Rallying around on balance
20/06/13My interest in photography started when I went to photograph rally cars racing along muddy gravel forest tracks. There were none of the plush surroundings of the current F1 paddock that’s for sure. As each car passed you had to turn your back to shield both your camera and your face from flying flint and boulders emanating from the tyres of said rally cars - I still bear the scars even now. A few years later I took up rallying myself, travelling the UK and Ireland in my quest to become the next Hannu Mikkola – yes it was a long time ago. Those scars increased as I learnt the art of driving on the loose – not always successfully. I’ve been upside down in Kielder Forest, on the edge of a precipice in Penmachno, and I even appeared on a Jeremy Clarkson’s greatest crashes video – oh yes! Actually I became quite a good rally driver, winning national classes numerous times, by over several minutes on occasions. The worse the conditions, the better I faired as I was known to have good car control. Balancing the car as it slides on ice or loose surfaces is a case of feel - an inch one way or another on the steering wheel ; feet constantly dancing on the pedals; all subtle differences that affect the overall balance of the car.
Balance is important in so many disciplines, even photography, (- the tenuous link of all time? -) and I don’t just mean trying to keep upright on a moving boat trying to take pictures of moving yachts!
When composing an image, weighing up the many different aspects to gain balance in a composition is a subjective attribute. Balance is not the same as being symmetrical. As I study the viewfinder, I ask myself if the ‘feel’ of the image is balanced. Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping free space the same; sometimes it is the mix of the dark areas versus the light; sometimes it is the positioning of a key subject.
As I say, it is all very subjective, but when on a workshop I ask the question, ”Is it balanced?” I always receive an answer from the photographer being questioned, meaning that on consideration, in the first place, generally it was not. By looking harder at the composition, they are questioning themselves and usually some slight alteration subsequently ensues to give the picture ‘balance’ - in their eyes. By doing so, it removes possible imbalances in the composition to which any viewer may ask questions such as, “That doesn’t look quite right. Why didn’t he……etc”.
Go on, admit it. You’ve all done it as I have. I’ll often ask workshop guests to critique an image I have set up on the viewfinder of my camera. The list of niggles becomes almost endless as they get on a roll, wondering whether I had deliberately set up the comp. that way or not. Then I deliver the rub. I ask them to give as much concentration and critique to their own viewfinders as they did to mine. That usually subdues them and it may well subdue you, until you turn the thought into a positive by honing the images in your frame and balancing out all the nuances in your composition so viewers look at the image and revel in its art form, without visual or mental distractions.
Is it balanced? To you the photographer the answer should always be a resounding ‘Yes’.