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Chapter 4 Assignments

Get Out of the Middle

A great way to help you avoid middle compositions is to go out and spend some time photographing a scene where every picture keeps “important stuff” out of the middle of the photograph. Work at it. Consciously place things in your composition that are away from the center of the frame. As you do this, watch your background, too. Be sure that you don’t have a horizon going through the middle when you’ve worked so hard to put a tree on one side of the image or the other.

Sky versus Ground

For this assignment, find a location where you have a strong horizon between sky and ground. Take a series of pictures of this scene as you vary the position of the horizon. Try taking a picture with the horizon at the bottom of the frame, and then try the same scene with the horizon at the top of the frame. Take a look at your images and see how that changed composition affects how you feel about and perceive the location.

Big Foreground

One way to help you explore the relationships of foreground to the rest of the picture is to find a location with a very interesting foreground. Take a series of pictures of this scene as you move closer to or farther away from that foreground. What you’re trying to do is change the relationship of that foreground to the background because of the size of the foreground in your photo. You may need to use a wide-angle lens when you get very close to your foreground.

Work the Edges

Years ago, I took a workshop with the great Ernst Haas. He suggested an exercise that is excellent for learning to check your edges; plus, it’s a bit of a challenge. Go out and look for compositions that use only the edge for important pictorial details. In other words, the middle is the only space to support those detailed edges. This isn’t an easy exercise to do, but even if you fail to find perfect edges, you’ll succeed in becoming a better photographer because you’ll be learning to work better with edges.

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