Landscape Composition with Helen Iles


Lee Iggulden



How To...

Composition…  What make a good landscape photograph pleasing to the eye?

The above are mathematical diagrams showing the golden ratio. The Golden Ratio is a mathematical ratio. It is commonly found in nature, and when used in design, it fosters organic and natural looking compositions that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There are equations and thesis have been written to prove why it works, but in the whole it’s a great start point to compose an image with.

I arrived on the Friday night and took some images in order to write about this. Now that I have time to look at the images I have written a few notes about what works for me and doesn’t work at all. I’m going to chat about my thought process while I edited the images.


Image No.1

I was looking for movement in the water. This image has some however the two dark rocks stop my eye travelling through the image. The horizon is crooked, no matter how much I could process this image I’m not happy with the composition. 


Image No.2

This image has elements that I really like. After straightening the horizon and lightening the exposure slightly the green line shows how my eye is taken through the landscape using natural lines in the sea and the clouds. The blue grid lines show how after a careful crop I can put the main features onto those imaginary golden grid lines. However, the red shows some rocks that are too dark, and weight the balance of the image to the left.


Image No.3

The first image has potential. I really like the foreground detail and I love the diagonal line of rocks that go towards the lighthouse. However, the image is dark and the balance isn’t right at all. None of the main features are on the red grid line, but as the third shot shows, by cropping I can move the horizon up. I have slightly lightened the shadows and increased the overall exposure of the image. However this seems slightly over edited for me.


Final Image

This is my final image.  Why?

I’m a story teller, and to me this image captured the moment. I’d had a hectic week, I was looking forward to some quiet time, I was in one of my favourite places. Everyone had disappeared and I was ready to camp the night. I was looking forward to indulging in some photography time.

I focused on the rock in the foreground rather than the lighthouse because that was the calming beautiful part of the image, the lighthouse was part of the story but not the focal point. There’s no distractions around the edge of the image, the last of the night light is going, ready for a fresh morning.

It loosely follows the rules I mentioned earlier, but rules are to broken once you know what they are…

  1. Lynda Parkinson avatar
    Lynda Parkinson

    A well written and informative article, Helen. Even though I know about these rules of composition, I learnt something new or more likely something that I’d forgotten about – the blocks that stop the eye travelling in the direction you want. I probably do it automatically but have never actually articulated. Well done.

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