When looking at a powerful image, have you ever felt that you could just reach in and touch part of it, step in the frame and continue walking through it or lean in and smell the flower that’s portrayed? If you have, then you’ve experienced an image with a great anchor point; something that solidifies the image by showcasing either the subject in the immediate foreground or an object that helps tell a story being told by the photographer. In this advice column I’ll describe the ways to make a strong anchor point and how it creates more of an impact. I’ll refer my points to individual images for clarity and simplicity.
Image 1 - British Columbia coast sunset: This is a classic scene where an anchor point — the exposed rock on the bottom left — was utilized to add both balance and a sense that the viewer could literally hop onto that rock and enter the scene themselves. Think about doing that; can you imagine it? If the answer is yes, I’ve accomplished part of my mission. This particular anchor was also utilized for balance, both for the two smaller, exposed rocks on the right and the sky on the right, which is a deeper red, thus garnering more attention. I achieved this by adjusting the height of my tripod to only about 18 inches off the ground, going as wide as my 16-35mm lens would allow and choosing a small enough aperture to make sure everything stayed in focus. A long shutter speed allowed me to create a smooth ocean surface, which was quite choppy at the time.
Image 2 – Fence and sunset: On the first night in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia we were lucky enough to stumble on to this scene about 10 minutes before the sun set. I quickly took note of the fence as a leading line and compositional balance for the setting sun. As I looked through the viewfinder while walking around the scene I loved the look that the fence gave me; it made me feel like I was sitting on it just watching the magic of the evening unfold. I set up my tripod right over top of the fence to garner the composition I wanted. As in the image above, the fence not only acts as a great anchor and storytelling point, but also as a compositional equalizer for the sun. I used a small aperture of ƒ16 to achieve the star-like look of the sun.
Image 3 – Balancing Rock: Just west of my hometown of Kamloops there’s a place called “Balancing Rock,” which is basically a column of hardened clay supporting a massive boulder. Literally 75 metres away lays this gem of a landscape that was very challenging to get to and portray. I chose this scene as I felt the right side of the image did two things: 1) Made me feel like I wanted to explore the hoodoos and 2) Added my anchor point on the right side to make it feel like the viewer would be physically there in the canyon. As this scene was a bit sketchy to get to I handheld this shot for safety.
Using an anchor in your image can create what I call a 3D effect; it brings viewers into your image, allows them to experience the scene and makes them feel like they either want to be there exploring or photographing. Try the techniques above – they’re fun and effective!
To read more of Kelly’s columns and other great how-to articles please pick up the Winter 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe!