Week 19 – Center the Subject

The challenge for Week 19 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to center the subject. Anyone that has read a book or read an article or watched any tutorials on Photography Composition knows that one of the first things ‘rules’ of Photography is to ‘never’ place your subject in the center. One of the first ‘rules’ of composition that you’ll find in any Photography Book is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds have worked extremely well for a very long time. The masters of art have successfully used the Rule of Thirds effectively. And, the Rule of Thirds works wonders in Landscape Photography. But, should the Rule of Thirds be used in every single photo you take? Are there times where you place your subject in the middle of the frame? Of course, there are.

For example, anytime you are taking reflection, where symmetry is key, one of the things you have to do is put the horizon in the middle. Not doing so will actually make the photo look out of whack. The bottom half of the image mirrors the top, creating symmetry which makes the photo pleasing.

We have heard this before. Rules are meant to be broken. However, you need to know the rule well enough to know when to break the rules. Not centering your subject is generally a good idea unless centering your subject will actually enhance the subject, make it easy to convey your key message, and improve the overall composition. Reflection is one perfect example where putting the subject and the horizon in the center makes sense. There are many other. It is up to us a Photographers to decide what makes in a particular situation.

For this week’s challenge, I took this reflection of Walton Lighthouse during Sunrise. I have shot Walton Lighthouse from multiple angles. I have shot reflection of Walton Lighthouse from different angles as well. This particular shot, I purposefully decided to put the Lighthouse and the Horizon in the center of the frame. The reflection naturally called for centering the subject and horizon but I did try multiple comps and this is what appealed to me the most.

Beacon of Hope!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, California
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 10s | ISO 100

This was shot the same day as the other shot (Walton’s Fire!) that I recently wrote about. We had the Lighthouse all to ourselves. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have never seen Walton Lighthouse empty. Somehow Sowmya and I end up in places with no body around us. I remember multiple instances where this has happened – Grand Canyon, Shark Fin Cove, Uvas Canyon, Garrapata, and so many other places. We definitely enjoy when this happens.

Anyways, we went to Walton in the hopes that we’ll catch some nice colors during Sunrise. We were not disappointed. It was an awesome Sunrise. After shooting it from the middle of the pathway and getting reflection of the Lighthouse, I decided to move around a little to try different perspectives and angles. I decided to go o the left of the Lighthouse and Sowmya decided to go right. She asked me to come and check out her comp but I was too busy shooting. She got a great reflection from where she stood. The Lighthouse was not centered in her photo but the reflection was pretty nice.

I went for a long exposure shot to smooth out the water and bring that ethreal feel to the scene. Several of the shots that I took didn’t turn out the way I wanted. So, I kept at it and got this shot. Looking at the LCD, I felt that I had something to work with.

Processing was pretty straight-forward. What I need to learn is how to patiently work in Photoshop to further enhance the photo as well as clean up. I know some pros spend an hour or more on just one photo. Well, I have heard that Ansel Adams worked several hours (and in some cases, days) dodging, burning, and processing in Lightroom. That’s dedication and commitment. I take about 10 minutes per photo. I have a decent handle on Lightroom but Photoshop, I only know the very basic stuff. Lot more to learn.

Guiding Sentinel!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 16mm | f/16 | 1/1s | ISO 100

This was shot during the same time as my last shot (Walton’s Reflection). After taking several shots of the reflection, I went up to the pathway leading to the Lighthouse and took a few shots. Nothing really worked out from there that day. When the sun started rising above the hills, I decided to go back down to the beach and use the waves as leading lines and put both the Lighthouse and sun in the frame.

I was able to execute on my vision but now that I look at the shot, having a startburst on the sun would have been awesome. I didn’t think about it while on the field. I didn’t want to miss the rising sun so I kept shooting. I didn’t want to add starburst in post processing.

I liked the way this turned out. I was able to use multiple compositional techniques on this one; the rule of thirds, leading line, balance, symmetry, and placement. In terms of post processing, other than my usual workflow in Lightroom, I also did some dodging and burning. I also cleaned some solar flares and dust in Photoshop.

Walton’s Reflection!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 13mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

I have been to Walton Lighthouse multiple times. As a matter of fact, I met the core Photography buddies when I was at Walton one week early last year. For the first time, I tried my hand at light painting. I was then added as part of a Whatsapp Photography group, which started with just 4 or 5 Photographers. It has since group to close to two dozen Photographers. Meeting the core group that day was awesome. My photography, honestly, has grown leaps and bounds shooting with the core group. I have been to so many new places, tried so many new things. We challenge each other, learn from each other, and have fun together.

Coming back to the story behind this shot now. As I said, I have been to Walton Lighthouse several times. But this time when I visited for Sunrise, it was low tide. I have never seen Walton Lighthouse where the beach was visible on the left side of the Lighthouse. The moment I saw this, I knew I had to get down to the beach. Once I saw the reflection, I knew the type of shot I wanted to get.

So, I went down to the beach. Even though it was low-tide, waves were still coming where I was standing. And, as usual, I got drenched. I seriously need to figure out a way to stay dry. Every trip to the beach, I come back with wet pants, socks, and shoes. Anyways, once I got a bit wet, I decided to not worry about getting wet. I was moving around to get full reflection of the Lighthouse. I have not seen that comp before and I wanted to see if I could get it. I had to be quick as the reflection was only visible partially. Every once in a while, a big wave would come in and hide the reflection.

I took several shots; at least a dozen or more from the beach. I knew looking at the Camera LCD that I had some full reflections. The question was whether the shots were sharp, in-focus, and something that I could use.

This particular shot is a blend of 3 shots (HDR). Basically, I bracketed 3 shots with same focal length and aperture but different shutter speeds. The idea is to combine several photos of the same scene but shot at different exposures to create an image with a High Dynamic Range. I used Lightroom to combine the 3 images and then processed using my usual Workflow.