I snapped this shot of a fool-hardy casual photographer way back in 2005 with my first DSLR (Canon 20D). As I was resurrecting this image the other day, I got to thinking about the in-camera framing and the subsequent crop. Here we have a person (subject) and a setting (frozen waterfall). At first glance that seems like all there is to it. Crop/Frame it so the person is on the Rule of Thirds Lower Right Power Point because the person and action is upward and to the left.
A deeper analysis reveals that the subject of the photo might be a more interesting concept: stupidity or danger perhaps? Now the proximity to peril becomes the driving factor of how to finish the crop on this image..
On the image, I’ve overlaid a red grid showing the Rule of Thirds and a yellow grid detailing the Rule of Fifths. Moving the person on to the right-hand Rule of Thirds eliminates some of the left side of the image which, I think, is important to illustrate the impending ice-fall potential. Retaining those fractured and water-eroded holes in the ice increases the danger. I also decided the peril was increased by showing the mound of ice upon which the intrepid photographer is standing. I could have moved his head down to to lowest right Rule of Fifth but I felt, though the grandeur of the ice sculpture improved slightly, the precarious nature of his position was diminished. The path he climbed and the perch he chose add to the element of the peril.
Original Rule of Thirds-In Camera Framing
Ultimately, as I find myself doing more often, I found a Rule of Third – Rule of Fifth intersection to be a sweet spot. There lies the head of the person allowing peril to fill the remainder of the frame. Other choices made the person stronger or the ice sculpture stronger but this choice makes the peril most pronounced and that, gentle readers, is the name of the game. Make the subject stronger through cropping – even when the subject is danger.
Rikk Flohr © 2013
In a previous article, I extolled the virtues of the 10/3 or 3.33:1 Ratio for cropping a longer panoramic view. The other day while shooting with my 4:3 aspect ratio Canon G10 I found myself in a situation again which required (to my aesthetics at least) a panoramic crop. Eventually, I found myself back in 10/3:1 territory.
The uncropped original shown above reveals many problems. Notably the reflections on the glass through which I was shooting. They place a nice grid pattern across the image that will be loads of fun to remove in a pixel-based image editor. Thankfully, I have excess foreground and sky to eliminate to tighten the composition. The star of my show is the bending steam coming out of the distant power plant stacks. I need to eliminate that which is unnecessary in order to showcase the steam clouds as a subject.
I have a great sky in the lower portion and some decent foreground details with which to work. I also want to include the clock tower as a minor player to frame the right-hand edge and face back into my subject, the steam columns bending in the wind. A standard 2:1 crop gets me close but doesn’t get me zeroed in on the steam. I need a wider crop accentuate the all-ready wide subject and make it prominent enough to dominate the frame.
Thinking back to my 10/3 Lizard crop of a few articles back, I decided to use the 3.33:1 ratio here. I was pretty happy with what I saw. Not only did it render the reflections moot, it made my wind-bent steam much more the center of action. I stuck my supporting player, the clock tower, on the RH Rule of Sevenths to balance the edge of the frame and keep it from over powering the intended subject. I left a rule of fifths foreground/horizon to let the sky dominate.
There is just something about 3 1/3: 1 that works for me. Try it on those tough panoramas and see if the ratio works for you.
Rikk Flohr © 2012
“Sometimes deciding upon the perfect crop means tossing away an equally valid version.”
Badger in the Grass is a photograph from my recent workshop to Badlands National Park. As an instructor on the Badlands Winter Wildlife workshop, it is important to get my clients close to compelling views of wildlife. A participant and I followed this badger for nearly a quarter mile to get this shot. Badger in the Grass went through surprisingly few iterations. The uncropped image shown below is very simple — which complicates things. Blue Sky, razor-thin depth of field and an obvious subject give us the old Bob Seger quandary “… what to leave in, what to leave out”
A closer examination of the uncropped original above shows a dead-center subject that doesn’t quite work. The reason for the in-camera framing is that I shoot wildlife with only the center focus point enabled. I want to chose where the image focuses to ensure the tightness of the focal lock on the animal’s face. That leaves us with the ability to chop off non-contributing portions of the image to improve our composition. Those portions are not always obvious.
This crop was actually my second crop. Ultimately the first crop became my final choice but not before I agonized over this crop. The American Badger has been moved to the lower-right power point to emphasize the uncovered eye. I left unfocused grass, sharp grass, unfocused hillside and finally sky to give myself depth.
In final analysis of which crop to use, the two dark bands in the blue sky offered enough of a distraction for me to sacrifice the depth of having the sky in the scene and the Rule of Thirds composition. Those two shadows are actually very nearby out-of-focus strands of prairie grass. I was laying on my belly for these captures meaning not only was there a badger in the grass — there was a photographer in the grass as well.
Here is an overlay of the crop I decided upon. I decided to omit the sky and with it the depth. The badger is long and low and the crop needs to be long and low as well. This allows space in our mind for the long badger body, hidden in the grass, but within our expectations, to occupy. The nearby grass shadows aren’t as obvious without the sky and that solves another dilemma. The closer crop makes the badger encounter seem more personal and engages the viewer.
When all is said and done, I have a very mono-tone image because I have left out the blue skies, which, while natural, took away from the overall golden tone of the image. Black. white and gold, and a badger in the grass… staring at a photographer in the grass… and ultimately you.
Rikk Flohr © 2012