Bryan Peterson – composition and colour with impact

Scrolling through Instagram, as I do these days after effectively ditching Facebook, I was stopped by this image.

Look at those lines! The contrast of the colours. The composition. It’s so simple, but so striking! This is the work of Bryan Peterson, a photographer you might be familiar with. I was, but I hadn’t even realised until I learnt that he’s written several really well-known photography books, including Understanding Exposure, Learning to See Creatively and Understanding Color in Photography.

The image above drew me in to look further at Peterson’s Instagram profile, and I was captivated. His feed is a fantastic fest of colour and composition, and it really got me excited! He’s a photographer who doesn’t take the sickly picture-postcard landscapes and coastal scenes that saturate photographic social media, but who has his own style. What’s more, he creates the kind of images that I want to create!

The first thing that stands out for me is his bold use of colour. You can see it in the image above, and look at the one below!

Complementary colours is a theme you can see in lots of his images – in this case, it’s beautiful use of yellow and purple. Yes, it’s a sunset, yes it’s water – it’s not an original subject, but you don’t often see landscapes with such strong colours, and I love it!

Lines are the other strong elements in many of Peterson’s images. At the top we’ve got the horizontal lines of the steps, and above we’ve got the verticals of the trees and the diagonals of created by the perspective. The image below is an abstract composition in just one (still strong) colour, but it’s again the lines that make it.

The thread that ties Peterson’s use of colour and lines together is composition. His sense of composition and balance really resonates with me, and the image below is a great example of this.

There are very strong lines and the person with the umbrella – the main focal point, but not necessarily the main subject – is offset a long way to the left, much further than would be dictated by the rule of thirds. It’s the strong red that offsets the black on the right to create balance in the image, and the placement of the elements makes this balance dynamic because it creates doubt about whether the real subject is the person or the structure and the lines that it creates.

In fact, composition is at the centre of Peterson’s philosophy, and he’s perhaps the first photographer I’ve found who shares my opinion that composition is more important than light. He says this unreservedly on his website:

‘light’ is not Holy Grail. Rare does a scene with great light salvage a poorly composed image, but rarer still does a truly compelling composition NOT salvage a scene with poor light!

For me, Peterson’s approach validates my views about composition, and the balance and look of many of his images are very close to what I intend to create with my photography. Finding someone to provide this kind of vision that aligns with your own is inspiring! I hope sharing his work with you has inspired you too!

If you are inspired, then Peterson also has a website called You Keep Shooting, through which he offers online educational resources. Through subscription to his website, he offers educational videos, webinars and critiques. Here’s a taster that Peterson has allowed me to share.

I’m off to watch some more of his videos!

All images copyright © Bryan Peterson and reproduced here with permission.

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Sixstreetunder – master of street moments

Craig Whitehead – better known as Sixstreetunder on Instagram – is a street photographer based in Cambridge, UK. His work is fantastic. I love his photographs, and he’s the kind of photographer that makes me want to sit down, look through his images and work out what it is that makes them so brilliant. The answer is a lot, but I think it comes down to two main aspects.

The first aspect is the visual design of the images and the fantastic eye for composition. Whitehead uses strong lines and their intersections, along with powerful natural lighting to capture and direct the eye.  His images often contain a single figure that acts as the focal point, and the effect is similar to the ‘figure on ground’ style of composition. Except the ‘ground’ in these images is multilayered and complex, making the image much more engaging. People are, of course, crucial in street photography, and Whitehead’s inclusion of figures adds a human element, but his images usually seem to be much more about the visual effect than the human story.

In this image, the intersection of lines, the layers and the placement of the reflected figure, make for a fantastic composition.

Colour is another major element in Whitehead’s images – “the colour so many seem to overlook in the everyday” is the way he describes it on his website. He also often uses clever devices such as reflections and frames within frames. One of the most creative of these recurring devices is shooting through windows that have strong reflections, condensation or frosting, which partially obscure or distort the shapes of the subjects.

The steamed up window obscures the figures just enough to create a sense of mystery without obscuring what is happening.

The other reason I like Sixstreetunder’s work is that he brings out my favourite aspect of photography – the ability to create a visually striking piece of art directly from the ever-changing world around us. Nothing is static on the street, and it takes a huge amount of anticipation, visualization, patience and skill to conceive and execute an image from a passing moment that will never be recreated. Yet Sixstreetunder is a master at anticipating moments where life and visual design coincide perfectly, and is there, ready to record them. I think there’s a lot to learn from his work.

All images reproduced with permission from Craig Whitehead sixstreetunder.com | instagram.com/sixstreetunder

Follow sixstreetunder on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

See more about sixstreetunder at www.sixstreetunder.com.

David DuChemin – connecting photography with art

Reproduced with permission © David DuChemin. davidduchemin.com

Seven years into my photographic adventures, my ideas of photography changed fundamentally. This change was triggered when I serendipitously discovered the work of Canadian travel and humanitarian photographer David DuChemin.

Not just a photographer

Reproduced with permission © David DuChemin. davidduchemin.com

DuChemin’s portfolio is a masterclass in itself. Many of his images are intimate portraits of the people in the places he goes, as well as documentary images of the lives of the these people, but he is not constrained by genres.There are also landscapes and cityscapes, street photographs, and – in the context of conservation – wildlife, including spectacular underwater images.

Reproduced with permission © David DuChemin. davidduchemin.com

But DuChemin is not just a photographer, he is also a teacher and he dedicates large amounts of his professional time to helping others create better photographs. His mantra is “gear is good, but vision is better” – he’s not interested in what camera you’re using, but in how you use it to apply the creative principles of image making.

The biggest part of his work that I’ve followed is his online video podcast Vision is Better, of which there are currently 80 episodes (that’s over 10 hours of great photography advice), available for free on his YouTube channel. He’s also written several books, and the ones I’ve bought are equally as inspirational as his podcast. In particular, The Visual Toolbox is an outstanding guide to the elements of visual design and how they can be used to create photographs – I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Connected to the rest of art

Reproduced with permission © David DuChemin. davidduchemin.com

I have always seen myself as an artist – I spent most of my youth in some kind of creative pursuit and studied fine art up until I went to university. I very nearly made my career in this area. But my initial motivation for photography, which came much later, came from a different place, and the connection with art was never really a part of that. Until I discovered DuChemin.

It’s as though the photography cable in my brain had been plugged into the wrong port, and DuChemin took it out and plugged it in to the art server. Photography suddenly connected to the rest of art, and I started to see it as an extension of my ever-present desire to create. My reasons for taking photographs and what I am trying to achieve with them have evolved and become clearer.

So if you want your artistic thinking about photography to be ignited, challenged, or simply confirmed, I would highly recommend taking a look at DuChemin’s material. In particular, I’d recommend Vision is Better, and to help you along, here’s the first episode that I watched, which inspired me to watch the other 79!

See David DuChemin’s work at davidduchemin.com

Watch all the Vision is Better episodes at David DuChemin’s YouTube channel

Get your hands on David DuChemin’s books at Amazon