16 Jan 2010

Exercise: Balance

This exercise involves finding half a dozen previous pictures and sketching the main areas of interest and then seeing if they balance or not.  I am a little puzzled by this concept of balance as it would seem that balance can be a good thing and unbalance can also be a good thing.  In other words does balance actually matter?  Balance comes from symmetry in composition but symmetry tends to be static and can lead to uninteresting results.

1/800, f16.0, ISO640, 50mm
This broken window with its shutter hanging off has two main elements.  The subordinate element is the hanging shutter which lies at an angle leading the eye up to the window through which can be seen leaves and sky as the house is a ruin.  The picture is fairly symmetrical in the horizontal sense but has a larger proportion of interest above the centre so would be heavier to the upper portion of the shot.

1/800, f18.0, ISO400, 17mm

  This picture is bilaterally symmetrical apart for the city sky scrapers on the left horizon.  The radiating lines of cables and path all lead towards the stone tower that dominates the image.  Apart from the city skyline the picture is balanced horizontally and weighted to the bottom vertically.

composite photograph
The arches dominate this photograph and the descending size leads the eye across the photograph to the centre arch which has the interest of the roof and clock tower.  The photo is overweighted to the left but this gives the eye a starting point to investigate down and into the photograph. 

1/50, f5.0, ISO640, 45mm
This cafe has at least 3 main elements, the fan, the coca cola sign and the window.  They have nearly equal dominance but lie mainly to the left of the centre so bias the picture in that direction.  Because the photo is taken with a slant towards the left this gives it a natural feel in that direction.


1/125, f11.0, ISO100, 19mm
This field has only one main object, the tree.  However, the fence posts spayed radially and in a line leading up to the tree form another prominent feature.  This is where balancing objects rather breaks down as a line through the picture carries a great deal of visual weight but no single position.

1/100, f7.1, ISO400, 24mm
When I drew out the weighing scales for this picture I couldn't see how it weighed up in the horizontal sense, just the vertical with the sky line weighed against the diminishing line of the vines.  Now that I look at it again I can see that the two main vines left and right are equally balancing and although they point to the left of centre their position is counterbalanced by the city on the skyline.
I started this exercise unsure of the relevance and I still feel that since both balanced and unbalanced photographs have their place then why are we trying to establish which is which.  But I guess that is the point.  By establishing what is the balancing or unbalancing component of a picture we are able to use that knowledge in order to ensure that we correctly apply the principle to get the desired effect.

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