Working with Repetition and Texture
Multiple parallel lines that converge on your subject lead the viewer powerfully into the image. Parallel lines that converge at a distant point create perspective. What about parallel lines that don't converge and don't lead out of the composition? These are examples of textures or repeating patterns.
Like other compositional elements, textures can be the subject or theme of a photograph, or they can be a background element of the picture. Repetition, which could almost be thought of as texture on a different scale, generally pleases the eye. A distant view of a plowed field might show texture, but a closer view might become a repeating pattern, while closer still might become texture again.
As you read in Chapter 9, a telephoto lens can capture repeating shapes, such as several ridges of mountains, while minimizing the perspective-induced effect of converged parallel lines. Because the telephoto lens enlarges these distant similar objects, you don't perceive depth, but instead enjoy the pleasing repetition of shapes.
Be aware that textures and patterns can also be distracting. If their shape causes a lot of contrast, they can overpower pleasing compositional elements such as triangles, similar shapes, and curved lines. In portraiture especially, clothing with a strong pattern distracts, unless the picture is about the clothing. Advise your portrait subjects to wear plain clothing without loud patterns.
FIGURE 12-2 A long shot of these interesting rocks along Newport's Cliff Walk would not have captured the subtle patterns etched into their surfaces by the action of the waves as well as this closeup does.
It's a good idea to look for repetition and texture when you're shooting; carefully consider how they can strengthen or distract from the overall picture. If the picture is about these elements, think about ways to emphasize them, including the following:
Perspective. Where you shoot from can greatly change what patterns and textures look like. If you happen across a shot that looks just right, take it from that spot. But don't stop there; feel free to experiment! Move in, move out, and move your camera up or down to see what other pictures you might be able to capture from different perspectives.
Lens selection. Just about any lens will work for capturing patterns and textures. A telephoto lens will compress the distance between objects and make patterns appear more distinct. Shooting with a telephoto zoom lens will allow you to crop the frame without having to move from your shooting position, as in the picture of the beach rose in the color insert.
Lighting. The direction of the light most definitely affects the appearance of textures and patterns. Light coming from the back or the sides will emphasize both. Front lighting tends to reduce texture and pattern, as it flattens the light and erases shadows. Bright daylight also helps accentuate textures and patterns, as it creates stronger shadows than diffused light.
As a photographer, you look for and/or create the elements of light and contrast that will show the shape and form of three-dimensional objects in your pictures. By changing your position relative to the object, you change the direction of light in your photograph as well, as in the picture of the plant tendril silhouette in the color insert.