Composition-wise, I was initially trained to avoid what some like to call “tyranny of the bullseye.” Allow me to explain.
It’s very easy, sometimes even too easy, to put something, akin to a “target” in the middle of the frame, and call that a “composition.” Yes, technically, that is a composition but, the reality is, it’s more like a bullseye. As artists, as we learn to compose, and even refine our compositional style, we learn actually what I like to call “the value of real estate,” that is, to put things all around the frame. You’ve got a large frame there, my fellow shooters, so it behooves you to use it wisely, and use all of it. avoiding that bullseye, if you can, since it doesn’t always make for the best of images. This is a nice technique: avoid the bullseye! Use your corners and edges! Shoot the whole frame! As much as I hate rules and the like, even I must admit, these type of rules can really work for you. You can go pretty far with a halfway decent, one step above crap camera, and lots of nice yummy corners and edges, really, trust me on that one, you can. (Heck, I know, for the first half of my career, I did!)
So now that we’ve established, corners, edges, all good. One giant “splat” in the center, eh, not so much, right? There you have a simple rule of composition: avoid “tyranny of the bullseye” and work that real estate. Camera manufacturers, now they don’t actually help much here with this. They love to sell us these nice focusing screens with nice bright bullseyes in them. Oh the horror! Still though, if you can somehow manage to avoid that bullseye, if you can work the corners, edges, real estate, that’s where the money shot is, right? Right?
Eh, not so fast. I mean, yes, generally, “right” but, lately it seems, for me especially, I’m going back to the middle. When I say “back to the middle” I’m not going center of interest, one item in the bullseye, back to the tyranny, no, that’s not exactly it either. I mean, the center of interest shots (think big giant sunflower in the middle of the frame here) do sometimes work too, right? Instead, I’ve taking to working the corners, the edges, the nice “yummy” real estate and then, once that is all said and done, going *back in* and putting something (anything!) back to the center. Bullseye: check! I hate to say it, but I’ve been doing it. And, I must admit, I’ve been doing it a lot. (You can see it here, in this shot, the walk/don’t walk sign is my “bullseye” item, although the frame has been filled as well. It’s not a “sunflower” type shot, but it’s also far from empty in the middle too.)
Now, I started doing this a while ago. Must be a few years at least. I think my first foray into it was (composition-wise anyway) my series called the “Read Leaf Diaries.” Those were all shot on a diagonal, with an item put back into the center of interest (aka, the “bullseye.”) Seriously, that started it all. But, that’s not where it stopped. No, I’ve continued it and now, I’d have to admit, I do it a lot. It’s become…almost….and you know how I absolutely *hate* to use this word but…..a signature of mine (OK, so there it is. I said it.) Yes, I really have done this as part of my “look” if you will.
As much as I hate to say it, I must admit too, that I’m not alone. No, a few folks have started to copy me, to follow me down this path of “back to the middle” if you will. I even had one guy copying me outright (shooting the same subjects, attempting to put the same “bullseye” items in the same locations!) Now, as you might imagine (or maybe you can’t?) this did not work out all too well for him. He got lucky once or twice (even made it into a show with one of his copy type shots) but eventually had to give up and go another route. It just wasn’t working for him. He couldn’t pull it off, as it were. (It just didn’t look “right” in oh so many ways, trust me on that one.) This back to the middle, take out the bullseye and then put it back in, type stuff really doesn’t work for all that many people.
Now, the reason he couldn’t pull it off, and I can is not because I’m some great revolutionary photographer (I’m not) and not because I have years of experience on him (I do, but that’s not the real reason why.) No, the reason I am able to pull this off is because it’s a natural extension of my compositional style. It grew organically (for me anyway) out of the ways I like to shoot. To put it bluntly: I didn’t copy anybody to get this look, no, it’s mine all mine. For me anyway, it sort of fell out in the wash and so, because it’s “organic” because it’s a natural extension of the way I like to shoot, it’s easy for me to do (and, likewise, not so easy for somebody trying to copy it.)
To me, that’s what makes it special too. It’s different. I’m sure not everybody likes it. Heck, I’d be surprised if a lot of other people even tried to copy it. It’s just not all that common or interesting or *whatever* but, you know, it’s me, and, to me anyway, that’s all that counts. It’s just part of the way I tend to see the world. And, it grew from my experiences, both in the field and the studio. It came from the way I shoot, from what I like to shoot, from my spirit, if you will, so that’s why I think I like it. Maybe “like” here is even a strong word. That’s why I’ve grown to accept it. It’s just *there.* it’s a part of me that gets laid out along with other elements in many of the shots I take.
So, there you have it. It’s back to the tyranny of the bullseye for me. Tyrants aren’t always bad. Heck, they say Mussolini made the trains run on time, right? All that tyranny has got to be good for something. Tyranny or not, I’m putting stuff back in the center when I feel like it. It’s just part of who I am, part of the way in which I see things. I’m not going to change any of that, nope, not going to happen.
Bullseye, check. Corners, edges, real estate, check. Why can’t a girl like me have it all, eh?
Until next time…