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Rubato is a musical term which is an important characteristic of the Romantic period, where the strict tempo is temporarily abandoned for a more emotional tone. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the Polish prodigy and composer, often used the style in his works.
So, why does the term apply to this photograph? Simply because of the light that is striking the islet in the center of the graph. It is a departure from the rest of the theme if you will, abandoning the surroundings for a more emotional tone.
And why is the composition centered? Does it not violate the Rule of Thirds? Yes it does, but so what? What’s wrong with a centered composition? Especially so, when the center of interest is exactly centered in the graph.
Course, you must understand, this photograph is very emotional for me simply because of where it was captured — Second Beach in Olympic National Park in Washington State. Just getting at this spot at this time was a challenge that involved a two and one-half hour drive, well before dawn, a 30-minute hike on foot in the dark through a heavily wooded trail, and then climbing for 15 minutes across large stumps and trees that had washed up on the beach during a storm. All to get at this spot at just the right time for the light to strike the islet.
So why are the colors muted?
It is what it is, a tonal departure.