Jökulsárlón Lagoon, Iceland
Phase One XF, 55mm Schneider lens, f11 @ 1 second, ISO 35
This composition is flawed. It is unbalanced. The interest is all up in the top right hand corner, leaving too much negative space of uninteresting water underneath the trite reflection. There is too much weight on the left, tilting the image over and tonally, the image should be lighter so we can see what's going on.
On the other hand, this is a bold composition. The large area of negative space is intentionally sparse in detail, leading the viewer's eye to the top of the composition with the beautifully shaped headland, the cap of orange grasses and the tiny icebergs floating intentionally in the headland's reflection. The colour is similarly minimalistic, the tonal range dark and moody. And the edge of the shore leads the eye deftly around the frame to the centre of interest.
Which approach is correct and does it matter? When you've been a magazine editor for as long as I have, you can start to believe your own rhetoric! However, I think most readers would agree that no matter what the rules state, if a photography makes you happy, if it 'works', then it's a good photo.
As far as you are concerned, of course. I doubt if this photo would do well in a photo competition. Perhaps moving those shards of ice into the foreground on the left would break up the large negative space, making the top-heavy framing more understandable. Then again, there are undoubtedly some viewers who feel much as I do and enjoy the image for what it is.
What I like about 'breaking the rules' of composition is that you first have to consider them. And in the process of considering the rules, you're intentionally making decisions about what you like about your subject and how you want it to be presented.
So, when can you break the rules? Whenever you want to, but don't expect the judges in a photo competition to agree with you. If they do, then that's just a bonus.
And if you're interested in coming to this wonderful location and taking a superior photograph, I am doing a photo tour to Iceland this September with Better Moments photography and Christian Norgaard. Details are on our website (click here), but bookings are made directly with Better Moments.