This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
For instance, literature does not depend upon one language, nor upon one class of subjects for expression. Music is not confined to one instrument; neither is art in picture making confined to one method of expression. The artist not only must know composition, but also the action and reaction of its principles, and the more combinations he knows and can produce the greater master will he become.
In Study No. 13, "Calling the Ferryman," by Nancy Cones, of Covington, Ky., We have a landscape with figures which has all the qualities of a painting. The perspective lines of shrubbery repeated again by the reflection in the water gives a fine effect of distance. They are the structural lines and heighten the effect of mystery as to the whereabouts of the ferryman, by carrying the eye into the picture near the central point of interest. The lines also contrast with the two vertical figures in the foreground. Note the difference in the stature of the girlish figures, thus avoiding monotony and giving grace and interest to the children by transition of line. The tree in the right hand corner of the print is a decorative mass effect and keeps the eye from getting off the picture. On the whole there is something about the way in which this picture is put together that is very pleasing. There is a subtle charm about it that we cannot explain, and yet we feel it. After all is said, the artist is one who has mastered the laws of art and who works in accordance therewith, or adds thereto. But mark this significant fact, that in the great constructive arts of architecture and music, no one has yet succeeded in setting aside a single fundamental law since the day the art was first formulated. No architect has yet found a way to design a building, however novel in appearance, or beautiful in design, without any consideration of lintel, vault or pier. No composer has invented any way of composing music without regarding the melody, subject matter, development and conclusion. So also, no painter and no photographer can make an artistic picture without regard first to those laws of technic discovered, formulated and applied by the old masters, and which have been developed by observation and study. No photographer, however gifted, can be called an artist who is not master of all this and more besides. (See Page 130.)
In the picture entitled "Moonlight on the Mississippi," Study No. 28 by R. E. Weeks, we have a characteristic picture that is common enough on the inland water ways of the great middle west, and yet the picture is seldom attempted by the photographer. This particular sky is all ablaze with light and the surface of the river is alive with rippling color. But the eye is specially attracted to the black hull of the steamboat with its smokestacks belching forth dark clouds of smoke. The direction of this smoke gives us a line in the picture that produces the effect of movement in the steamboat. It will also be noted that the movement of the boat is into the picture, not out of it. It is interesting to analyze how this sense of motion is produced. The short lines of the river banks emphasize by contrast the long lines of light shadow on the bosom of the river, sloping in the opposite direction, through all of which, whether we are conscious of it or not, we feel the pull of these lines towards the water level in the foreground of the picture. We then instinctively translate this feeling into a forward motion of the steamboat. (See Page 227.)
The patches of light in the sky, reflected and repeated in the river, are well balanced by the masses of dark on the opposite side of the picture. They also help to strengthen the effect of distance and the breadth of water spaces in the picture. The vertical lines of the steamboat stacks lead the eye upwards into the sky - and as we admire the beauties of line and color in the sunset flooding the whole scene - we cannot but feel that the artist has not only given us a picture to delight the eyes, but also has caught the spirit of this Mississippi scene, expressing his conception of it in form and color and the sweep of beautiful line in the photograph.
Study No. 45. "The Road in the Sand," by George H. Scheer, M. D., is a picture in which simplicity and masses of light and shade predominate. The picture itself is divided, like all Gaul, into three parts: Earth, sea and sky. The eye follows this rough roadway of sand naturally to the principal point of interest - the white crest of the wave just breaking on the shore. In fact, the picture consists of this patch of highlight centrally placed in a background of light gray. The sharp definition of the wave crest contrasts with the receding background and aids the suggestion of distance and atmosphere in the picture. It also demonstrates clearly that only a moderate amount of pictorial matter, after all, is necessary to make a picture of lasting interest. In this case, the sky helps but the general sentiment of the picture, the low, subdued tones suggesting a gray day, while the clouds are useful in assisting the composition by the massing of shadows and light effects. The horizon line divides the whole area into harmoniously proportioned parts. The foreground with the sand dune and the roadway are emphasized because the author wished to make this portion of his picture more interesting. On the other hand, he has given a goodly proportion of his picture area to sea and sky space, in order that there might be a more pleasing balance to his picture. In any composition, masses of light and dark, as well as areas formed by the structural lines of the print, are always an element of beauty. This principle is charmingly illustrated in this picture, not only as to balance of parts, but also as to the beauty of the shapes or contours of light and dark masses. (See Page 290.)
Study No. 12. "Under Summer Skies," by Wm. T. Knox, is a good example of a landscape study with figures. It is not an easy thing to do. The introduction of figures gives a bit of human interest to the landscape, also an idea of the size of objects in the picture, besides filling up uninteresting spaces. The most pleasing photographs of this sort are those in which the figures appear as part of the whole landscape. In the present instance the figures appear as the object of principal interest, while the landscape serves as a beautiful setting and background. The absence of sky space is perhaps, disappointing, as it belies the title of the picture, "Under Summer Skies." One feels that more sky, with a mass of soft, rolling clouds, would make us realize the summer sunshine and frolic better. Notice how the upright figures of the children, in sharp focus, give a suggestion of distance and atmosphere to the picture. The eye rests first on the white dress of the child, then wanders on naturally to the black tree trunk that balances it, on the further side. Instinctively and quite unconsciously we measure the height of this tree by the height of the children at play, and think of it as dividing interest with the children besides being a dominant and a very decorative adjunt to the landscape. It is curious how figures seem to fit those landscapes where the dominant object is an upright, or when placed immediately beneath the principal line. Perhaps to a painter this photograph would appear faulty because of the exaggerated size of the objects in the foreground and the excessive perspective shown in the receding surfaces of the background. But a high horizon and narrow strip of sky never look right to a painter, as they are too suggestive of a rising plane, while the photographer accepts them as instances where photography has improved upon painting. (See Page 129.)