The Rule of Thirds

I woke up this morning thinking about where I wanted to go today to take some photos.  I wanted to stay close to home…and I didn’t want to head to the beach since I take a lot of beach shots.  I finally decided to head up near a golf course not too far from home, thinking about some greenhouses I pass every day and never take the time for a close look.

For February’s #sdawpphotovoices, we are playing with photography techniques and spending a week on each of four different aspects of those techniques.

I headed out this morning specifically thinking about the rule of thirds–the technique of placing the focal element of the photo off to the side rather than centering it in the frame of the lens. This is a technique I do pay attention to, and sometimes it creates spectacular shots.  I notice that when I move the focal point off the center, I also allow something else interesting into the shot.

watertower

In the case of this watertower, it also allowed the beautiful flowering trees and the mottled clouds to enter the stage.  In some cases, moving into the thirds also works to simplify the scene and allows the viewer to see what you are looking at and not everything your lens might otherwise see.

windmill on golfcourse

As I was thinking about the rule of thirds in photography, I was also thinking about the value of applying that rule to instruction.  Sometimes the best approach to learning is coming at it from the side, letting context take center stage.

We saw evidence of this at the end of last week when we asked students to reflect on the service learning project we’ve been working on.  While we did revisit the importance of some kind of introduction and conclusion to a piece of writing, as students wrote about something they were not only intimately familiar with but also something that they were engaged and invested in, the writing flowed.  And we even had that wonderful experience of having students beg for more writing time!

Sometimes you barely notice the rule of thirds being applied.  You might remember that I mentioned greenhouses at the beginning of this post.  The area where I live used to be covered with flower fields and greenhouses.  Development has pushed much of the agriculture out of our area, fields and greenhouses now replaced by million dollar (or more) homes.  As I explored this morning, I captured some shots of one of the remaining operations–surrounded by a suburban housing development and across the street from the golf course.

Greenhouses with bird of paradise

In this case my focal point was the bird of paradise in the foreground.  The greenhouses and the sky serve as a beautiful backdrop.  I was wishing for the sides of the greenhouse to open. There are many days when I drive by and notice the plastic walls open, offering a peek at the colorful flowers within.

And finally, it’s sometimes the simplest of things that makes for a beautiful photo.  This tree and fence and clouds taken from the back of the golf course seemed a perfect candidate for a black and white application.  I think the white fence and the white clouds create the kind of contrast that is needed with black and white.

Black and White from behind

I had a lot of fun playing with the rule of thirds and exploring the local community.  It’s interesting to drive down side streets and behind the places I see so often only from my car window as I commute to and from work.  I’m thinking that a month focused on photographic technique may offer me many new ways to play…right here, close to home.

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