
THE GOLDEN MEANLet's start with an introduction of a technique that is well known for many centuries now: The "Golden Mean" (sometimes called "Golden Section") is a geometric formula by the ancient Greeks. A composition following this rule is thought to be "harmonious". The principal idea behind it is to provide geometric lines which can be traversed when viewing a composition. The Golden Mean was a major guideline for many artists/painters so it is certainly worth to have in mind for modern day photographers as well.
Theory  Part IWell, let's begin with some words about the theory. The formula starts with a perfect square (marked blue in illustration A). Now we devide the base of the square into two equal parts. We take point x as the middle of a circle with a radius of the distance between point x and y. Thereafter we expand the base of the square till it hits the circle at point z. Now the square can be transformed to a rectangle with a proportion ratio of 5:8. The ratio of A to C is the same as the one from A to B. Luckily the 5:8 ration fits pretty close to the ratio of the 35mm format (24x36mm = 5:7.5).
Theory  Part II
So now we've something which is thought to
be a "perfect" rectangle. What's next ? We draw a line from the upper left
to the lower right edge of the rectangle (see illustration B) and another
line from the upper right directed towards point y' (taken from illustration
A) till it hits the first cross line. Obviously this divides the rectangle
into three different sections.
RULE OF THE THIRDSThe "Rule of the Thirds" is actually nothing else than a simplification of the "Golden Mean". The basic philosophy behind it is to avoid a symmetric compositon which is usually pretty boring because the view is centered. The connection to the "Golden Mean" are the 4 possible crossings of the dividing lines (see the examples in illustration C1 and C2).To counteract symmetry the "Rule of the Thirds" can follow two concepts: First we can divide the image into two distinctive areas which cover 1:3 and 2:3 of the size of the picture.
The second possible application is directly based on the crossing points of the Golden Mean. e.g Let's assume that we a landscape that is pretty charming but lacks a major feature or interesting geometric structure. The resulting image is a boring picture of an empty landscape. So what can we do here. Try to find an object which provides a contrast to the otherwise "monotonious" surrounding and place it at one of these crossing points. This object is an anchor for the first look and invites to a further observation of the scene.
© Copyright Klaus Schroiff
Published with the permission of the author.



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