Harbour Grace Composition Considerations

This article shares some Harbour Grace composition considerations that came into play when we visited this town during our trip to Newfoundland. As history buffs may know Amelia Earhart was the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. This historic event took flight from the air strip at Harbour Grace.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 23 mm, efov 46 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-200

Historic sites usually have plaques and signage that provide information about events that occurred at the location. There are usually various other artifacts or displays. This was the case in Harbour Grace.

As we can see in the image above sometimes a rather messy looking photograph can result when we try to fit everything into a single composition. Based on time constraints, and our objective for the photograph, we sometimes just grab a quick image and continue our journey. At least we have proof of our visit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 20 mm, efov 40 mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO-200

Odd shaped signage that is mounted on angle to help viewing can be challenging to photograph. In the image above, you can see all kinds of distractions in the background. Sometimes there is a ‘cleaner’ shooting angle… and sometimes there isn’t.

If a camera has a tilting or articulating rear screen we can sometimes hold our camera at an angle parallel to the sign (often above our heads) and shoot down on it. This can help help eliminate the busy background and angle distortions.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 28 mm, efov 56 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-200

Here is an example of a sign that was displayed on an angle and where I adjusted the physical shooting angle and position of my camera to help eliminate angle distortion with the sign.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 31 mm, efov 62 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-200

When trying to deal with complex scenes an approach that can be used is to separate various elements into individual images.

In the photograph above you can see that we completely eliminated the statue from the composition. This helped create more visual focus in the composition. The shooting angle was shifted to more of a front quarter view. This perspective usually works well with airplanes, as well as with cars and trucks.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 54 mm, efov 108 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-200

Physically shifting the shooting angle as well as changing the focal length to get in tighter to a subject, can create a very different perspective and feel with an image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 20 mm, efov 40 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-200

We can also try to combine two major elements into a composition by using a vertical composition. Potential distractions in the background often dictate the shooting angle at which we can combine elements.

In the photograph above I lined up the body of the airplane with the head of the statue to create some eye flow. You’ll also notice that there is a subtle triangle formed between the statue’s head, the propeller on the airplane in the background, and the left foot of the statue. This also helps to create some eye flow.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 35 mm, efov 70 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-200

It is always good to remember that as we increase the focal length of our lens, we can add some compression to a composition. This serves to bring an element in the background closer to a foreground element.

In the photograph above you can see that the airplane looks much closer to the statue. To accomplish this I moved in closer to the statue at 2.7 metres away (~9 feet) and used a focal length of 35 mm (efov 70 mm).

If you compare the image above to the first photograph in this article you’ll see as significant difference between the two compositions. In the first photograph I was positioned 4.3 metres (~14 feet) away and used a focal length of 23 mm (efov 46 mm).

Comparing these two photographs helps demonstrate how slight adjustments to our physical position and the focal length used can significantly change a composition. This is one of the primary reasons that I have always preferred using zoom lenses.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 35 mm, efov 70 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-200

Sometimes the physical attributes of a subject create some challenges. If we look at the mounted plaque in the image above we can see that the structure on which it is mounted is not square. The top surface is on an angle and the bottom stone is longer on one side. The result is an image that feels off balance.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 35 mm, efov 70 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-200

The image above was created from the same photograph. In this case perspective control adjustments were made to help ensure that the actual plaque was positioned squarely in the composition.

Since the highest contrast in this photograph is created by the plaque up against the stone mount, that is where our eyes are naturally drawn. Ensuring that the plaque is positioned squarely creates a more pleasing image that appears more balanced. This can be done when first creating our photograph, or in post.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 18 mm, efov 36 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-200

Our final sample image was captured at the actual air strip from which Amelia Earhart took off for her historic trans Atlantic flight. This air strip is still in active use today.

The challenge with this type of photograph is to create a composition that produces both distance and depth perspectives. A great way to accomplish this is by incorporating a foreground element. As you look at the image above, place your index finger visually over the bench to block it from view, then remove and replace it several times. This helps demonstrate how adding a foreground element adds some visual interest, and also helps accentuate distance and depth perspectives.

 Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process in post. This is the 1,334 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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