I still vividly remember teaching my first photo class. It was 1987, and I had my trusty Nikon FM loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film. Can you imagine shooting ISO 25 film? Honestly, I don’t know how we did it, but I still have slides in my files that look great. Just the other day I scanned a slide file for a stock use, slides live on! I was guiding a month long climbing trip in the Wind River mountains in Wyoming, and many of the participants wanted to learn more about photography. I was only a few years out of journalism school, but I was already getting my work published in magazines, so I felt legit (if I only knew how much I didn’t know at the time!). We were camped near a beautiful high alpine lake, and the evening alpenglow was just stunning. I started off the class describing how to compose a landscape photo using the tried and true rule of thirds. There was just something about using that grid that produced pleasing photographs. Little did I know at the time that 33 years later I would be teaching online ‘Zoom’ photography classes. And I’ve learned a few more things about composition and the creative process.
While the rule of thirds works, there are other Golden Rule interpretations that aren’t nearly as well known. One of those is the Fibonacci Spiral. This geometric pattern spiral is created by combining arcs from the corners of squares using this mathematical formula. Sound like way too much math? Don’t worry about why it works, just know it does work. An Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, discovered this number sequence in 1202, and is has been used in design ever since. Human DNA follows the Fibonacci Spiral.
Denali has been pivotal in my life. I’ve guided multiple trips to the summit, camped in snow caves on it during epic storms, spent over a year on the glaciers surrounding it, and wound up buying a house in Alaska with a deck that I could sip a beer and stare at it. The image above is the classic view driving out to Kantishna on the north side. I chose a composition that didn’t rely on the rule of thirds, but instead used the Fibonacci Spiral. The road adds another graphic element leading into the composition. Many people take this shot, but not many know why it works so well as a composition.
One of my main goals with our new online creative camera class is to teach something new to the participants. Some of our workshop regulars have been hearing my workshop composition class for more than 20 years (how much punishment can they take). This new online class is going to present ideas and modern camera techniques you have not heard before in my class. I want to stir things up, get people thinking outside the box, and teach some new camera and processing techniques. Each class has student image reviews, new topic lectures, and assignments to photograph near home. If you have some free time, consider joining one of our upcoming classes. And when we do see you in the field down the road, we can put this knowledge to good use!