In photography, composition is everything. Good composition means an identifiable subject and background, balance, point of view, and simplicity. It takes time to frame a shot that meets my criteria for good composition. Sometimes I have good results and sometimes not so good.
Sometimes I am surprised. I used to be surprised. When I shot film, I had to wait for the film to be processed before I could see the results. With digital photography there are no surprises because it is possible to see your shot as soon as it’s taken.
It is incorrect to say there are no surprises with digital photography. I am an amateur photographer and I am constantly surprised; but, as far as composition goes, I minimize the element of surprise.
In April 1996, I was in England with a tour group I hosted. Having visited Salisbury Cathedral several times, I did not go inside for the cathedral tour. There was construction underway and I wasn’t interested in seeing the clutter. Instead, I left the group and walked out into the cathedral close.
It was a gray day that threatened rain. I wandered to the east end of the cathedral and up a couple of steps through a rock wall to the level of the road.
Turning around to face the cathedral, I was struck again by its majesty. Salisbury Cathedral supports the tallest cathedral spire in England. Along the road side of the rock wall I’d crossed there was a bed of daffodils in bloom. I framed a shot in my mind. I wanted the height of the cathedral with the daffodils at its base. The arch of the barren tree balanced the composition.
I looked through the camera’s view finder trying to capture the view I had in mind. Nothing worked. I got down on my knees and still could not compose the shot I wanted.
I noticed an empty parking space against the wall. I knelt in the parking space and tried once more to frame the shot. I couldn’t get the daffodils and the spire’s height. I got as low as I could. Still unable to get my shot, I lay down in the parking space and framed the shot again. Everything I wanted was in the frame. I snapped the shutter.
When the photos were processed, I was pleased with the result. I had worked the shot and got my photograph.
I had the photograph enlarged and framed. It hangs in my studio to remind me that good composition is not only subject and background, balance, point of view, and simplicity, it is also work.