Exploring with a Camera: Group of Three

Welcome to Exploring with a Camera Thursday! Today we are going to be exploring Groups of Three in photographic composition. At the end of the post there is a link up, for you to share your images using groups of three. If you want a chance for your image to be featured here on the blog next week, you can also place your photo in the Exploring with a Camera Flickr group. A big hello to Ashley Sisk’s Scavenger Hunt Sunday participants – I’m always happy to have you joining me here!

A general principle of design, in decorating or any visual art, is to use odd numbers. A composition with odd numbers is pleasing to the eye. Why? In the Visual Composition article on Wikipedia, it states the “rule of odds” works “by framing the object of interest in an artwork with an even number of surrounding objects, it becomes more comforting to the eye, thus creates a feeling of ease and pleasure.”

A group of three, versus a larger odd number, is fun to work with in photography. It is small enough that compositions are simple and uncluttered, yet also large enough to provide a lot of variation in how the group can be presented. I have found there are many ways that groups of three work compositionally. Let’s take a look…

Basic Geometry

Going back the basics, three objects can be arranged to form one of two things: A line or a triangle. There are no other options. This is great from a compositional standpoint – we can use lines and triangles!  I did some experimenting last weekend with my origami cranes. No matter how I arranged them, they are either in a line or a triangle, but the creative possibilities are endless.

Taking three objects on a simple background and arranging them into different compositions as I did is a great exercise. You can really play around with the photographic possibilities found in groups of three.

Most of the time I’m photographing in the “real world” though, which means I’m capturing what is already there and choosing my composition solely by framing. In all cases, you will see it comes back to the basic geometry: lines and triangles. For my eye specifically, I use mostly lines.

Pointing out Differences

A group of three can be a great way to compare differences. In the lead-in image of this post, a pretty little scene discovered in Cascais, Portugal, the orange buckets are flanked by the two candle holders. Even though the candle holders are different colors, the similarity of shape and size of the candle holders serves to highlight the difference of the stack of buckets. This image also has a group of three within a group of three with the stack of buckets, but you don’t notice the stack (which are similar) as much as you notice the buckets (which are different).

This image of mailboxes on a wall in Sicracusa, Sicily highlights differences in the group of three. They are all post boxes, yet the interest is that they are all different. Being slightly out of line on that fantastically textured wall adds interest too. (I also noticed the colors are the Italian Tricolore – go back and take a look at the images in that post again with an eye to groups of three.)

These lockers are framed as a group of three, but the repetition of the pink lockers serves to highlight the differences in the locks. Notice all of the lines – the locker outlines, the row of handles, and the contrasting diagonal line formed by the ever-smaller locks.

Using Similarities

Even while a group of three may be useful to highlight differences, using similarities in a group can get you to pleasing composition.  For these paperweights of Murano glass from Venice, the group of three forms a line to bring your eye to the focal point. Since the paperweights are all similar in color and shape, they don’t distract the eye.

I love this image of flower pots on the steps in Varenna, Italy. The pots are similar in color and shape, and form a line that contrasts nicely with the lines of the stairs. The contrast in color along with the intersection of lines draws the eye to look closer at the pots, where you begin to notice the subtle differences in their shape and size. 

This image from Mt. Etna in Sicily uses the similarity of the tree silhouettes to catch your eye. Since there is no “obvious” tree of the three, you begin to see the subtle detail of the landscape illuminated behind as you look closer. I love images that hold layers of detail in them like these trees and the flower pots above. Groups of three seem to be a good way to initially pull a viewer in, where they remain to explore the multiple layers.

Groups of three are also great for highlighting architectural details and spaces. In this image of the Roman Bath in Bath, England, a composition of three openings serves to highlight the structural design of the baths. You notice the details that repeat multiple times – pillars, torches, archways. The reflection only serves to emphasize the group of three and the details further.

Clustered vs. Spread

In preparing for this topic, I’ve noticed that my images with groups of three usually have the objects in the group spaced evenly. These prehistoric pots from the Orsa archeological museum in Siracusa are a good example. Even though they are presented front-to-back rather than side-to-side as many of the images above, there is still an impression of even spacing and they are spread to fill the image.

This example of architectural details in a stone wall is from Bologna. By their design, the blocks are evenly spaced. By presenting them as a group of three in a diminishing line spread across the frame, the repetition of the blocks and carvings is shown while highlighting the detail of the single carving in focus.

Even though I don’t seem to use them often, groups of three work fantastic in clusters. I have a classic interior design image in my head: Three vases of varying sizes clustered together on a mantlepiece. In a cluster, a group of three becomes a unique object of its own. The group is the object. In the image below, the subject is “art for sale” and the group of three paintings illuminated form that subject.

As you review the images in your archive, take new images or just go about your daily life these next couple of weeks, notice groups of three. Are they found clustered or evenly spaced? Do you see the groups in lines or triangles most often? Are they used to highlight similarities or differences? How else can you see to use groups of three in your compositions?

I can’t wait to see what you find, I always learn something new when we explore together. Link your images in below or share them in the Flickr pool. The link tool will remain open through April 5. Have fun exploring!


Today I am feeling a bit deflated… things are in transition. I had so much fun in the quest for Thanksgiving, and now the day is in the past. The Mortal Muse blog hop is over, and my postcard drawing is done. I always love the anticipation of seeing who will win them! I think I’m addicted to giveaways. My big announcement of the Find Your Eye e-course is out in the world, with all of the initial excitement that brings.

What’s next? Oh yeah, the hard work. I’m not done with the work on my projects by a long shot. Transition from excitement to real life. My November goal of KaNoJoMo was a big success in terms of keeping me focused on what needed to get done and not playing around. Time for round two… *sigh*

So today, here are some pretty flowers from Bath, to sit and enjoy. Because flowers always make me happier, and I feel lighter just looking at them. I hope you will too!

And the winner of the postcards is…
Cate of Moments of Whimsy, all the way in New Zealand! Thanks so much for coming by my blog Cate, I hope you enjoy the postcards.

And guess what… for everyone else… you are winners too because I’ll send you a postcard from Italy if you email me your snail mail address! I did this once before and it was so nice to connect with people. I promise I will send the postcard and delete your address, just like last time, so there are no worries about your personal information in my hands. Email me: kat -at- kateyeview.com.

Hey, that made me feel lighter too. Funny thing, there are always things to lighten the load, if we just take a deep breath and look around. Flowers and sending postcards for me today, what is it for you?

The Habit of Being

As I was reading in Simple Abundance this morning (yes, there’s that book again!), I was struck by the concept of the habit of being. As opposed to the habit of doing, constant movement on the “to do” list, or the habit of brooding, focusing on the past or the future. The habit of being, just existing in the moment. Such a simple concept, yet one I am constantly re-learning. I keep turning back to this idea of late – of being in the moment, conscious of the now. There must be something to that.

So this morning, this image from our Bath hotel room jumped out at me. Seeing the beauty of light and dark, the monochromatic composition that presented itself. No other reason to take this photo, than to capture an observation of the moment. And yet, it pleases me. Brings me some peace and stillness, even now. My eyes wander over the details brought out by the light and the shadows.  Marvel at the beauty of the simplicity and the artfulness of the composition that the designer created in this space.

A reminder that along with the habit of being, you gain the habit of seeing. A good habit to have, as an artist.

Exploring with a Camera: Rain


With the change in seasons, in the places I’ve lived the last 12 years or so, we wave good-bye to the consistently sunny days and welcome the wet. Rain will be a consistent part of life for the next few months as winter comes on, with the occasional break in the monotony for snow or sun when we’re lucky. A rainy day is a great time to curl up under a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea. It is also a great time to get out and photograph!


A while ago I wrote a blog post that said when life gives you rain, you should take photos anyway. Today let’s explore the ways to capture the beauty to be found in the rain…


The light is completely different in the rain. First off, it’s usually cloudy during the day, which provides softer, indirect light. Second, the wet surfaces reflect the light in completely different ways than dry surfaces. The photo at the top of the post is a good example of this – the leaf and the stones are highlighted by the reflections of the light. What would be an interesting composition for it’s contrast when dry, gains even more interest for the way the individual elements stand out from the light on the water.


This photo from Orvieto, Italy is a daytime example of how the wet ground reflects the light, drawing your focus along the ground from the bright doorway in the top left down toward the scooter in the bottom right.
The wet ground in this photo of Bath, England at night serves to contrast and highlight the row of benches along the sidewalk. As I mentioned in my Exploring with a Camera post on Night Photography, wet surfaces at night can add much needed light for taking photos at night.

Not only is the light reflected, but you can great image reflections as well with a smooth surface or a puddle. The thin layer of water on this smooth concrete makes a wonderful mirror for the leaves on the ground.

This puddle in Piazza San Marco in Venice serves to reflect the geometry of the famous tables and chairs, making a more interesting composition than the tables and chairs alone.

And while we’re talking about puddles, how about capturing some splashing through them? Of course, this image is a bit more sedate than most puddle-splashing pictures, a capture of Italian rain fashion more than splashing but you get the idea. The movement of water in the puddle along with the reflections makes the photo more than just photo of rainboots.

Out in the rain, look for ways the water moves across and off surfaces. This restaurant table was so highly polished that the rain water beaded up into interesting shapes, a nice backdrop for the flowers.

Look for the drips ready to fall…

Look for the drops that grace the leaves.

It’s also fun to capture people in the rain. They are more “anonymous” with their hoods and umbrellas, hunched up and hurrying along. I like to capture groups of colorful umbrellas, as on this bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Or the lone traveller, trying to get someplace at night in Venice. People with umbrellas are quite the artistic staple, if you look at paintings through history.

Here we have quite a few different elements that I love in one rainy shot… umbrellas, multiple reflections, at night, and it’s Venice. How could you go wrong?

There are so many ways I have yet to capture the rain, these are the images I’m still looking for:

  • Looking out of a window covered in raindrops. Focus on the drops, with the scenery out of focus behind.
  • Rain spilling out of our very cool dragon-shaped rainspout or off the edges of eaves.
  • The rain in a downpour – I want to figure out how to capture the “look” of the world when you look through rain.
  • Drops of rain splashing in puddles – oh those perfect, rippling circles just tantalize me!

So, how do you do shoot in the rain without ruining your camera? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use an umbrella. If you have someone along with you, ask them to hold it over you and your camera when you shoot. If you don’t have that option (or don’t want to ask your companions to hold your umbrella every 15 seconds), a bigger umbrella works better than a small one for this “solo” technique: Rest the handle between your neck and shoulder with the umbrella resting on the top of your head. This will enable both hands to be free and your camera to be covered while you shoot. It does take some practice though!
  2. Find sheltering spots. Store awnings and overhangs, doorways, under trees, etc. can be great places to pause and have a little bit of protection from the rain while you shoot. Watch out under trees though – the drops might be less frequent but they are often bigger!
  3. Keep your camera protected between shots. Work out a system that enables you to quickly and easily but your camera in and out of your bag. I carry my camera across my body, and my camera bag the same way. I can take my camera in and out of my bag easily, so when it’s rainy I can put it away between shots but easily get it out for the next one. Another thing I will sometimes do, especially when it’s light rain, is just tuck the camera between my body and the bag. It’s mostly protected but easily accessible. When it’s heavier rain though, I keep it in the bag!
  4. Use a camera cover. You can buy rain covers for your camera, but I’ve found them to be kind of pricey and I don’t want something bulky I have to carry around “just in case” it rains. Another practically free alternative for an SLR camera is to use a plastic grocery bag (you know, the ones you get in just about any grocery store) and a rubber band. Tear a hole at the bottom of the bag near one corner, this is where you put the lens looking out. Use the rubber band to secure the bag at the end of your lens, then just wrap the bag up around the camera with the handles coming around the back. When you want to shoot, just open up the handles and hold the camera as normal inside the bag. It might look weird, but it’s cheap and easy, and a spare bag wrapped up with a rubber band does not take up much space in your camera bag.
  5. Don’t worry about a few drops of water on your camera. I don’t. A few drops on my equipment have never hurt anything – I just make sure that it doesn’t get completely wet. By keeping the camera mostly protected in the ways I’ve described above, my equipment has remained in good working order even if I shoot in rainy weather. Keep something soft and dry handy to wipe off the lens though, you will experience drips now and again!

Whatever you do – don’t just put the camera away when the clouds start rolling in. Enjoy the different photo opportunities that the rain provides.

Remember this motto – “When life gives you rain, take photos anyway!”