(Click on the image to enlarge)
Convergence: A case study in perspective and composition. This photographic image is very ‘deliberate.’ By deliberate, I mean that a lot of thought was given to the desired effect before, during and after the shot. I will use this image as a case study to explain my decisions and why I made them. It will be up to the viewer however to judge the success, or lack thereof, of the final result.
Before the shot: I knew that I wanted to focus on perspective, so I needed a lot of horizontal lines converging. Looking out onto the Caribbean I immediately saw the horizon delineated against the dark storm clouds. Looking closer to the camera lens I also had horizontal lines represented by the blue seawall, patterned brick and cement Malecon (walkway). So that was four distinct lines to work with; five if you count the white breaking wave line. To accentuate the perspective (convergence) I chose a focal length of 24mm super wide-angle on my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens.
During the shot: I set my Canon EOS 5D Mk2 camera to AV mode at f/5.6 for sharp DOF (Depth of Field), resulting in a shutter speed of 1/500s at ISO 100. White Balance was set to automatic so I could adjust it later in Photoshop. I composed the scene in the viewfinder trying to keep the horizon as level as possible (which is virtually impossible). But, again, I knew that I could straighten it in Photoshop. A huge beginner’s mistake is crooked (non-level) horizons. Want to improve your scenic shots (especially large bodies of water) make sure your horizons are level.
After the shot: Composition would be EVERYTHING on this image, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First, I converted the CameraRAW image in Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11). The only edit I made was to the White Balance: I changed it to reflect a cloudy day (warming up the image).
Next I chose an aspect ratio for cropping the image. Protocol would typically suggest a landscape (horizontal) aspect ratio. But in this instance I chose an aspect ratio of 5 x 5 (a perfect square). I felt the lines of perspective (convergence) would be that much more dramatic juxtaposed with a square instead of a rectangle. Next, after straightening (leveling) the horizon in PSE11, I positioned the horizon-line ‘exactly’ one third of the way down from the top of the image (composition’s cardinal Rule-of-Thirds). I intentionally left the perspective point off the right side of the image (in space). If you were to extend each of the four or five horizontal lines they would eventually meet at the perspective point. You don’t need to actually see it to know that it’s there—it’s implied and perceived by the biological eye.
Finally I bumped the color saturation just a mite (the colors were beautiful to start with), I darkened the storm clouds a wee bit, I adjusted the overall exposure just a little and sharpened the overall image. I matted & framed the final result, and—Voila. The original scene was marvelous to begin with: Dark dramatic storm clouds over the Caribbean, with the deserted Malecon fronting the rocks and surf line. With just a little forethought, thought and afterthought I was able to turn a typical tourist snapshot into something more. And, remember, this image wasn’t extensively Photoshopped (just a tweak here and there to bring it all into visual focus). I hope you enjoy the result.