Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds (Lessons from Annie Lebovitz)

If we could but paint with the hand what we see with the eye.–Honore de Balzac

The Rule of Thirds is all about the eye.  (Click on this link to learn more about this “rule” for composing visual images.) When looking at an image, our eyes don’t like to focus on one spot.  They like motion.  They like to focus on a central point and then move around the image.  They like contrast and varying shapes–like straight lines and spirals.  In this post, I’ll share a recent experiment with the rule of thirds for this week’s photo challenge.  I shot these images over the weekend in New York City when we were visiting a dear relative who is quite ill.   This also is why I’m posting later than usual.

On our way downtown to his apartment, we stopped at the New York Historical Society, which had a wonderful exhibit of Annie Lebovitz’s work.  Instead of using staged models, Leibovitz visited over a dozen sites around the world, which were personally meaningful for her.   Her images include Ralph Waldo Emerson’s library in Concord, Massachusetts  and Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Montecello.  Her work is charged with an emotional energy and a keen eye for color, detail and shapes, transforming an ordinary shot into a work of art.  In the shot below of Niagara Falls, she captures the varying shades of green and the beautiful interplay of curved and straight lines:

Niagara Falls by Annie Lebovitz from the WSJhttp://www.wsj.com/articles/annie-leibovitz-shows-photos-at-the-new-york-historical-society-1416587688?mg=id-wsj

Niagara Falls by Annie Lebovitz from the WSJhttp://www.wsj.com/articles/annie-leibovitz-shows-photos-at-the-new-york-historical-society-1416587688?mg=id-ws

In the museum lobby, I couldn’t help but notice this huge sculpture by artist Thomas Crawford called  The Indian: The Dying Chief Contemplating the Progress of Civilization.  I took a dozen or so shots of the massive sculpture, keeping in mind the rule of thirds and the array of shapes–from the feathers in his head-dress to the curves of his shoulders, lips, and ears.  I didn’t use a flash because I liked the way the natural light fell across his face and body.
Native American, Historical Society of New York.  Shot with Canon 40D, 17 to 70 mm lens

Native American, Historical Society of New York. Shot with Canon 40D, 17 to 70 mm lens

What do you think?  Is this shot visually interesting even though the sculpture occupies most of the frame?

Here’s another shot taken of a piece of sculpture in my relative’s apartment.  I set the sculpture by a large window.  In the distance, you can see the apartment windows across the courtyard.  In this case, the sculpture occupies much less space in the frame and is off-center.  Is there enough contrast between the foreground and background to make it visually appealing?  Do the strong horizontal and vertical lines across the image add to or detract from the shot?   I used the burn tool to darken the background a bit and the dodge tool to brighten the left side of the woman’s face.  What do you think of the final version?

Lovely Lady Sculpture.  Shot with Canon 40D and 17 to 70mm lens

Lovely Lady Sculpture. Shot with Canon 40D and 17 to 70mm lens

Thanks, as always, for your comments and have a wonderful week!

25 replies »

  1. I love the image of the first sculpture best. As someone with myopia, I have a greater appreciation for sharp, more crisp delineation. I didn’t quite understand what the Rule of Thirds was from this article though. I was able to find an explanation on a separate site, but you could always add a link for people like me who are uninformed photography enthusiasts.


    • Absolutely, Sally. And to think I stood in the same spot for an hour and took dozens of shots in the freezing cold and didn’t even come close to hers!! Thanks for your thoughts. –Patti


  2. Patti, I like the first you made very much. The head is the focal point and it works for me as an example of the rule of thirds.
    The second was well composed too.
    And needless to add more words to the stunning photo of Lebovitz.


  3. That Niagara shot is a stunner, isn’t it? I like the close up detail on your first sculpture very much. The second, not so much, but it’s just my opinion, and I’m no photographer 🙂


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