The Square Format

Do you try various formats while deciding on a composition for a specific picture? Although my favourite format is 5x4 vertical, this time I gave the square one a go

This place has become my nemesis. I have been there multiple times so far – so many times that I don't even seem to remember any more – and yet, I have not experienced a sunset. Well, sunsets have happened, it's just that the clouds prevented me from seeing it.

Anyway, once you find yourself at such an excellent and inspiring spot, you surely have to create an image, even if you have to push your creativity to such extent as to defeat the weather and the not so inspiring light.

The Background

The background is a given, that's for sure, you do not need much inspiration for this. The lighthouse itself has been an enormous inspiration for photographers, painters and I assume, sailors alike. However, the background in itself cannot offer a very good picture in most cases, all elements need to fall into place for a good composition to work. In many cases you need foreground, mid-ground, background and, of course, the appropriate frame format that will complement all these elements and will produce a delightful result.

Here is the reason why I am emphasising this part. I have seen many images that include a stunning sunrise/sunset with the most amazing colours. Delightful, so far. However, many times I find that I ask myself, "what is the subject exactly?" If you take out the colour, there is absolutely nothing left to admire. Is this what photography is all about? Gorgeous colours? What about composition, textures and patterns? Will the picture last the test of time or as soon as the colour loyalty fades away the picture will lose its merit?

The Picture

As I have more pictures of this location in a variety of formats, this time I wanted to create a more compact composition, something that would potentially concentrate on a small part of the landscape in the foreground and keep the viewer's eye from wandering around. Standing atop the cliffs admiring the spectacular views is one thing, adding all this to a picture is another – one can immediately lose contact with the actual subject. I decided to portray this strangely shaped rock with the grass pool and made sure it occupies almost half the frame. Then, the eye bounces right over to the lighthouse – as simple as that, no more and no less. I found that square format was the perfect way to restrain the eye within the frame.

Total time of creating the picture? 40 minutes.

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  1. Avatar
    Peter Hammer on

    One trick you can do to see if the image works is to convert it to monochrome and get rid of the colour. If the composition is good and there is a point of focus it should work quite well without colour. If this was my image I would crop about half the sky off and possibly like to have the curve of the rocks on the left but without seeing it I can’t tell.

  2. Avatar
    Duncan Steward on


    Great location; the steep walk back up all those steps! At least they have resurfaced the road.

    Hope you get your sunset.

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