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Studying Principles of Composition at the National Gallery of Art

Take this great opportunity to visit the permanent collections of classic and impressionist art at the National Gallery of Art AND improve your photography!

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Comments by WPS Director E. David Luria:

Every time I go into the National Gallery of Art here in Washington, DC, one of the world’s preeminent museums housing over 150,000 works of art, I am awestruck by the PRICELESS collections, maintained by OUR taxes, that are open to visitors and to those of us who live here, free of charge!

So many of us local residents just do not go to see local sites like this that are always available to us right in downtown DC because we are busy with our lives and careers, and we say to ourselves: “Oh well, I can always go there when my aunt comes to town and show her!”

But our aunt does not come to town and so we never get into this incredible place! Right? Right!

So here is a great photo safari opportunity to enjoy some of the permanent collections of classic and impressionist art at the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, improving your own photography by looking at how visual art was done hundreds of years ago by the great masters of painting.

Here is what we will do on this journey through the world of art: after an initial orientation on time-honored principles of composition, we will examine portraits, landscapes, battle scenes, seascapes, and domestic family scenes rendered by such famous artists as Sargent, Bierstadt, Delacroix, Monet, Whistler, Homer, Manet, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Cassatt, and so many others; and at each painting we will stop and I will ask you what principles of composition are represented in this particular painting, such as leading lines, rule of thirds, foreground element, getting the subject out of the middle, framing the subject, getting in low and close, turning your subject sideways, taking pictures that tell a story, etc. And then I will show you how to bring that painting into your hand-held camera or phone with accurate color, shutter speed, and exposure.

Here are some annotated samples of the images you will find on this safari:

Paraphrasing President Bill Clinton’s famous quote of “It’s The Economy, Stupid!”, I say to you: “It’s The Composition, Stupid!” because great, well-composed pictures can be taken with ANY camera or phone! (Give a photographer like the late Ansel Adams a $25 plastic point-and-shoot camera from CVS, send him out into the streets, and he will come back with beautiful photos of Washington, DC. Right? Right!

So, I do hope you can join me for this photo adventure through the National Gallery of Art on a weekend afternoon to pick up some tips that can help you improve your own future photography work!