To me this photo is an illustration of how important lighting and time of day can be when it comes to getting the shot you want. I took this picture as I was walking past Theta Pond on campus before work one morning specifically because I wanted to basically get a do-over for a picture I took the previous day. At that time my coworker and I took a short break to go for a walk around the pond and then back to our office, and on the way I saw this patch of flowers so I stopped for a picture. What I got was decent but rather uninspiring:


The main problem here is the light: the overhead sun creates all sorts of harsh shadows that create a stilted and uninviting scene. The flower in front looks like it is tilted downwards as if shying away from the light, and the picture feels a bit cold and distant despite showing a rather colorful garden of white and yellow flowers. Admittedly the colors are all a bit brighter and have a greater sense of contrast, but I think that leads to a less pleasing image overall. My solution was to revisit the same location right when the sun was coming up to get a better picture and I think I mostly got what I was looking for.

Ever since I watched Sam Abell’s lecture on The Life of a Photograph I have been trying much harder to¬†microcompose my pictures. This involves getting the overall composition set up properly but then adjusting your point of view so very small things are also aligned how they should be. Case in point: the flower in the top photograph struggling to reach up to the sky while the rest of the flowers are still tilted downwards. A properly composed picture would have the entire flower, petals and all, situated in the dark area between the two bright spots in the background. My picture suffers a bit due to this oversight in microcomposition and is left with a bit less of an impact overall. Imagine if the entire bright flower were set against the dark background and how much more it would stand out as a result, but alas, the photo remains a solid B instead of an A. Like so many things here on this blog it was a learning experience and I fully intend to do better next time, or the time after that, or the time after that…and that’s how the game of photography goes :)


  1. So many learning experiences as a photographer, but if we stop picking up the camera, we stop learning, right? I love the warm colors of the photo in the video vs. the cold colors of the brighter photo. And you are right, time of day makes so much difference in the look and feel of a photo. But sometimes, maybe that particular time of day is the only time we will be in one particular area, so we just have to make the best of it. And now I have to find time to watch that Sam Abell lecture….

    • “if we stop picking up the camera, we stop learning, right?” That’s exactly right, Yvonne! You know, sometimes I’ll go a few days without picking up my camera and instead I’ll find myself online reading through forums and discussion boards. While all that is nice, it’s only through actually using our cameras that we will get better at photography!

  2. Simon —
    Nice job today on the difference between macro and micro imposition. Enjoyed the presentation by Sam Abel — “compose and wait”! Good information.

  3. Revisiting the location at different times of the day seems to be an important thing to do in learning photography. I am amazed at the different story the same location has to offer at different times of the day. Thanks a lot on the lessons on microcomposition. I appreciate your honesty in critiquing your own photograph.

    • You’re so right about that, Thothar! I see this on the Oklahoma State University campus all the time, but it’s true anywhere. Taking photos at a given spot during the morning, noon, and evening will give you entirely different results–not just from the lighting, but with the people, animals, and other things going on too. It’s such a fun and easy way to try something new with photography :)

  4. Janet Richardson says

    Simon, I enjoy your blog. The microcomposition is a continuous goal of mine. In listening to Sam Abel’s lecture I was somewhat surprised to hear he shoots his digital shots on “P”. Is that possible he really does shoot that way, you think? I use to shoot film and there wasn’t a “P” or an “Auto”. So I found it startling he said that. If so, I could greatly improve my composition if I wasn’t worrying about f-stops, shutter speed and ISO as well as composition. Perhaps it is worth my time to put it on “program” and “wait”.

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