February’s ShareCropping victim/volunteer is Mark Sirota. Mark kindly answered my call for crop victims and submitted his very cool capture of a couple on a hillside at sunset. The image poses some unique challenges as well as opportunities to expose a new cropping guide: The Rule of Fifths. Let’s see what the Cropist comes up with.
Mark’s original image is shown above. It is a very nice silhouette of a couple, a grassland and a bird in flight. All of this is set against an exquisite setting sun in an overcast sky. The image, as all do, has room for improvement so let’s put it in the Cropist Analyzer.
At first glance these were the issues I felt it necessary to mitigate.
- The Horizon is pretty close to the center
- The Sun is very centered
- Areas toward the bottom and right are not contributing to the value of the image.
- There are some bright clouds center-left and top-center that draw our eyes.
- We have three subjects fairly out of balance due to size between and size of the two darker subjects.
With these considerations, our goal is to make a more compelling image. And, as always, we will do this with a crop – well, a series of crops.
My first thought was to try and improve the story by eliminating the flying bird on the right-hand side of the sun. This made the picture more about the couple. I took some of the dead area off the bottom and cropped out the bright clouds left and top. This isn’t bad. The horizon is better placed and the separation of the figures from the sun gives you a visual path to follow.
The bird was such a nice detail that I hated to leave it out. I thought a Square Crop might get me back in. This time I decided to invoke my little-used tool the “Rule of Fifths”. We are all familiar with the Rule of Thirds. I placed the two figures on the lowest-leftest rule of fifth power point and pulled the square until the sun and bird looked in balance with he image. Since I had restricted myself to square, I had to leave the lighter clouds at the top intact. Were the sky slightly more powerful, I would have called it finished.
I returned to the original 3:2 aspect ration but brought things in a little tighter, relying on the rule of thirds to guide the crop. We got rid of bottom and right and the bright clouds at the top and repositioned our horizon in the process. The balance, while better, is still a little off. The crop is an improvement nonetheless.
I had hithertofore resisted the panoramic crop feeling it might be too cliché to go wide right away. This 3:1 crop does pretty well. Using the lower rule of third as a horizon guide and placing the sun and figures on the lower power points, we end up with the image above. The figures pop in this image and, with the exception of the bright cloud on the left, really holds us in the bounds of the image.
We introduced the concept of Rule of Fifths so why not crop that way. Here I went 4:1 and placed the figures on the left-most rule of fifth. I also used the lower rule to place the horizon on the right hand side of image. The crop is more dramatic and the figures become more prominent.
I decided to step back from the 4:1 and return to the 3:1 but use the rule of fifths instead of the rule of thirds as I had done earlier. This image really makes the couple pop more. Balance is returning to the image. Distractions are all but eliminated. I think this might be my favorite.
I decided to take one more stab in spite of my affection for the 3:1 Rule of Fifths image. I decided to step back once more to the 2:1 panorama crop but still keep the Rule of Fifths spacing. I am really torn between the last two crops. The prominence of the figures in the former is very compelling but the addition of the dark sky adds a quasi-vignetting effect. Both are nice and, like Natalie Imbruglia, I am torn.
Thanks to Mark Sirota for contributing the image for the February edition of ShareCropping.
Rikk Flohr © 2011
The Sunset image is © Mark Sirota.
Mark Sirota is a serious hobbyist and part time professional photographer living near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. More of his work can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_sirota/