Of all of the "how to" questions I have been asked, the most frequently asked one always addresses the notion of "composition". Those questions are almost always directed at finding a manner of composing, relative to my way of seeing, which can be reduced to an easily understood "rule" of composition.
Unfortunately, I'm here to tell tell you that there ain't no such thing. IMO, virtually all such rules are nothing more than, as Stephen Shore stated, "art sauce poured on content", or, "aesthetic nicety applied to content".
Like Shore, I have always been uncomfortable with the word "composition" as it is applied to picture making, photo division wise. That discomfort comes from the definition of the word itself - the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole. "Combining parts" is a synthetic process and picture makers (photography division) do not "combine" or put together anything. Rather, they "select" what to picture from the already existent world around them.
In selecting what to picture and how to picture it - deciding upon a POV, where to place the edges of the frame, when to depress the shutter mechanism, and so on - the picture maker imposes a 2-dimensional visual structure (aka: form), as will be made manifest on a print, on the real world referents which fall within the gaze of his/her camera. And, most germane to this entry, most "serious" amateur camera wielding picture makers are at loss to impose a visual structure other than those which fall within the "rules of composition".
Hence, all the same-o same-o pictures made by "serious" amateurs.
Stephen Shore, in his essay, Form and Pressure, stated, re: his picture Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue:
... I was aware that I was imposing an organization that came from me and from what I had learned: it was not really an outgrowth of the scene in front of me ... I asked myself if I could organize the information I wanted to include without relying on an overriding structural principle ... Could I structure the picture in such a way that communicated my experience of standing there, taking in the scene in front of me? ...
IMO, in that short-but-sweet bit of picture making rumination, Shore has hit upon the reason why most "serious" amateur picture makers fail to break out of the some-o same-o picture making rut - their focus is more upon making pictures that look like what they have been told a good picture looks like, as opposed to simply and directly picturing what they see.
In other words, letting the scene dictate the visual structure / form rather than playing it by the rules.
Why bother doing so? Again, from Stephen Shore:
Sometimes I have the sense that form contains an almost philosophical communication - that as form becomes more invisible, transparent, it begins to express an artist's understanding of the structure of existence.
To my eye and sensibilities, the most interesting pictures are those wherein the structure / form is invisible / transparent because, when form is not particularly noticeable, I perceive that I see what the picture maker sees - what he/she wants me to see - rather than a picture wherein the structure / form is everywhere apparent and, therefore, leads me to see the "art sauce poured on content" more so than the content itself.
IMO, content (both illustrated and implied), more so than art sauce, is what makes a picture interesting and is the reason for spending any time with it. Whereas most art sauce pictures - most commonly created under the narcistic-ly sophist banner of "personal expression" and "artistic license", wherein the aesthetic niceties are everywhere apparent, are little more than attention getting but vacuous exercises in technical virtuosity and ultra-craft. For me, they have no staying power whatsoever - they are pure expressions of a slam, bam, thank you ma'am picture making ethos.
FYI & BTW, it is often been stated that photo blogs are little more than picture galleries, personal picture diaries, or tool chests. That little is written about the medium and its apparatus as opposed to how-tos and gear fetishism.
I agree with that sentiment and that is why, from day one, I have written mostly about the medium and its apparatus (much like today's entry). However, my experience in doing so tells me that most are not as interested, if at all, in the possibilities of the medium and it's apparatus as they are in personal picture diaries and gear.
While The Landscapist has a decent and loyal following, it is rather discouraging to have so little feedback / comments when I write entries such as today's. At times, that fact makes me wonder why I am bothering to do so.
I'm not complaining, just saying.