Snowy Compositions

Eating questionable turkey bacon that originally smelled of dirty socks, we sat in the uncannily bright house chilled by the remnants of old man Winter.


Ugh. I dread snow when I’m not planning for it. My friends update their Facebooks pages with, “Yay! Another snow day!” My response? “Ew.”

Seriously. I grew up in the North, in the middle of the mitten where I’ve learned to replicate the hallow sound of the wind that whirled itself around the corner of the house like an icy leather whip with my mouth. That howl of isolation. Alone.  Cold.

“Snow is for postcards,” I hear myself grumble like an old croon. To my good fortune, we didn’t get much. Although, the layer of snow + sleet + snow is a trifecta from hell for the roads that hide from Sunday’s sunlight.

As I heat the kettle for more hot water, I spy a beautiful shadow being cast across the sheath of snow. Revealed is the candelabra that hangs from the low Maple branch conveniently positioned across our table. Truth be told, I move the table to meet the tree branch to center the candelabra and that’s as far as I allow my environmental designer skills to actualize, otherwise I’d be out on the deck creating fanciful outdoor living space all day. I’ve decided I don’t have time for that as I prioritize my business before my home. Pathetic.

Snowy Composition
I decided I needed to capture that ethereal composition before it fled into another dimension. I really enjoy looking thru the lens of my camera as it allows me to remove extraneous elements and fixate upon that one thing that needs framing. To exalt the moment idealizes the worth of significance and man do I love idealizing moments. Call me a romantic.

From here, I want to show you where I catalog bits of inspiration for other projects and it begins with composition. I take many photos and save most of them in my personal library. Some call their library a ‘swipe file.’ The ones I keep must have a good balance of light so that when I need to adjust their levels, I’m confident I have enough darks and lights (value) to pull from both ways.

Here you can see the progression of enlargements to create intrigue for art not yet realized. At this point, I create a study of compositions to exercise my eye for design and perhaps implement in other design projects.

I love a couple of things going on here:

  • From afar, one doesn’t know the silhouettes of the candelabra are reflected on snow.
  • The photos look like they were shot in black and white
  • The series looks like a montage of a Ingmar Bergman film.

The following photos move from full moody composition to a zoomed in and cropped photo that conveys yet something different. The idea is to play with your photos, either full or cropped to find interesting vignettes that please you.

Click on each image to enlarge.

Take a look at the first image in this second row, it has the obvious ‘Z’ pattern where the human eye is patterned to review. It’s reported that the human eye scans in a ‘Z’ formation (top left to right, diagonally down to the left and across). It’s still remains intriguing due to the organic shapes of the candle holders against the inorganic sharp shapes of an unactualized chair.

The second image has the ‘S’ pattern. The third has a balance of dark interrupted by the organic shape once again.

Azalea Bush
I love the delicate balance between the dark and light as well as the reaching leaves. The darkness from the top begins to disappate through the effects of the branches and tipped by the flourishes of the leaves. Almost looks Japanese, doesn’t it?

I have further cropped these square comps to show the strength of rectangular arrangements. The first image is actually rotated 90° to increase intrigue. It almost looks like a reflection on a wall, wouldn’t you say?

Human Interference
And of course, the photoshoot is not complete without ones shoes, er, boots in this case. It’s not often I get to wear these beauties from LLBean as we purchased them in anticipation of nasty weather in the UK during our fabulous honeymoon in December 2007.

I ♥ ♥ ♥ the textures of the snow, the suede on the boots, and the denim of the jeans. I also love the juxtaposition of the warmth of the red against the coolness of the snow and denim.

I’d like to point out the complexity of the boot composition. There are 3 things going on here and I usually subscribe to the 3-point rule in everyday life. For this purpose, look at

  1. 3 different textures: The denim, suede, & snow all lend their version of texture
  2. 3 colors: Red, white, & blue (not to be patriotic) + plus the warm, cool, & value of the colors. Double bonus points.
  3. 3 points of composition: This one is the ‘V’ (eye from top right – bottom left – top left). The sunlight coming in from the top right leads the eye into the ankle of the left foot and then up the inside arch of the left foot. A nice triangular set up -perfect to place a logo on the snow or text.

As you can see, I rather enjoy inventing new surroundings from macro imagery into simple, yet complex formations of design. I also love ‘implying’ the idea of other textures, giving the viewer an allowance to further examine the textures or sit back and enjoy the ethereal scene of this new fantasy world.

When exploring your surroundings, no matter how seemingly mundane or onerous, be sure to have your camera or sketchbook on hand. I may not use these studies today, but they will definitely influence my next series of illustrations tomorrow. It may not be directly, but understanding juxtapositions of color, value, texture, and balance definitely help strengthen my next project. I may even use these photos as texture for a photographic series montage later in the year -who knows? It’s always good to continue to build one’s swipe file for inspiration.

Do these compositions compel you to begin editing your own work? I would love to hear if your art and design is strengthened by this mini-lesson.

3 thoughts on “Snowy Compositions

  1. McKenzie Leopold says:


    Your writing and your photography are glorious!

    I love the analysis of the photos.

    I will save this issue in MY ‘swipe’ file, and refer to it often. (in New York, the swipe file(s) sometimes fill a room of filing cabinets and is called ‘the morgue’ (sp?)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s