In my studio I have hundreds of photo references. My photos are not precious, they are a leaping off point. They give me a a light and shadow pattern and remind me why I was excited about that subject matter that day I snapped the shot. In fact, I am always a little disappointed with the photo reference because so many values get flattened through the process of development.
When getting ready for a composition from a photo, my first thoughts are about elimination of unnecessary subjects. I ask myself what drew me to this image and do a mental exercise of removing objects to see if it is stronger or weaker. I love negative spaces around objects and look at them as their own windows into smaller scenes.
If my composition includes vertical lines such as telephone poles, fences and in this case awning support, I look at ways to push or pull their angles to create interest. When laying out the composition, I look for bad tangents where objects meet at awkward points and I am careful not to unconsciously line up objects in rows. Originally I painted the tree trunk centered directly over the bike.
Composition always takes the most time. Even when I am painting on location under the gun of changing light, if my composition is off, I will erase the whole thing and start over. This lets me keep my paintings fresh in color since I am not later trying to paint over mistakes resulting in mud.