IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

Image talk is a column where we analyze and celebrate outstanding images. There are many elements of design that can push a nice photograph into a special image that will “stand the test of time.” Some of those elements are strong composition, wonderful lighting, an interesting subject, or an unusual look at something or some place. Many of these images have another element in common and that is the ability to reach out to the viewer in a special way.

In this image by Don Prince, he allows the viewers to put themselves in the image and imagine what it would be like to be at the base of this waterfall enjoying the cool mist on a warm summer day.

Children at Middle Falls
by Don Prince

© 2011 Don Prince. All rights reserved.

Subject: Two children enjoying the view while sitting at the base of a waterfall.

Conditions: “I was looking for a photo subject to which anyone could relate. The scene is at the Middle Falls of the McCloud River in California. This brother and sister had been playing on the rocks and sat down to rest in a spot that I thought would provide an image with interest. The high noon light was just hitting the front of the falls, but there was still enough detail remaining in the water and spray. The children were in full sunlight.”


1. Positioning the children in the lower 1/3 of the image keeps with “the rule of thirds”.

2. The size of the children create a sense of scale and proportion to the image.

3. Implied line of vision from children to falls lends depth to the image.

4. Strong lines of water falling lead you directly to the subject area.

5. Subtle diagonal between the falling water in the shade and the mist in the sun adds a dynamic to the
image that keeps your eye focused on the children.

6. The children and rock against the backdrop of falling water pop due to the contrast of dark against light.

Noella’s comments:

This is not only a wonderful example of simplicity and strength in an image, but it pulls the viewer right into the scene. 

First, the placement of the children in the frame is very significant for emphasizing the scope and majesty of the waterfall. As photographers, we talk about the “rule of thirds” in subject placement. This subject certainly is very close to the 1/3 mark both vertically and horizontally, adding balance to the image.

Having the children in full light and the water acting as a curtain or backdrop created a beautiful set-up that made the children almost pop out of the image

The falling water creates both lines and that sense of motion. We all know that water falls down and those moving lines direct your eye right to the subject. Along with those lines is the diagonal line between the mist in the sun and the falling water in the shade. It adds yet another dynamic dimension to the image.

Beautiful light, a simple composition and a strong inner structure make a bold statement that certainly fulfills Don’s desire to make an image that would attract viewers and allow them to relate to that visual experience.

I want to add just a couple more thoughts. Don had also told me that he had waited for the children to settle down, but was only able to get three shots before the scene broke apart with the arrival of other visitors. Seeing the prospects of an image and waiting for it is important, but once the action starts, you need to be on your toes with camera set and ready. This is an important lesson if we are going to capture those very special moments.

Great work Don.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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