JimK Photo | The Rule of Thirds is just a suggestion

The Rule of Thirds is just a suggestion

April 09, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I'm privileged to work with great photography. What a joy. One of our contributors at Ziga Media is Kathleen Norris Cook (http://www.kathleennorriscook.com/), a landscape photographer, based in Ouray, Colorado. She kindly allowed me to use her image of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Harkers Island, NC. When I saw the photo, I knew I had to share it as an example of the Rule of Thirds, because it conformed to the "Rule" so imprecisely. The tower is placed to the right of the vertical guide and the line of the sand is placed below the horizontal guide. Though the line of trees on the horizon could be the guide; the dominant element is the sand because it makes a stark contrast with the trees and sky. In real life the compositions we see seldom match  the rules.

KNCook_41345LTHcapelookoutCape Lookout lighthouse, Harkers Island, NC. Photo by Kathleen Norris Cook.

KNCook_41345LTHcapelookout-ROTCape Lookout lighthouse, Harkers Island, NC. Photo by Kathleen Norris Cook. Rule of Thirds

And Kathleen's image offers three more compositional lessons. 1) leading lines. As you can see, the lines don't need to be literal lines to provide the elements that lead your eye through the image. Actually, the lighthouse itself is such a dominant element, no lines are needed to bring our attention to the center of interest. Because the tower so dominates the composition, the leading lines take our eyes away from the lighthouse along the lines of the grasses. 2) the large expanse of the blue sky gives the photo substantial negative space, forcing our eyes toward the tower.

KNCook_41345LTHcapelookout-linesCape Lookout lighthouse, Harkers Island, NC. Photo by Kathleen Norris Cook. Leading lines

3) note the low camera angle. She would have had to kneel, sit or lay in the sand to make this image. Even though the base of the lighthouse is cut-off by the dune, like cutting a full-length portrait at the ankles--which I don't mind in this case, the low angle gives the image extra impact by emphasizing the sand and grasses.

Light: low afternoon or early morning sun helps emphasise the shapes and textures.

Bravo, Kathleen!

And, I would guess that Kathleen did not really think about all this when she "saw" the lighthouse. She might have walked around a bit before she came upon this alignment of elements and made this photograph. And I would also guess she took several captures, from another angle or two, with exposure bracketts, and made a vertical composition as well.


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