Thursday, January 24, 2013

Framing Your World...

   We often speak about a persons "frame of reference", what defines their thoughts on a subject.  As photographers, we "frame" our images by deliberate choice but, I wonder, how conscious are we of the implications of these choices?  What we choose to exclude is as important as what we choose to contain within the frame of our photograph.  This is a post about "edges".

   As a part of my visual listening exercise, I use a cardboard viewfinder to explore possibilities within the landscape.  It isolates the subject and I become more aware of the edges of the image and what lies just outside the frame.  I experiment with vertical as well as horizontal formats.  I'm always amazed at how many people never think to turn their cameras 90 degrees!  It can make a world of difference as you will see.

   You can practice this very easily with a large image - either one you've made yourself or a magazine photograph - and a small paper viewfinder.  Lay the viewfinder on the image and see how many "images within the image" you can find.  How do the different crops change your thoughts about the original landscape?  This helps train your eye to look for multiple "frames of reference".

   Here are three crops of the image above which I made on South Uist in 2011.  Each gives a completely different reading of the landscape.

   This view puts all the emphasis on the distant mountain.  Your eye goes directly to it following the blue water of the lochs.  This is a mountain that is visible from just about any location on the northern part of South Uist and it holds special significance for the local people. I often seek these places out when I travel.  A location has two faces, one you see from your perspective and one which those who live everyday in it see...try to see both.

 The view on the left disregards the water completely and emphasizes the foreground and the multiple layers of green and brown that make up this landscape.

   The right view plays up the road and cottage.  It leads your eye into the distance inviting you to journey into the landscape and by making the sky half of the image it enhances the isolation of the cottage.

   If there were 5 photographers on the hill that afternoon with me, we would, most likely, have come away with 6 different compositions.  Some of us would be content with the "long view", some of us would have moved in for a closer look.  I love this quote; I don't remember who said it but he (or she) must have been a contemplative photographer...

" The best telephoto lens a photographer can
have is a pair of good legs!"

   Next time you are on-location, spend some time with a viewfinder.  I encourage you to become more aware of the edges of your images...what you choose to contain and what you choose to exclude.  Both choices are quite revealing!


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