was editing a photo today that I took last summer and realized that it was the instability of the moment that was important to the image. The photo was taken while I was parasailing in Puerto Rico. There was a storm blowing in and the experience was not what I had envisioned it to be. We were being blown sideways and I was having a tough time hanging on with my left hand while my right hand held on to my camera. I was to say the least, uncomfortable and to make matters worse, my wife was smiling from ear to ear having a great time making me feel like quite the wimp. After a couple of minutes I found a way to get a steady grip and finally started taking some photos.

When I initially looked at the image above I immediately started thinking of how to level the horizon without losing the boat in the lower left-hand corner. I even thought of using some content aware scaling to add more ocean and sky on the left side to place the boat closer to a thirds intersection. As I was working on trying to pull that off, I realized that maybe I should leave the image the way it is so the viewer could experience that moment the way I did: uncomfortably.

In the end the only editing I applied was a bit of saturation and shadow adjustment in Camera Raw. I did still end up with three divisions that are somewhat proportional though.

Maybe you like the photo and maybe you don’t, but the point of this post is to raise the issue of following the rules of composition. Below is an edit of the image with the horizon leveled. Which do you think is better? Which one actually has the strongest impact on you?

Uncomfortable Ride Leveled
Uncomfortable Ride Leveled

Leave a Reply