Wednesday, 29 July 2009

What makes for beauty?

ashness bridge view copy

This scene at Ashness Bridge above Derwentwater, looking over to Keswick and Skiddaw beyond, is held to be one of the classic viewpoints in Lakeland. Even on a day when the cloud cover overhead is almost complete and the light is as flat as the proverbial pancake, one can see why. The tumbling waters of the stream provide plenty of foreground interest, leading our gaze to the little bridge in the middle distance, and then to the trees and bracken covered fellside beyond, before finally settling on vista of the lake and mountains in the far distance. From near to far the view is complete and full of interest. Lines of perspective seem to meet naturally at the bridge in a manner which is harmonious and pleasing.

So here is a thought experiment: remove the bridge and what are you left with? The stream tumbling down the valley into the distance would be pleasant enough, but would the resulting picture be as beautiful? I think not. There is something about that bridge which is the key to the whole composition. Divide the image horizontally and vertically into thirds and the answer becomes clear: it sits just about slap bang on the conjunction of the thirds in the upper left of the picture. Put your main point of interest ‘on the thirds’ and usually you can’t go wrong. In this instance the fact that it is an attractive and quaint old stone bridge, something which is not a common sight anymore, seals the deal. This basic piece of compositional wisdom works: our brains are wired in such a way that it just does. Seeing beauty like this does not need to be learned, it is a given of how we see the world.

So what are the compositional rules for seeing beauty in other people? And by this I mean something more than outward appearance. Which presumably is the first rule……

But what might the others be?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting question, for looking at your picture the bridge provides a focal point, and anchor if you like that centres and holds the image togehter.

    I am reminded of Pauls words to the Corinthians " from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

    Christ is our anchor point, and through him we will see others differently, without him we have no bridge, no center and no focus....

    Love the picture btw!