Rolling Graffiti Composition

Rolling Graffiti Composition

Back to the Rails. Rail yards are such a great land of contrasts. There is so much activity, yet nobody is around. I am drawn to them by all the big equipment rolling around, but I’m nervous about either scary people or getting in trouble with the railroad bulls or simply getting killed. My only recent solution is to bring someone along to keep an eye on me.

This composition sets up a little tension in that the graffiti and the dark detailed rails are at the bottom left, yet the only place for your eye to escape is at the top where one can see just a little beyond the boxcar. I modified the image to sharpen the corrugation and introduce a stronger vertical effect to pull your eye out of the bottom of the image. The numerous diagonals also add dynamism to the image.

Often people (like my dad, sorry pop) center the subject, which leaves the eye sitting in the middle and getting bored. If you see something interesting, like the graffiti, look around it and find a near-by compliment. In this case it is simply the open space above the boxcar. The two spaces support each other as positive and negative. So next time you see something, look around it and find it’s frame — something bright needs a dark, something sharp needs a smooth. The word frame also hints to “frame of reference” so something to give scale or location helps, but put the two opposite each other in some way, not one surrounding the other. If I had pulled back and centered the graffiti, it would have been boring, just enough space above the boxcar is enough.

So what is the effect I’m applying to the image? It’s called Direct Positive. It’s mimicking the old photography developing technique. The effect is saturated colors, blown-out blues and wicked contrast. Now it can all be done in post with photoshop or lightroom. Lightroom actually has a preset for it and I use it to start from and then tweak it to match the image. I’ve done this before.

Let’s watch the comments and see if my dad catches the slight. Even better, maybe he’ll finally put a picture on flickr to prove me wrong. 😉

3 replies
  1. Strangetastes
    Strangetastes says:

    Oh, I agree completely. Every Midwestern city has rail yards with lots to see. I have some pix of those around here but I don’t think I’ve posted any. They are intimidating and you know you’re not supposed to be there. I’ll go into the edges of them if there is no fence and nothing nearby is rolling.

    And I also agree about your comment on composition. Rules are made to be broken, as they say, but tell your father about the old rule of thirds. It’s a handy concept to keep in mind.


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