Though the road seems familiar…we’re just remembering where to go.
It’s the beginning of a journey. The destination is visible, the ending isn’t clear. Perhaps the traveler in this photograph is anxious to begin. Or perhaps she’s afraid…because she’s been there before. To me, the photograph is not necessarily a happy photograph, but it is a positive one. It’s a representation of that big step forward, the first step of a journey or the beginning of the next chapter. You could summarize it in any number of philosophical or poetic ways, but none could describe this feeling better than a photograph.
Heather has created this photograph with the utmost of care. The subject (Heather, perhaps?) is centered horizontally in the shot. So is the road. So is the vanishing point off at the horizon, and that wedge of green above which emphasizes the vanishing point. She’s done a meticulous job making sure that everything lined up. Unconventionally, the horizon is centered vertically within the photo. This composition may not follow any of the rules (not that we care about the rules if the results are good), but it is all essential to telling the story. That axis is such a strong element of the composition that the story is told with or without the need for context. Proof of concept, we’ve cropped the photo to eliminate most of the context. The story doesn’t change. I realize that my point here opens up the discussion about the need for the context and negative space, which I feel is so valuable to any story-telling photograph. After all, doesn’t the narrow crop still tell the story without? It does. But the story lacks the powerful voice without the looming and ominous shapes of those trees. Without all those trees, without all that negative space, it’s just a journey. With the trees, that journey is perhaps a little intimidating.
Speaking of the trees, I like how they seem to be leaning towards the center of the shot, like the road has gravity pulling their canopies inward. Without seeing the actual setup, I can’t say for certain whether the trees are actually leaning in real life or if Heather has taken care to create the illusion. I’m going to assume that the effect is a result of her hand. One way to achieve the effect is by placing the camera below the subject and tilting upwards. Any lines not perfectly parallel with the sensor’s surface will converge.
Normally when I feature photographs, I like to throw in a sub-title that illustrates what we intend to learn from each photo. We’ve already learned a few things. But I intentionally left off the sub-title this week because the take-away is a spiritual one: Approach each photograph with innocent eyes and the ignorance of a new photographer. There is a zen-like feeling when you strip down your methods to only the most essential aspects. It’s for that reason that Instagram and Polaroids are popular, even among professional photographers. When the technical details of a photograph are stripped out of the process, you can only focus on the composition. And if you can do that, your photographs will benefit.
With the work of Heather Binns, you have a few choices: She’s on Flickr, of course. You can also find her on 500px. Finally, you can also find her work on her personal website: HB Photography. By following her and her work, you will be inspired to create photographic stories of your own. Because Heather is a master at telling stories with her photographs. She uses technical and compositional elements, delicately balanced, to direct the viewer’s eye through the story. She’s a inspiration and I hope you’ll agree.