These are the rest of the notes I took of the Vision and Composition class taught by Dick Bond.


Day 2

Your out-of-focus exercises emphasized shape (form), light (exposure), shadow, and color.

  • An out-of-focus photo is abstract if its origin is unrecognizable.
  • When taken out of focus, a small bright point of light in the distance can grow into a very large circle of confusion, dominating the image. This can have a very nice effect.
  • The human vision system has a let's-not-get-eaten-by-tigers "program" which tracks the eye to the most recognizable object. This "program" is not activated for an out-of-focus image.
  • Black and yellow always work great for such an image!


For example, a very out-of-focus photo of a fern might have lots of horizonal shapes. Horizonal lines make a photo look static. Pretend the photo was projected onto a screen using a projector. Can you imagine looking down on a photo having horizonal lines? Looks odd. That is because horizonal lines can act as a vanishing perspective. When a vanishing perspective is below us, it makes us uncomfortable. Likewise, take a photo with no vanishing perspective (for example, a photo of your feet). Now, if that photo was projected onto the floor or ceiling it doesn't seem so odd.

Learn this: An image is anything within a camera frame, but there are no rules. Composition rules are self-imposed boxes.

Exercise: Take 10-20 images. Everything must be green. Nothing but green. Can be out of focus, can be cropped, but must be completely green. Warning: This light from the sky gives off a blue highlight. No blue highlights! Some white and black is okay.

Day 3

Your green exercises emphasized shape (form) and texture. It also empahsized the following aspects of photography. It is surpisingly hard to capture pure green photos, even when
that is what you see. Several effects play a role in how our eye perceives color.

  • The light source is often not pure white. For example, light from the sky gives off a blue highlight, whether you are in direct light or in shade.
  • Light bulbs might seem white when they are in fact slightly tinted.
  • A sharp edge which is made out-of-focus edge can color the edge in a way which was not observed before, due to diffraction. Diffraction results when propagating light waves encounter an obstacle (such as the object creating the edge; for details, see, for example,
  • The human visual system uses the brightest nearby object as the "white balance card" of your brain. So if you have a black frame for a photo, that will have a much different effect than a light blue frame in how you perceive the color.
  • The effect of "gremlins" is emphasized (a gremlin is an object which creeps into the frame of your photograph the moment you take the picture!).


To eliminate the blue tint from the sky, use a "81 yellow filter" on your lens.

As stated already, shape and form is emphasized when color is "taken away". The more circular a shape is, the less dynamic it will appear. A straight line, for example along a diagonal, adds a dynamic quality to the image. However, if the leading line to this diagonal is out-of-focus, then the effect can in many cases be ruined.

Exercise: Take 8 images, made up of 4 pairs. Each pair must consist of one photo of a scene with "normal" exposure and the other either over-exposed by one stop or under-exposed by one stop.
In either case, the "improperly exposed" image must be an improvement over the original. Any subject is allowed. All exposure setting must occur in camera, but software is allowed for the purpose of cropping.

Day 4

A showing of some of my photos is at the 47 West Gallery on November 15th. There will be a preview on Nov 14th and you are all invited.

I don't use the same exercises each time I teach this. (However, the first exercises, the "out-of-focus" one, is always the same.) For example, in winter you can't always ask for "everything green" shots. One good exercise I sometimes give is:all images must consist of straight or curves lines.

The last exercises was concerned with teaching you how the light metering of your camera affects your photos. As you can see, the light meters' suggestion is generally to be disregarded.

Under-exposure usually increases color saturation. However, over-exposure can bring out pastel colors. Over-exposure will lose texture but underexposure will nor necessarily bring out details. This loss in detail can be good - for example, if you lose detail in the background, you can often emphasize the subject more.

General advice

Photography is not a contact sport. Photos are not taken to get points in a competition. So ignore the "rule-of-thirds"  and other criteria that judges use to score photos in competitions. (However, placing your subject smack in the center of the photo is often not a good idea either!) Judges who always use the "rule-of-thirds" to "score" a photo are petrified (as in fossils)! Styles change, photographers change, what types of photos we like and why we like them also change, even for photography judges. So, ignore rules and let your own growing sense of style be your guide.

Just as placing a subject such as a flower in the dead center of the photo makes it boring, so does taking a photograph at an angle, dividing the photo in two. Try to avoid starting and stopping in corners all the time.

Photographs with more than one vanishing point are problematical. (By a vanishing point, I mean a point in the distance that the eye is naturally attracted to.) Often when these are naturally
separated the photo decomposes into two separate photos.

This is the last class but here is something you may want to do at home:
Find a perfectly white wall or sheet of paper. Photograph it, and increase the stop by 1. Photograph it again, and increase the stop by 1. Repeat this process until the image is black.Now you have your own custom-made grayscale! If you print them out, remember that paper often prints darker than its digital or projector image.