Imagine the scenario. You’re walking along a beautiful beach on the Gower Peninsular in Wales and you come across a beach ball that’s blown away in the breeze. You now have several options: to play an impromptu game of beach football, to pick it up and run away, or to get out your camera and take some pictures of it. Being a photographer, and always having a camera with you, you plump for the last option. You use the beachball for a little experiment in composition.
Here the ball, lit from the side/back, is dead centre which isn’t always the best place for your main subject. The image’s centredness (is there such a word?) is softened by the ball’s reflection and shadow, and by the interest offered by the background cliffs and their reflections. The highlight on the ball is also well off centre.
Dropping down lower and moving closer makes the ball much bigger in the frame. The ball is no longer dead centre, though it is centred left to right. You can still see the cliffs, but the top of the ball breaks the line of their bottom edge. This makes the ball an even more important compositional element. It’s now quite hard to tell the size of the ball as the scale clues are missing.
Moving round to the other side of the ball, it’s seen from a position that’s not as low or as close as the previous image. Now well off centre, the ball is lit from the side/front so the shadow is in a different direction. The lower camera position offers more options about the amount of beach to show. The people walking past in the background give good context and tell more of a story.
Looking down on to the beach, the ball is placed in the bottom right corner and the horizon’s been excluded. The sky is reflected in the wet sand at the top of the frame so you still get the idea of a lovely sunny day at the seaside. The wind wobbling the ball has given a bit of motion blur which ties in well with the the diagonal movement of the water.
This final image is looking out to sea. Using a wide angle lens has given some distortion to the ball’s roundness. It’s like it’s stretching to escape and be free to travel the open seas. Cropping off the bottom of the ball helps with this impression as it ties it to the edge of the frame. The viewpoint chosen shows the target in the distance that the ball is aiming for; the tip of Worm’s Head, centred left/right, looking like a gun-sight.
It’s fascinating how the story told in the images changes as the viewpoint and composition change.
Just a ball on the beach?