“Winding Path” by Gerald Chan (Or Letting Lines Lead)
As a photographer, it's very important to understand your relationship with an environment. An often occurrence is that you find some sort of connection with a space, and then you wish to photograph that space only to find that you lost the connection somehow in capture. Worry not, it gets the best of us. The problem is most often that you weren't able to identify the connection properly. When that happens, the best advice I can give is to look for one of the building blocks of design; make that building block a star. Today, we're featuring a Winding Path through the woods, a photo by photographer Gerald Chan. Gerald has identified Line as the special building block in this scene has chosen to make it the star of the scene. With that connection established and maintained with the viewer, his photo is in turn a star as well.
There are some who believe that great photos in the landscape require great places. I contend that there are many great places deserving to be featured in a photograph, but you need to go the extra yard to prove it to the viewer. In Winding Path, for example, it would be too easy to stand on the path to frame up the shot. The path would still be featured and it would still serve some purpose in defining the scene, but not nearly as strongly as the way it had been captured by Gerald. From his vantage point, an extra bend in the path is revealed. And the points at which the path disappears off the edge of the scene is far more delicate as a portion of the path is blocked by soil at that point. This keeps your eye focused on the curvature of the path. By letting the line (the path) lead your way through the scene, your eye gets to embrace a quaint little scene. such a scene would not have been so well embellished if it weren't for Gerald getting off the path and letting the path frame up the shot. The composition in this photograph is very well balanced as a result.
Composition and building blocks will get you most of the way towards a great image, of course. And to be frank, Gerald probably could have left it at that. But there are some nice finishing touches that push it that extra step, causing for us to feature his image here today. First is switching to a monochrome image. Woodlands like this are filled with greens and reds. While I like color, such bold colors can be distracting to the story at hand; the path would have become a secondary compositional element. Flipping to monochrome, the path becomes the star. In his use of monochrome, the path is bright and bold, further cementing the primary subject within the image. Some of the flora pops, but only enough to provide texture. Thanks also the monochrome treatment, the brighter area in the far background looks foggy and distant, revealing a good deal of depth to the shot. This gives us a sense of scale which isn't essential for the photo, but offers a subtle detail that further refies the image. Finally, I like the movement in the legs of the hikers. It subtly reveals the activity on this path and reminds us that while the shot is only a moment in time, the rigid path remains unchanged through longer periods of time.
We discovered Gerald Chan's photo through our Flickr Group. Flickr is Gerald's primary photo sharing outlet. Though his photostream is small, there is quality composition and treatment in every single one of his works. I highly recommend browsing through is photostream and I'd recommend that you follow his work, if you can. If Flickr isn't your thing, you can also keep up to date with Chan’s work on Facebook.