For the next few weeks, let’s push the envelope a bit and stretch our photographic technique. I’m taking these challenges from my e-book 32 Photo Etudes: Studies in Composition, Focus, Light, Motion.
An etude (pronounced a-tood) is a technical study. The term comes from music. A photo etude is an exercise designed to enhance a particular photographic skill.
This week’s photo challenge is a compositional etude.
Photograph Repeating Patterns
I worked on this compositional technique a lot when I first started trying to improve my photography skills. My eye will see repeating patterns, but only if the are really obvious. Once I started looking for repeating patterns, though they seem to be everywhere!
The world seems a random place at times, but look again, maybe it’s not as random as you first thought.
This Photo Etude is about finding repeating patterns. Go for a photo walk and look for repetition – multiples of something.
In architecture, this could be a series of archways or windows or these could be naturally occurring patterns like waves. Anytime you see multiples, look to see if there is a repeating pattern.
For the 32 Photo Etudes book, I used this photo of Florentine Arches (Florence, Italy) as an example. It’s also an example of vanishing point as the arches appear to get smaller and smaller and seem to disappear into the distance.
To get photos of Florence architecture without people, I had to get up really early in the morning!
Travel Photography Top Tip:
Most travelers and tour buses seem to start their day around 9:30 a.m. – at least this is when the tour busses seem to start arriving. If you’re going to a popular destination, find out when the place opens and be ready to enter early. You can always have breakfast afterwards!
We went to Abhaneri in India specifically to see the repeating patern of this geometrically precise steps of this stepwell. Currently, this is an archeological site, but in the past people would walk down these steps to a pool of water – and then all the way back up!
Compose your photo so that the repetition is obvious in the image. This may mean stepping to the left or the right or changing your height (e.g., getting low) to bring the patterns closer together.
But it’s not just architecture that has repeating patterns. Look for repeating patterns in nature. Think of things that repeat – waves, snow drifts, pedals of a flower, even a line of trees can have repetition.
We naturally appreciate repetition even if we don’t consciously notice it – that’s why so much of advertising includes it! Our job as photographers is to notice the repetition and make it as obvious as possible so others can see the pattern.
You can make this etude a bit more challenging by composing around an oddity or a break in a repeating pattern. For instance, a change in color on just one element of the pattern or a flower that’s just a little taller than the others. The viewer can appreciate the pattern, but not get bored with the repetition.
I used this next photo in a post I titled “Making the Invisible, Visible”. Repetition of this parking structure is broken up with changing triangles of color that add interest.
In each Photo Etude, the assignment is to create 12 photos, but for weekly challenges 12 isn’t necessary, just try your hand at the technique to get the hang of it. If you want to share multiple images to discuss with others, feel free to share on this Facebook Album.
It was these sorts of photo etudes that I created for myself that took me from creating snapshots (in automatic mode on a cheap point-and-shoot camera) to having solo gallery shows.