Recently I’ve written about watching out for Slivers of Light and the intrinsic need to funnel our viewers back into the image. Back in March of 2011, I also wrote about Holding the Sun in the Frame and the need to satisfy the space around the sun, or by proxy the moon. Sometimes the need to satisfy both the Rule of Space and need to remove the Slivers of Light crash into each other. What do you do then?
Here is a shot from my fall southwest tour. This is a capture on the road to Lockett Meadow, just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. The strong diagonal shaft of sunlight is a key driving element in the photo. It leads you into the frame and leaves you at the sun, the most distant object in the frame. The sun is placed very deliberately by the need to hide the camera in the RH tree’s shadow in order to get the fine starburst pattern that comes from decreasing the size of the light source. Move to the right slightly and the sun peeks out on the other side of the tree. This unfortunately bisects our composition and kills the leading lines of the sunlight before we guide our viewer all the way through the frame.
In the article that admonished you to avoid slivers of light, I advised you to avoid leaving an area of light and space on the edge of your frame that would pull the viewers eye away from the image. For this crop, I first corrected perspective so that the tree on the right was straight. This way, I could eliminate as little space as possible while cropping in to hide the sliver of light. It definitely helps with the space problem but it moves the sun too close to the edge of the frame. The rays of the sun now touch the edges, indeed pierce them and that is something we should try to avoid. If you go back and read the Holding the Sun in the Frame article from 2011, you will find that “generally” we can get away with putting the sun on the rule of 7th’s and stretch it (uncomfortably sometimes) to the rule of 9th’s. In the uncropped version, we are already near the rule of 10th’s.
A few days ago, I saw a Web Photographic Guru make the comment that when you have an evergreen tree on the edge of a frame you should turn it into a triangle. In the problem space, in the background, is an evergreen tree. The above crop cuts that tree in half — effectively cutting the light space in half. This image represents a compromise between our competing rules. It reduces the sliver of light space, attempts to leave as much room for the sun as possible and bisects the evergreen tree. Is it the best crop? It should be for we "”balanced” all the competing rules.
Looking at the there crops, which do you like better?
I can tell you that I like the first crop better and here’s why. the dark element of the tree and its shadow gives us a “framing element” to better hold our sun in the edge of the frame. With this dark-edge element, we can bend the rule that says keep the sun inside the rule of 7th’s. Crop two is just biting into the edge too much and all in all, there has to be some space for the sun’s rays. Crop three strikes a nice balance but how many of you knew (or cared) about bisecting that distant evergreen?
If you look at the three images, the compromise crop and its reduced sliver of light is the most distracting. That is the thing about slivers of light and space — the more slivery they are, the more distracting they become. The image works better with space for the sun. A big part of that is that the sun, being the brightest element and immediately adjacent to the sliver, overpowers that space. It is harder for the sun to overpower a thin sliver than a big space.
Ultimately, in this case when rules collide, the more powerful subject always beats the less powerful distraction. The solution here is to minimize the impact of the space by increasing its presence in the frame and thus lessening its distractive qualities.
Rikk Flohr © 2012