A snapshot shows the world what your camera sees, but a thoughtfully composed photograph shows the world what you see. While composition can be complex, several basic strategies arise when making pictures of natural subjects. Here are five such techniques for powerful image-making. Photos and text by Ian Plant
5. Create visual energy.
Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile: A 60-second exposure at f/5 created an eerie motion blur in the clouds. Plant used an EOS 5D Mark III and 16–35mm f/2.8L II Canon EF lens on a tripod for the ISO 400 shot.
Look for ways to convey a sense of energy. Use lines or shapes that tilt or point in opposite directions; think of a line of trees whose branches reach at differing angles into a cloud-filled sky. But be careful: Too much energy going one way and not enough going the other can look unbalanced—a classic example is an animal running out of the edge of the frame rather than into it. Long exposures of moving elements can also convey a sense of energy; motion blur creates compositional lines and shapes, adding further interest. Here, the streaking clouds form staggered, diagonal lines, which add energy to the frame.
You can find many more techniques like these in Contributing Editor Ian Plant’s new book, Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition.For more info, and galleries of his images, visit ianplant.com.