In my view a good composition should:
Lead your eye into the picture, usually from the left (we are taught to read everything from left to right in the Western world);
Direct your eye towards the focal point, by using elements such as leading lines;
Allow your eye to circulate within the frame, taking in the other features, without being drawn towards the edge of the picture, or worse, out of the picture;
Avoid brightly coloured objects or areas (especially white, red, orange and yellow) at the edge of the frame.
In my example I have tried to break down the steps I took to compose this image of the village of Torridon in north-west Scotland. Here are my thoughts:
• The horizon is in the middle of the frame breaking the “rule of thirds” composition. Although placing the horizon on the thirds is often good practice, provided that the foreground is filled with interesting detail, a centrally placed horizon can work. It gives a very stable composition, as the viewer is looking straight at the scenery.
• I noticed a leading line on the hillside behind the village, coming down towards the white building. By searching for a suitable water surface in the foreground I was able to include a reflection of this line, doubling its effect.
• The line coming in from the bottom left corner of the frame is a strong diagonal feature but it cuts back towards the edge of the frame before continuing on into the frame. I felt that it was important to include all of it within the frame as a tighter framing on the left edge would have cut through this line and isolated the area of foreground grass.
• This area of salt marsh is dotted with little pools, and the inclusion of the “dinosaur footprints” in the foreground allowed me to fill in an otherwise empty area.
• Clouds were moving continuously across the landscape. I waited until the cloud shadow (and its reflection) helped to frame the village. The darker cloud shadows in the upper right help to balance the darker water tones in the bottom left of the frame.
This image turned out to have an unexpected emotional significance. A friend of mine met his future wife while working in the area. The view you see here is the one they saw each day from the house they stayed in. When she died prematurely, he wanted an image for his wall which would allow him to remember the many happy days they spent together there. I was happy to provide this one.
Read this and many more articles in High Definition, inside Issue 15 of Landscape Photography Magazine.