Tag Archives: Flowers

Exercise 05 – Object in Different Positions in the Frame

Fig. 01 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 1 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100

The exercise “Object in Different Positions in the Frame” requires us to take a series of photographs placing the subject in different positions within the frame.

At this stage I declare that I have taken a short-cut with this exercise. I had decided that an ideal subject for this exercise would be to find a farmer working a large, single coloured field. I had this picture in my mind’s eye and as I travelled about over last weekend I surveyed each field I passed. We live in a rural location so there are plenty of fields.

However, it was obviously not a weekend for undertaking any kind of field work as not a single tractor did I find.

I suspect that the mistake was to head out with a specific subject in mind but I want to keep moving forward quickly with these initial exercises and have decided to openly cheat for the time being but to continue to look for an appropriate subject over the coming weekends and to replace or expand this report at a later date.

I have selected a photograph taken in the early summer of 2013 on my grandson exploring the paths made by a tractor in a field of rape seed flowers. I have conducted the exercise in Photoshop as I only captured one image.

Fig. 2 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 2 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Original Photograph

Fig. 2 above is the original photograph, it meets the requirement of the exercise in the sense that it was a snap shot, taken without any thought as the subject was running bent over and jumping up to surprise me with his new position. He is very slightly off centre but this was not a composed shot.

Fig. 3 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 3 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Off Centre Front

Out of the four crops I completed this is my favourite. I was using a 300mm lens so even at f/8.0 there is a satisfying blur to the front and back of the subject. His position in the frame with less flowers to his right and front and more behind and to his left creates a good balance to the photograph. His arms create some extra shape and generally point towards the corners of the frame. I find that the difference between sizes of the front and back and the two sides helps create a greater sense of depth to the field and creates a balanced end product.

Fig. 4 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 4 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Off Centre

Fig. 4, where the subject is just off centre, would be my second choice but the nearly equal foreground and background make this a less interesting, more static and more predictable crop. The field still has scale and I like the relationship of the size of the subject and the size of the background.

Fig. 5 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 5 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Centre

Fig. 5 is acceptable, uninteresting and predictable but it is at least a pleasant photograph of the boy. His Grandmothers would probably be quite happy with a print of this one. As suggested in the course notes by placing the subject dead centre the scale of the background is somehow reduced. It seems a small field with a large boy which is the opposite of both my original intent and the crop in fig. 2.

Fig.5 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig.6 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Edge

Fig. 6 is last in terms of my preferences. It is not a successful image. It might have worked if the subject had been much smaller within the overall frame but I do not respond to this crop in any way.

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Research on Positions in the Frame

Fig. 01- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Fig. 1- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Having completed the image capture and preparation for the exercise of positioning an object in different places in the frame, but before logging the results, I want to spend some time researching the basic principles of composition.

The Mind’s Eye, Henri Cartier-Bresson (1999), includes an essay on composition in which he makes some fundamental points of principle, the first being that composition must be one of our constant preoccupations and that it can only stem from intuition. He goes on to say that application of the golden rule is made by the photographer’s eye and not by geometric tools. This is the key, we survey a scene, point, compose and shoot using our instincts, yes, we do now have the option of dividing the view finder into the rule of thirds, a day that Cartier-Bresson hoped he would never see, but it is still our eye and our instinct that sees the shot.

I am only now discovering Cartier-Bresson’s work beyond the most recognisable and iconic images. I am intrigued that image after image follows a pattern of composition where the golden rule or golden section has been applied and, no doubt, applied instinctively. I understand that he did not crop and thereby re-compose his photographs in the dark room so what we see is what he saw in his viewfinder. Sir Ernst Gombrich (1978), the eminent art historian, wrote in his introduction to the Victoria and Albert Museum archive of Cartier-Bresson’s work that nearly all his photographs exhibit the visual balance and the secret geometry of a formal composition. We know he trained as an artist and Gombrich (1978) tells us that, in his older age, he painted and sketched more than he used a camera.

It comes as something of a relief that Michael Freeman (2007) reassures us that the photographer does not need to be concerned with the exact proportions calculated by the ancient Greeks and the painters of the renaissance, the golden rule. The important point is that each of the ways, generally devised by painters, to divide the frame recognises that we respond positively to certain proportions in a picture, a harmonious division. The photographer seeks a balance in composition, a balance between the space occupied by the subject or subjects and the space not occupied by the same.

The easily understood basis of the golden rule is that it is what nature appeared to have intended we use, it is apparently repeated time and again in natural design but, perhaps, the most telling fact is that the human face is divided into sections that follow the rule. Regardless of the mathematics it seems obvious that the human brain will be geared to recognising the human face and that we feel comfortable looking at something that mimics those proportions.

Fig. 01- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Fig. 2- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Fig. 1 is a picture I took in 2006 and shows my original crop of a photo of a neighbour in the middle of his field which had become an ocean of poppies. As a reference point I have re-cropped the image in Fig. 2 to place Pepe on the intersection of golden sections.

The rule of thirds is sometimes described as a simplified version of the golden section. It was apparently named much more recently, most sources I found cite John Thomas Smith (1797) in his book Remarks on Rural Scenery quoting a previous work by Sir Joshua Reynolds. It appears that Smith (1797) was making an observation that great painters tended to divide their canvas into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The sky often occupied a third and the land two thirds, he continues to say that he found that the ratio of two thirds to one third more pleasing that the precise formal half or any other proportion. For the none mathematician this is instantly more understandable and I am drawn to the idea that it was an observation on existing work rather than the application of a formula.

Fig. 3- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Fig. 3- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

In Fig. 3 I have moved Pepe to the vertical intersections created by the rule of thirds.

My summary of this short piece of research is that the golden rule and the rule of thirds have more similarities than differences. Both say that we respond positively to visual balance and that we can divide a composition into proportions that are harmonious and satisfying. However, neither can be a rigid rule of composition, and neither will direct us to a single perfect point to position the subject. In a scene where there is a single subject within an even background there are many potential points of position that follow the rules.

To bring this back to the exercise in hand Michael Freeman (2007) says that when we are photographing a single and “obvious subject” and where we have made the decision to allow free space around the subject, we have to decide where to place that object within the frame.  Assuming that the subject is going to take up a reasonably small part of the frame we are left with many choices. The golden section and the rule of thirds are useful tools to help make these choices but we are reminded by Cartier-Bresson (1999) that the camera is an instrument of intuition and spontaneity. The message must be to hone our instincts to find the harmonious balance so we point, compose and shoot without tedious calculation and delay.

Fig. 4- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

Fig. 4- 1/100 at f/13 ISO 100

This little research project has given me a reason to revisit my original photo of Pepe and his poppy field and I have concluded that the most pleasing crop is the one in Fig. 4. Although as Freeman (2007) points out, free placement is never guaranteed, I wish I had included more poppies to the left as I would like to see a crop with Pepe even further to the right with the red poppies stretching further out behind him in two directions. However, I am pleased I was reminded of this image and came back to it and maybe even improved the composition.

A a small piece of non photographic information. The amazing display of poppies proved to be a once off event. Pepe had ploughed this field in preparation for planting young oak trees whose root balls had been impregnated with truffle spores. He must have ploughed at the perfect moment for poppy seeds as early next summer this wonderful display appeared. Soon after the photograph was taken he turned the soil again and planted his young oak trees. I am not sure whether the truffles have arrived yet, they say it takes seven to ten years, so maybe soon.