For this exercise, I was required to take some photographs where the subject occupies only one quarter of the frame. The principle was to ignore the contents of the remaining three quarters of the viewfinder frame
This exercise I found surprisingly difficult. I tried several options for subjects, and finally decided to take photographs of signs. Placing these correctly within just one quarter of the frame was quite tricky without any lines to guide me and I often found that when I reviewed the image, my subject was intruding into the other three quarters of the frame. It was even more difficult to ignore the rest of the frame whilst looking through the viewfinder, and when reviewing the images I realised that the remaining part of the frame had greatly influenced which quarter of the frame I had used.
The course book asks for an explanation of the difference between cropping and framing. To my understanding, framing refers to placing the subject in the correct position with respect to the fixed frame of the camera, whether it may be the 35mm frame, the shape of the electronic sensor or the square aspect of a medium format negative. Cropping on the other hand is if anything the reverse, modifying the frame to fit the subject. In most cases this amounts to reducing the size of the image to eliminate distracting details, but it can also include techniques like the addition of frames to complement the image.
All the images in the book American Photographs have been cropped, sometimes differently to the ones displayed in the original exhibition. Unfortunately my 2013 copy of the book does not appear to have the preface by Leonard Kirstein mentioned in the course book.
In his book The Photographer’s Eye, Michael Freeman states:
Cropping is an editing skill which was highly developed during the days of black and white photography, lapsed somewhat in the color slide era, and is now revived fully as an integral part of preparing the final digital image. Even when the framing as shot is judged to be fine, technical adjustments such as lens distortion correction will demand it.
2007 -Michael Freeman – The Photographers Eye – The Ilex Press Limited.
For the second part of this exercise I needed some parallel lines which I could take with the camera perpendicular to the lines to show a flat surface.
The bricks of my house were an obvious choice:
and a fence provided another subject with vertical rather than horizontal lines.
Using the same fence with the shadow of some foliage makes for a more interesting image.
In the above photo, you may notice that I didn’t have the camera precisely perpendicular to the fence consequently the vertical lines actually converge slightly towards the bottom. Also the difference in colour between the two fence photos is due to the action of auto white balance which because the first shot contains no other colours, it has biased the colour of the fence to a neutral grey.
A trip to London gave the the chance to take one photograph from a high viewpoint. This was taken from the 12th floor of a hotel in Hammersmith.
The building on the other side of the road means that this is not as flat as the sample image by Moholy-Nagy in the course book but it achieves a flat perspective on the road below.
All of the images above were taken as exercises for the course, and as such don’t have a true subject. However my photograph of the Taj Mahal, taken in 2010 has strong lines leading from bottom left to the Taj itself. This also makes the point that leading lines are not only important for the visual arts, but also for the practical arts of architecture and design.
For this exercise I took some photos trying to use lines to show depth.
Here is the relevant contact sheet:
This shot, taken in the snow near my house, shows convergent lines, but the lines meet outside the frame, so the result is not terribly successful as the eye is drawn to the top of the image and out of the frame.
Unfortunately when I took this picture, the trees protected the road, so the snow petered out above the image, hence there is no focus to draw the eye.
This shot is slightly more effective as the lines of the fence converge to a vanishing point within the frame, but again there is no true focus to attract the eye.
This third shot is rather more successful as the eye is drawn to the pony shelter at the end of the fence where the lines converge.
In this last shot, although not a great composition, the knob on the end of the balustrade adds a focus point to terminate the eye’s movement.
I still feel that this point just off from centre is the most satisfactory with respect to the frame.
With a bright point near one corner of the frame the image appears unbalanced.
But with two points lit is is possible to balance the image again, even if the second point is not as bright.
Below I have drawn in my eye movements when I look at printed copies of the above images:As you can see, the brightest point draws my eye first, then the next brightest point, then my eye moves to the rest of the image.
One distraction that I did not notice at the time, is the shadow of the rim of the glass cast by the candle light. If I were taking these shots again, I would move the table further from the wall so that the shadow was cast above the frame of the image.
For the last part of this exercise I have used a couple of photographs from a travel brochure.
In the shot above, my eye is drawn naturally along the length of the bridge away from me, then into the trees above.
In this shot, of the temples at Bagan in Burma, my eye is drawn along the wall, on to the pagoda then across to the other temples in the distance.
I must admit to being slightly confused how to approach this exercise. I finally settled for shooting a small LED torch in a dark room, so that only the point is visible. I then took several photographs with the point at random positions.
Here is the contact sheet of the photos:
To me, the most satisfactory position for the point of light is where the position is off-centre in one direction but almost central in the other direction, i.e.:
Also in the direction where the point is off-centre it is quite close to the position known as the golden mean.This is the position where the ratio between the larger part and the whole is the same as the ratio between the smaller part and the larger. The actual position of the golden mean is shown by the line in the image below:
As the GM is close to 1/3rd of the image it is probably the origin of the so-called ‘rule of thirds’.
It seems to me that wherever the point is it is always in some relationship to the frame, but a position too near to the edge of the frame tends to lead your eye out of the frame completely:
This exercise was to take several photographs in a sequence without resetting or moving the camera and seeing the changes in the histogram.
To carry out this task I positioned the camera at an upstairs window on quite a windy day and took photographs at roughly 15 second intervals. The first three images are shown below along with their histograms.
The images are only slightly different, for example the birds in the first image had flown away in the third image, however, the histogram, although similar does show some distinct changes between images.
The histogram is a graphical indication of the number of pixels of each density in the photograph. It is a good guide to the exposure, and the dynamic range of the image. As you can see here, the whites are actually clipped slightly; the histogram curve goes right up to the right-hand edge of the graph, whilst at the same time the left-hand side of the curve is slightly to the right of the edge showing that there are no true blacks in the image. It is implying that the Program mode on my camera does slightly over-expose the image.
In practice this is only true of in-camera Jpeg files. If I use the raw data files, the whites can be recovered.
Here is the first of the above images, reprocessed from the raw file. The histogram is completely different and the image is much more acceptable.