The three ingredients to composition

Composition is often thought about in terms of where to place the subject within the frame. But what if I throw the subject out of the frame, or at the most, give you a very limited set of subjects to work with? How would you compose your shots, and would you consider how each of them would fit together in a portfolio? What would be the unifying theme if you had to relate them in some way? Is it the subject, the location, or would it perhaps be the colour palette that would be a more useful way of uniting a set of images together?

Subjects are only one aspect of composition. Colour palettes and colour relationships are another, and lastly, there are also tonal responses. My own compositions are often sparse in terms of subject matter, so I think what unifies my work is either the colour palettes I play with, or the tonal responses.

In my latest Hokkaido work, I've deliberately gone for an almost black and 'light blue' tonal response to the work. The absolute blacks of the Crane birds match and unify with the dark tones of the trees of the Hokkaido landscape: this is one part of a two part ingredient list for making this portfolio work. The second part is the colour palette. Despite actually shooting a lot of 'pink sunrise' during my time on the island, I felt they were at odds with some of the stronger 'colder' colour palette images that I found lurking in my processed films. 

I've realised over the past few years just how important tonal responses within a collection of images is to unifying the set. Images are really made up of three dimensions: subject, colour and tone. For me, to think of composition as being about subject only, is to ignore colour and tone at your peril.

This is why I think my work in the Digital Darkroom is a vital ingredient to what I do. Clicking the shutter is only one small part of the image creation process. Identifying themes and relationships in my work is an important part of this process and is crucial in  bringing these themes tighter together.