Mark Clements, eager December Cropist victim, sent me this image of the High Falls on the Grassy River. Mark chose a near anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.36 giving it a wide-screen cinema feel. I like the crop but it feels a little left-heavy and that may be due to the darkening of the river applied in post-processing.
When I looked at the image, I became a little suspicious of it and wrote Mark for more information. It turns out this wasn’t a single shot but rather a stitched Panorama. I asked Mark for the original stitched version from which to begin our exercise.
Mark was kind enough to oblige and sent me the raw images of his Nikon P5100 capture. You can see the river is much lighter here and not so out-of-balance. It was -36° C when he shot this picture. It is a very good capture and a nice stitch job. It is a pity Mark didn’t have his DSLR along though.
Looking at the original stitch, I see many things I like.
- The leading lines are fabulous and take you to a reasonable place.
- The twigs in the foreground left are a little distracting-especially those which don’t touch the ground.
- The right hand side is a good anchor. That tree really holds the right edge of the frame.
- The pano-stitching program left a lot of dead areas that either need to be filled or cropped out. Cropping them severely reduces the image area and eliminates some nice details.
This crop goes after maximum area. It takes the pano-stitch and simply chops off the unfilled areas. Not bad but a little “in-half” on the implied horizon. We can do better.
Part of cropping is straightening and correcting perspective. I ran a little perspective correction in Lightroom 3.0 and received this image. It is a subtle change but one I felt needed applying.
There were some distractions in the lower left (a partial ice patch and a dark object on the far bank. I decided to crop these out as best I could and keep the eye from wandering there. Some of the nearer snow-covered shapes bottom center suffered when I did this.
I decide to go 8×10 on this bad boy and see what I could find. I kicked it over to the right to see what it would look like if I altered the vanishing point from right center to dead center. No. It didn’t work.
Next I went to a 1×3 Panoramic Crop and took out the foreground completely. This moved the horizon and vanishing point up a little. While it is a reasonable interpretation, and I am not unhappy with this crop. I still think there’s work to do.
I also tried a square just to see what would result. The square with the river/ice boundary placed at the lower left corner worked pretty good. Again, I am not unhappy with this crop.
While I was being there and being square, I decided to zoom in tight. After all, Mark has lots of megapixels here. Some of the close crops made for nice winter abstracts. I particularly liked this one. If you haven’t read my article on ultra-cropping, you might want to check it out.
I thought a vertical pano crop might work as well. After trying several, this was the portrait crop I liked best.
Back to the Drawing Board:
I wrote an article a while back on anti-cropping. Anti-cropping is where you take an image into the new features in Photoshop to add back areas missing from the picture. I took Mark’s original stitch back into Photoshop and anti-cropped it using content-aware fill.
This was the result. I gained back a lot of territory and now have a complete ice-covered rock at lower left again. More of the twigs lower left are grounded too. I gained some space on the top as well. But as some of you might say this is ‘cheating’ I discarded it as a final crop candidate.
I felt it important that the stream/ice interface occupy the lower left corner. I also felt it important to show the curve of the branch unbroken from the trunk into the scene so I left just enough space to hold the curve in frame (upper right)’ Since I dared not take anything off the right-hand tree, my crop was set by the dictating values of the two opposing corners (lower left and upper right).
With cropping this is as far as I would go. My personal preference is for the anti-cropped version but, as I said, I didn’t want to be accused of deviating from the Holy Crop! mission. I found it interesting that the final crop aspect ratio ended up being 1.63. The Golden Ratio is, after all, 1.618. Coincidence?
Thanks to Mark for playing this month and submitting his wonder winter image to the Cropist’s whims. Stay tuned on the second of the January where we tackle Holly Kuchera’s “The Discovery” image.
Rikk Flohr © 2010
Images in this article are © Mark Clement.
Mark Clement currently resides in Shania Twain’s hometown of Timmins, Ontario. He spends most of his weekends out in the great outdoors either photographing waterfalls or some of the numerous wildlife available in the area.
He can be reached at his website.