Details are an important part of any photograph. Of course there is always the question of how where the details should be in the shot. How should they fit the scene? How much attention to detail should be given? Every shot needs to balance detail and context delicately. There is no formula for that balance either. When it comes to a subject within a much broader landscape, however, sometimes the less obvious framing is truly the solution. What if we eliminate all context and get close to the subject? Maybe that’s the ideal, though less obvious, approach. And that is why I would like to share with you a photo by Heather Utterback titled Crumbling Layers.
The tree in the photograph is a River Birch. Unlike it’s cousin, the Paper Birch with it’s ghostly white peeling bark, it’s salmon colored under-bark tends to blend in with its surroundings in photographs. So you’re not going to capture its most appealing aspects from a wide-angle lens or a broad scope shot. Heather had a different solution: Get close. By getting close to the trunk, the texture of the peeling bark becomes the subject of this photograph. And there’s no doubt that the bark can carry the shot. With all of it’s different layers and different colors and all the little canyons and peaks, it’s almost a landscape unto itself. The thing I really find appealing about the shot is the way Heather framed it. By placing the trunk off-center – and frankly cutting of the entire left edge – it creates an interesting composition. Not only does it pull our focus off-center – which is always good from a compositional perspective – it draws our focus to the interesting and jagged edge of the trunk. The jagged edge is in stark contrast to the silky smooth (blurred) background. It’s a simple but strong composition with a strong interest. By pulling this one small element out of a much broader landscape, Heather has created a much bigger story.
Heather is a detail oriented photographer. Flora and fauna seem to be two of her interests, but she explores architecture as well – always zoning in on the details. If you would like to see more of Heather Utterback’s detail oriented photographs, you should check out her photostream on Flickr.