Dynamic Symmetry: Wildlife and Landscape Photography By Warren Wish
On a recent National Geographic-Lindblad cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic peninsula, I challenged myself to use the principles of Dynamic Symmetry to guide my photography of wildlife and landscapes.
Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. One thing led to another, and my visual world became even more clear after reading the PDF book The Art of Composition – A Dynamic Symmetry User’s Guide for the Modern Artist. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, and ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters (da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, etc.), I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people. During my exploration, I only saw a limited number of landscape pictures and an almost complete omission of wildlife photographs. So I asked myself, would it be possible to transform my photos to a higher level of mastery using Dynamic Symmetry?
My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into various compositional themes. I also studied figure-ground relationship, the arabesque, coincidences, radiating lines, aerial perspective, and other design techniques that would help create a better photograph. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grids in Lightroom to analyze my pictures. By accident, some of my images came close to the armature of the rectangle; however, most did not. At that point, I realized that I had not been achieving my full artistic potential with my photography.
Obviously, because painting is a deliberate process and landscape photographers have more time to compose an image, they can produce a more sophisticated design. But what about photographing wildlife? Animals are always on the move and pictures are taken in a fraction of a second. If Bresson could take photographs of the continually changing movement of a city street or children at play, why couldn’t the principles of Dynamic Symmetry be used to improve my pictures of wild animals?
So there I was on a remote beach on the island of South Georgia. A zodiac had just taken me on a rollercoaster ride to a wet landing not far from a colony of elephant seals and penguins. In this pristine environment, as long as we kept a respectful distance (not to disturb the creatures) the animals were oblivious to our presence. I was surrounded by life in the raw. Male elephant seals establishing their territory and beginning the mating process. King penguins paraded along the shoreline, going in and out of the water, while also in search of their perfect mate. In the Falklands, Black Browed Albatrosses were densely packed into hillside colonies pairing-off and laying eggs.
Between the sights, sounds, and smells, I began looking for dynamic lines of composition. The potential for applying Dynamic Symmetry was in every scene, and it was up to me to tie these visual elements together. At first, the background became my anchor points. I looked for dynamic lines in the mountain slopes and the flow of foreground shapes. Wandering around within this zone of interest, my challenge was to move my body, align my camera, and wait for the story to unfold. This kind of photography is a test of one’s knowledge of animal behavior and ability to be patient.
As I look at the photographs from my trip, I'm acutely aware that I have yet to reach the level of expertise of Bresson. But nonetheless, I am immensely pleased with my results. I see my photography as a continuously evolving art and, with additional practice, I'm confident that I will also develop a better eye for more artistic images with my nature photography. Dynamic Symmetry will help guide me in this quest.
To better capture the wonderment of our world, one image at a time, is what I hope to achieve.
"James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley "Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people. My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos. I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher, Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio