A Painterly Photograph

Landscape Study #1I’m always looking for interesting scenes or subjects when I’m doing photography. If I get a chance to observe for a while, I’ll usually find my attention drawn toward secondary elements. These are important because they add personality and dimension to the overall composition.

The photograph above is a case in point. I was out looking for something interesting to shoot during the full moon on a late summer night. The moon came up and was gorgeous, but a sailboat also came into the scene unexpectedly. It wasn’t that I was so intrigued by the scene of a sailboat on the lake. What I found more interesting were the simple geometric shapes and colors that comprised the overall scene.

After shooting this, I decided to simplify the image (via Photoshop) in order to show off the core elements of the composition. Everything was reduced to basically three primary colors, (blue, yellow, red) and five elements; the sky, trees, water, moon, and sailboat. The result is a rather flat 2D image with objects that appear to be hovering above (or below) one another, although there is a three dimensional aspect in the water reflections.

Most photographers would insist that a photograph needs to have sharp detail, good depth of field, and adhere to some sort of compositional rule (off-center, etc..). I tend to disagree, I think you can have a strong composition without adding any of this. The composition above illustrates this concept, yet still captures the essence of the lighting and mood that evening. It’s minimal, but it’s not obscure.

Is this still considered a photograph by the purists? Likely not, but I don’t really engage in these types of discussions. In this case I feel that the overall composition is the more interesting aspect, and that the importance of the medium becomes a secondary consideration.

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