The Triptych

December 28, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

One of the competition topics I will discuss next month at a local camera club is the triptych.  Simply put, a triptych is an artwork divided into three panels, deriving from a Greek work meaning “three-fold.”  In photographic circles, the triptych can take on one of several forms:

 

  1. Lateral - a single scene divided into three parts – this is probably the simplest conception of a triptych, involving the division of a single photograph into three parts or a panoramic sequence of three images.  While the simplest in conception, this form of triptych is surprisingly challenging to compose effectively.  That is because too often the photographer forgets that, for the image to work as a whole, it has to be greater than the sum of its parts.   Each part of the final image must work on its own, stand on its own merit.  An example of this can be found in the first image below, a dawn scene of the Teton Range from Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park.  Be careful in your choices of dividing lines.  Sometimes, however, you can break the rules, as the most intuitive separation of the image is not the most effective in creating a powerful triptych.  You see an example of this below, in the second series of images.  I took a simple street scene looking straight up with two buildings and a street lamp, and divided it into three parts.  At first, it seems that the logical point of division is to separate the three parts – the upper building, the streetlamp, and the lower building, creating three horizontally oriented images.  A more dynamic division of these parts occurs when you turn this thinking on its head and divide the image vertically.  In this triptych, I took it a step further and set the three parts off-axis from each other.  The layout I chose expands the drama particularly in the upper building, by extending the lines of the building through the negative space.
  2. Temporal – a sequence of events – Though a triptych has to tell a story to be effective, the elements of the panel don’t have to be lateral.  The story could also be temporal.  See the beach sunrise sequence I have posted below. I captured this sequence of events over a period of twenty to thirty minutes at Saint Simons Island, Georgia.
  3. Detail - parts of a whole – This type of triptych can capture a scene from three different angles, or can be composed of three parts that make up the whole.  Keep in mind when composing this type of scene that the final image should be coherent.  Two examples of this type of triptych can be seen in the image of the lighthouse on Monhegan Island and the sequence of shots of a 1959 Cadillac I have posted below.
  4. Three of a kind – the similarity captured between three different objects or places.  The similarity must be apparent (type, color, pattern, shape, use, perspective, etc.).  You can see an example of this in the three views of the Pacific Ocean that I took at different times and locations.  Another example can be found in the series of old, rusted items.  The final triptych combines three different beach scenes on the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos. esjphoto esjphotopro triptychColter Bay Marina at Dawn esjphoto esjphotopro triptychBethesda 1 esjphoto esjphotopro triptychBethesda 2 esjphoto esjphotopro triptychSt Simons Island Sunrise esjphoto esjphotopro triptychMonhegan Island Light esjphoto esjphotopro triptych1959 Cadillac esjphoto esjphotopro triptychPacific Ocean sequence esjphoto esjphotopro triptychDerelict items esjphoto esjphotopro triptychProvidenciales

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