Compositional Concept: Facing a Big World

Hey everyone,
This is a project that I’ve been speculating about, but I’ve been having issues coming up with an interesting composition. I have the equipment to “fill the frame” with the subject matter so to speak, but the concept I have in mind entails the illusion of the subject being small.
Since these photos never satisfied me, I didn’t bother reprinting them after the first one to perfect contrast, exposure time. Nor did I bother to burn in the corners to even out the image. So, please bear with me, and keep in mind that right now it’s purely a compositional problem
This is what I came up with initially:

This looked decent to me, but the turtle is out of focus, which means that this picture absolutely will not work. I decided to reshoot this.
However, animals really don’t like to pose, and even after being bitten several times by my vicious little turtle, I still didn’t manage to replicate the pose. Nonetheless, I managed to get this (out of a roll of 36 other shots), which has him in perfect sharp focus:

I’m still dissatisfied. Both are interesting in their composition, and both are different pictures. Nonetheless, they share the same flaw: there’s a lot of empty space, which I wanted to use to convey the idea of isolation and of the emptiness and size of the world, but right now, it just looks uninteresting. I’m wondering what the heck all that blank space is doing.
If I shot this with a macro lens, it’d be a different concept all together. It would turn into a study of the groves on the turtle’s shell, or the turtle’s stripes. In short, it’d simply be pulling the frame tighter, which isn’t what I want to do.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Great work, sno4wy. I think the idea of the composition is excellent, even if you feel the execution is not (that turtle being out of focus in the first photo really speaks to me).

The next thing I would try in exploring the composition of this piece is to add in something very large (but still recognizable) in a corner of the frame (like a boot, or a bicycle tire, etc.). Which corner I’m not sure about, so this would also be part of the test. Following that, I would remove the large object (so you have what you started with) and try adding something very small, like a small pebble, on the left, upper part of the frame (and perhaps a test to extend this: after adding the pebble add something even smaller, like a grain of sand, to the right, lower part of the frame, but a bit closer to the center than the pebble). This all assumes that you want to keep most of the space in your composition.

Overall, a very inspiring piece.


P.S. Check your pms :).

Or simply move the subject matter. Place it in the lower right hand corner of the image. Right now, with it vertically centered, there’s a sense of space, but no sense of scale. That small change may fix that for you (assuming your shelled talent will cooperate).

Great idea!

Too make the turtle seem smaller you should place it on a pin (like in all those “Worlds smallest …” things)
Just an idea sorry if it sounds stupid.

But I plan to take my lil bro’s turtle and try and do around the same thing as you are doing with my Canon Rebel SLR.

Blockcube said it… 1/3’ds rule. The turtle is looking to your left so put it in the bottom-right corner so it’s looking at the empty expanse in front of it. Then if you shoot from lower down you also emphasize the Z expanse and seeing more of the shell will increace the perception of its size.


its a nice idea and I like the overall tones in the picture.

I wondered how it would look if you simply make the picture taller and thinner, placing the tortoise and shell close to the bottom. That way you’d keep the sense of space.

That’s a really good idea. I second that.