I spent a week in Sikkim and West Bengal, India, expecting and attempting to photograph natural wonders such as the Himalaya, the river gorges, and Mt. Katchenjunga. Unfortunately, I hit a week of intense air pollution and the vistas disappeared. But a new inspiration appeared — the velvet, verdant, atmospheric scenes on the tea fields. Something about Darjeeling tea favors the steepest slopes surrounded by dense forests, forcing the plantation staff and visitors alike to work hard at staying upright as they move around. Here, a lone tree in the middle of a plot on the Glenburn Tea Estate has mastered the task.
This composition reminds me of a rule among artists — a rule so pervasive that it has been highlighted by many books and teachers: The “Rule of Thirds,” which instructs to avoid symmetry in a composition by placing objects a third of the distance between borders, never halfway. In other words, never center a main subject. This composition, however, is nothing but symmetrical, flying in the face of this rule. I have shown many commentators various alternative arrangements of this photo, and all agree that it is an exception to the rule; it clearly works best when the tree is centered. (Price Schedule B)