It can be useful to consider the 4 dimensions when considering a composition;
1) Right Vs Left
Useful for considering the alignment of your foreground objects. If you consider the horizon-up as background, and the land leading to the horizon as the middle=ground, then it is this Left-right dimension which helps you position the foreground in an interesting and leading way. Right versus left is most likely to give you control over occlusion which is one of the most powerful depth cues. In a moving image, the right and left movement will show parallax – another powerful depth cue.
2) Up Vs Down
This is a useful dimension to consider although you may be limited by your tripod. The height of your camera will determine the ratios of foreground to middle-ground to background. A higher position opens the middle ground, where a lower position allows more intimacy with the foreground. I recommend buying a tripod that can extend to hold your camera at your eye level. Find higher ground if your tripod is limiting your choice of height. Also, don’t be afraid to take the camera off the tripod. You may loose some aperture or iso qualities if you take a hand-held shot in low light conditions. But this can be a worthwhile trade off for a better composition. If you are shooting hand-held already, then don’t be limited by your strap and allow the reins to slip for those over-head shots..
3) Backwards Vs Forwards
This dimension is about adjusting the size relation of elements in the scene but is also about cropping an image. It is different moving backwards and forwards with a prime lens compared to zooming in and out from the same position. Your distance from a subject and choice of focal length will help you control size ratios, for example with telephoto compression or fish-eye de-compression. If I come across a rich foreground, I will get down and close to capture the intimate details.
(See this post for more detailed considerations)
This could refer to the shutter speed to achieve fast action or water movement, or it could refer to considering the time of day when the shot is taken. Knowing the angles of shadows when the sun is rising is useful for planning your composition. Knowing the exact position of the sunrise could be crucial if you have a strong shape occluding part of the sky such as sea-stacks or rock arches. See my article on ‘Timing as Communication“.
The black sand beach has a very shallow gradient, so although the sea can appear calm and non-threatening you can be caught in a large surge that creeps slowly up the beach.
This extraordinary photo was taken in the middle of the night in South Iceland. It was taken on a full moon night in October just before 1 a.m. Believe it or not, the post processing challenge was to darken the image to make it look a little bit more like a night photo. The moon was behind me…
For Iceland based photographers, photographing the Milky Way is generally something we do while we are waiting for the Northern Lights to appear.