In the lecture he presented and discussed a number of his photographs. As in the workshop, the discussion was about design or composition of the image. Image design is about the placement of objects in the frame, their relative position, the shapes and textures included. Design is also about what is excluded. A lot of variables to consider.
The workshop included an exercise where the participants were taken out into the laneway behind the workshop building and assigned an individual spot. We were not allowed to move away from that spot, although we could turn around. From there we each spent the next 1 and 1/2 hours taking pictures.
At the conclusion of the exercise we were to pick our best five shots for a critique.
The critique was surprisingly helpful in the sense of what Mr. Patterson was looking at and which points he focused on. As a design course one would expect composition to be the focus, but the level of detail was more than I expected. He focused on the position within the frame, balance of the objects, comparative width of objects, lines and shapes presented in the picture, degree of separtion, relative tone (not too bright, not too dull).
The whole experience while insightful offered a sense of the effort involved in constructing a good photograph. I had a couple of learnings, which were:
- What is good:
Patterson suggested that the rules of composition are largely "left brain" activities; the sense of good or bad is emotional and thus more "right brain." As such, good and bad are very subjective coming down to personal likes or dislikes. So while the 1-1/2 hours in the lane were an important part of the exercise, the selection of the 5 best shots was also important as it drove one to assess his likes and dislikes. While the left brain activity can inform the right, in my own case the right brain generally expresses its opinion more immediately leaving the left to explain why. This sequencing of results offers a path to incremental improvement of a picture, through interaction between right and left interpretations.
- Discipline and the Tripod:
While I often carry a tripod, I tend to use it only in low-light situations. Patterson described it as a tool to improve the design of a photograph. The tripod enables incremental refinement of the composition, where hand-held lacks the precision of maintaining the same camera position. Therefore, when the right brain says this is a good shot, but the left says it's not quite balanced, a minor shift in the tripod position can deal with the issue. Going hand-held it is very difficult to reposition the camera to the position of the orignal shot and then make the minor shift in position.