Cornwall is so filled with beautiful landscapes it’s hard to miss - but award-winning photographer DAVID CHAPMAN offers some sound advice on capturing the county’s stunning vistas.


ONE of the first rules of composition in photography is known as the rule of thirds’. This suggests that key focal points within the image should be roughly one third of the way in from either side and from top to bottom. The rule of thirds is a good starting point for successfully composing a photograph but there is more to it than that.

Imagine you are at Godrevy. The obvious focal point is the lighthouse. Rather than put the lighthouse in the middle of the photo we should offset it slightly to the left or right and similarly we should avoid putting the horizon across the middle of the photo. Generally if there is a great sky it is a good idea to place the horizon on the lower third but if there isn’t place it on the upper third.

We now have a problem. Within our photo there is a dominant focal point and it is offset to one side or even one corner of the image. This creates an imbalance so the trick to achieving a better composition is to find something else to act as a counter-balance to the lighthouse. This counter-balance should usually be placed in the opposite corner from the focal point.

For a counter point, nine times out of ten I use a foreground feature such as a rock in the sea but sometimes a patch of colour which complements the focal point or even a bit of flare on the lens can be useful! If your photo is going to be dominated by sky there might be a hole in the cloud with light coming through or possibly the setting sun.


In an ideal world I will always be looking for a connection between the focal point and the counter-balance. For example their shapes or colour might replicate each other or it might be possible to find a crevice in the rocks or a pattern in the water which lead the eye from one to the other

We work in an imperfect world so it isn’t always possible to come up with the perfect’ composition but fortunately there are many very good photographs which don’t fit the rules and in Cornwall we have a wealth of wonderfully photogenic locations.