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#39907 - 09/17/13 12:19 AM Landscape Compositions in A Small Urban Park
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
James Morrissey shares some thoughts on developing landscape compositions in a small community park in New York City (specifically in, Bruce's Garden, Isham Park, Inwood, NY).

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Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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#39908 - 09/17/13 12:50 AM Re: Landscape Compositions in Confined Areas [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
I am fortunate to live in one of the most green areas of Manhattan. Now, that is not saying much to many of our members, however, here in NYC, every square foot counts. Not one block from my apartment is a small area referred to as "Bruce's Garden." It is an area that I have walked past for years, never really entering because it is not a dog-friendly space and every time I go by, I have my beast with me.

Bruce's Garden is a community space that is part of Isham Park, one of Upper Manhattan's jewels. It was named after Bruce Reynolds (1960-2001) who died on September 11th, 2001. Mr. Reynolds was a port authority police officer who rushed from his post at the George Washington Bridge to the fires of the World Trade Center. He did not make it out. The garden is cared for by his father, Mr. J.A. Reynolds, who is turning 90 in November.





On a completely unrelated matter, I wound up striking a conversation with Mr. Reynolds and quickly became enthralled by this gentleman. He walks without any aid and is completely sharp as a tack. He is - in pretty much every manner of the word - inspiring. One of the exciting opportunities that has come up since this relationship started is the opportunity to photograph the garden. I have been shooting in it with unlimited access for about the last week and a half. Mr. Reynolds is hoping that we will have enough to put up a small exhibit of photos at a local establishment.





The community garden is small - no more than 120 feet long and about 50 feet wide (my estimates). It is surrounded on two sides by mid-rise buildings (North and East). This means that morning light is slow to come into the garden, and when it does it comes hard and quick. Getting any sort of color in the garden is particularly rare - though it is less rare in the evening than in the mornings.

On the other two sides (South and West), a 5 foot chain link fence separates the garden from the rest of the park. Also, a very high tree line exists to the West that blocks evening light. The chain link fence means that backgrounds are easily muddied, and the large hill and high tree line obscures light coming into the garden.





Without sounding like an art-school wannabe, when putting together a composition, I am generally looking for several components: shape/form, color, light, texture, perspective and time. All of these components are necessary for me when I am thinking about the compositions I am attempting to create. LOL, some days I am obviously much more successful than others. frown





When I think of photographic composition, I think of something a dear friend of mine always says. "Photography is the exact opposite of painting. In painting, you create a composition from nothing. In photography, you start with a full canvas and need to figure ways to reduce into a composition." Working in a tight location, it becomes very easy to create compositions with mushy backgrounds and limited shape/form. Add to that the problems with lighting in the garden and you can see how difficult it is to make a beautiful landscape composition. Also, given that it is now past peak, many of the flowers that I could get away with shooting as macros are not available.

The garden path that provides access to the sites within the garden is shaped like a 3 Leaf Clover. As you can imagine, while there is an awful lot to photograph, making a landscape composition that does not feel constrained is actually quite difficult. I went back and forth a few times to scope out how the garden looked in different light before figuring out where and when to start shooting.



I also tried to make the best use of the space to de-emphasize the fence and buildings in the area. I figure that it is a community garden and that having some of these elements is perfectly acceptable when photographing in Manhattan, however, the goal is to make them less overwhelming and just subtly ubiquitous. I want to keep the eyes in the garden as much as possible.

You may notice that most of the compositions in this article are verticals (In fact, 8 of the 10 photos that I shared in this article are vertically oriented). While I will admit that I generally have a penchant for vertical compositions, in this case it was done as much out of necessity as it was for any sort of personal style. Shooting in the vertical format made me make tighter compositions, which was essential in order for the compositions to not look cluttered and meandering. Several of these photographs were taken only feet from each other.

I attempted to use a variety of selective focus, leading lines and strong angles of light to create different compositions - one right next to each other. Certain objects (like the gazebo) are prominent in the center of the garden, making it a main thoroughfare for the garden. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle, I attempted to make them a center focus of the photos, going at different times of day to catch the light and sky colors differently - much like one would do by going and photographing an iconic vista at different times of day.



I am told that when Mr. Reynolds took over this space that it was little more than a dump. A place where people burned their garbage. With a group of neighborhood teenagers and other volunteers, Mr. Reynolds has stewarded this space into something rather remarkable here in Manhattan. It is evidence of what people can do when they put their minds to it. This space has no water, and gardeners have to bring water in to the garden with 5 gallon drums from their apartments. Amazing.


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Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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#39921 - 09/26/13 04:35 AM Re: Landscape Compositions in Confined Areas [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
Just a reminder that these photos and story are copyright 2013 - Jamea Morrissey and the Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum. Please feel free to share the link but do not copy the photos or text. Thanks!
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Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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