Compositions at Keem Bay

This article shares a selection of handheld images captured with Nikon 1 gear at Keem Bay Ireland. It discusses various composition considerations. In the spirit of sharing and learning, I included a few compositions that didn’t work out nearly as well as I had hoped.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Let’s start with one of my worst compositions of the day.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-400

This photograph is one of those that caused me to retrospectively wonder, “What was I thinking?”¬† This image has a plethora of problems. Harsh lighting. Blown out highlights. Distracting detail on the right hand side. Ineffective leading line. All of these factors contribute to this image being one for the delete key on my keyboard.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 17 mm, efov 46 mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-400

Confusion reigns supreme in the image above in terms of eye flow. Enough said.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-160

After a few failed initial composition attempts, this image has some nice balance and eye flow. The rocks form a nice leading line. Good eye flow is created by the reverse ‘Magic 7’. This composition has simplicity which helps guide a viewer’s eye into the distance of this Keem Bay scene. It is a much more effective composition than the two previous images.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

My eye was attracted to the shed and picnic table in the photograph above. I found them to be interesting details to add to a composition. I like the open feel of the image above. While pleasant enough, the photograph lacks foreground interest.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-400

Here is a similar composition. The main difference is that I ‘composed with my feet’ and moved my physical position slightly. This allowed me to incorporate a small grouping of rocks in the bottom left corner.

You’ll notice that the rock grouping points directly at the picnic table, forming a subtle leading line. I also incorporated another boulder on the right hand side. This also helps direct a viewer’s eye to the picnic table.¬†Overall a visual triangle is created by these three elements.

Once a reader’s eye is at the picnic table, it is drawn sharply to the left by the ‘reverse Magic 7’ of the bay. This was one of my favourite compositions of the day.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/11, 1/500, ISO-400

Finding good foreground elements often helps a composition. The trio of stones in the foreground add a feeling of depth to this photograph.

You’ll see that I stacked the large rock on the left hand side… the shed… and the distant point of land entering the water at Keem Bay. This stacking effect helps to create a strong visual pull into the distance. To achieve this effect it was importance to use equal spacing between the three elements.

The image above isn’t as strong as it could have been as it causes a reader’s eye to drift off into the distance without any purpose. Let’s look at a similar composition that creates a different visual effect.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-400

I changed the relationship of the foreground rocks, the shed, and the distance point of land entering Keem Bay. In the composition above I used equidistant composition technique to frame the shed in the middle ground of the image. This creates a strong visual focus for a viewer’s eye on the shed, making it the ‘hero’ of the image.

While similar to the previous photograph, the one above is much stronger visually. The rocks across the foreground form a bottom bar, forcing the reader’s eye over them and into the image. There is no strong leading line in the photograph which is somewhat problematic.

Now, let’s look at my favourite composition captured during our visit to Keem Bay Ireland.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-400

The first thing you’ll notice with the image above is the strong leading line created by the rocky stream. Visually it flows smoothly to the shed. The shed is framed by the waters of Keem Bay.

I purposely included the white roofed hut on the right hand side. This forms an anchor point for three white elements that form a triangle in the composition. The hut. The waves breaking on the shore. And, the large white cloud in the distance. This adds contrast balance to the scene. Classic ‘rule of thirds’ composition technique was used in the photograph above.

A portrait version of this scene appears further on in this article.

When photographing landscape scenes it is important to ‘compose with your feet’ by walking around to change your shooting angles and perspectives.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

If you enjoyed the photographs in this article that were captured with the Nikon 1 system, you may find our eBook, The Little Camera That Could, of interest. This eBook is available for purchase and download. It is priced at $9.99 Canadian. Readers interested in purchasing a copy can use the link below.

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Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-400

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4 thoughts on “Compositions at Keem Bay”

  1. Tom:
    Thanks for the excellent article with many landscape tips including the creation of triangles and the “reverse magic 7.” It is so easy to not pay attention to these things when shooting scenes. Remembering the basic rules of composition while “in the moment” takes some discipline and patience. I agree with John Minter on the choice of the portrait viewpoint of the stones leading to the shed. For my eyes it was the most dramatic composition of the ones you presented. Please keep posting these instructive articles, they are much appreciated.

  2. Hi Thomas,
    Love your great explanations of the images, and agree with your assessments. I prefer the portrait over the landscape version of the stone shed and beach.

    1. I’m glad the explanations were helpful John! I also like the portrait version of the shed and beach image. Most of the images I captured were landscape orientation. In the context of the article using those was more illustrative.


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