Tag Archives: composition

Break it up – the pattern, that is

Detail of forest floor, Madeline Island, Wisconsin.


I’ve been editing a whole lot of photographs lately, my ‘slow time’ at home giving me the opportunity to process pictures and reflect on the year’s work. Through this process, I always evaluate what works, what doesn’t, etc. As I came across this image that was used in my most recent book Expressive Nature Photography, I was again reminded of the power of pattern, and the need to break it, often.

I was drawn to the pattern of the pine cones, above, but it was really that little piece of lichen that grabbed my attention. I call this ‘lagniappe’ in photography. Lagniappe is technically defined as “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.the surprise gift. (according to Merriam-Webster).  I take creative license with this definition, as I consider that little piece of lichen a ‘gift given to an artist from the universe, or Mother Nature.’ I remember first learning about lagniappe from a good friend, Dewitt Jones, in a lecture he once gave to a photo conference. I had always looked for it, and captured it, but hadn’t a definition for it – until then. So thank you, Dewitt!

Why is that piece of lichen so important? Because the brain is stimulated by contrast.  Think about it; a pattern can be visually dizzying after a while, like a carousel you can’t get off of easily. It  becomes monotonous to the brain, after a while; but if you can find something, -anything – of contrast, it actually serves to enhance the pattern, as that element will create the contrast the eye/brain need. That’s not to say you can’t photograph just the pattern, and I often do – they make great jigsaw puzzles – or wrapping paper (!), but more often than not, for a picture that can hang comfortably on a wall, I’ll find something to break that pattern up to create greater impact.

Maybe it’s just one yellow flower in a meadow of blue lupine; or a sea urchin shell amongst pebbles on the beach; or an interesting window in a stone or brick wall. Whatever it is, you’ll find that often the inclusion of something ‘different’ in the pattern will enhance the picture.

There’s a metaphor, here, too. Just like that contrast in a picture stimulates the mind, a little bit of break-up in the patterns of your daily life can make it a lot more interesting, too. 

Thanks for being here!

Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, close-up photography, creative ideas, Insights, nature photography Also tagged , , |

Cuba #5 – Trinidad Blues

I am always intrigued by shadows, and in Trinidad, Cuba, there is this one palm tree that throws it’s shadow on a blue wall at a certain time of day. I just love seeing it.


 Created with Fuji X-E2, and the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS Zoom Lens lens


When it’s combined with a blue-sky day, even better! I have worked this scene a few times now and finally got an image this year that I like the best. I’ve seen similar scenes in Morocco, where I’m heading next week, so maybe this is a start of a series, ha ha. I’ll be blogging from Casablanca, Marrakech, maybe even the desert dunes, Fes, and Chefchaouen so look for pictures soon!

Thanks for visiting,





Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, Photo Blog, The Blog, travel photography Also tagged , , , |

Another from Lake Superior


The eastern edge of Madeline Island, Wisconsin, has a wonderful shoreline of rugged rocks and cliffs. After my class at MISA was finished last Fall, I was determined to get more sunrises along those cliffs and I dutifully got up every day for three days, but the weather had turned and it was not meant to be. That’s when you have to ‘reframe’ your thinking – and look for what does work in the light you have. The diffused light was still striking the cliffs, and there was some warmth in that early light. But the water was receiving the blue light of the cloudy day from above, and the cool/warm contrast struck me as really beautiful. I put the camera on my tripod, set my aperture to f16, and made a 13 second exposure to let the waves surge up and around the rocks. The water was so clear that you could see rocks below the surface, which added some dimension to the image. Having that one rock stand apart surrounded by water made the image, for me.


Thanks for visiting,


Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Landscape Photography, nature photography, Photo Blog, photography, The Blog Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Urban Beauty



I love it when there’s just a little bit of frost around my neighborhood. In northern California we keep our leaves longer, which means that even three days ago, there were dry brown leaves on the ground, waiting for the wind to carry them away. But the cold frosty week we had got to them first, and each morning when I walked the dog, I would see them. It only took three mornings to remember to bring my camera and tripod! I love how frost defines the ribs of the leaves, the veins and outlines them, too. That on top of the monochromatic pattern of leaves was the ‘frosting’ on the proverbial cake! Another fine example of what you can find in your neighborhood…which we’ll be discussin in depth at our Extraordinary Everyday Photography workshop in Santa Rosa, June 21-23, 2013.


Thanks for visiting and your comments are always welcome.

Posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, nature photography, Photo Blog, photography, The Blog Also tagged , , , , , |