I made the pilgrimage to Wyoming for the solar eclipse and all I got was this Timelapse Collage!
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Rikk Flohr © 2017
Recently I’ve written about watching out for Slivers of Light and the intrinsic need to funnel our viewers back into the image. Back in March of 2011, I also wrote about Holding the Sun in the Frame and the need to satisfy the space around the sun, or by proxy the moon. Sometimes the need to satisfy both the Rule of Space and need to remove the Slivers of Light crash into each other. What do you do then?
Here is a shot from my fall southwest tour. This is a capture on the road to Lockett Meadow, just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. The strong diagonal shaft of sunlight is a key driving element in the photo. It leads you into the frame and leaves you at the sun, the most distant object in the frame. The sun is placed very deliberately by the need to hide the camera in the RH tree’s shadow in order to get the fine starburst pattern that comes from decreasing the size of the light source. Move to the right slightly and the sun peeks out on the other side of the tree. This unfortunately bisects our composition and kills the leading lines of the sunlight before we guide our viewer all the way through the frame.
In the article that admonished you to avoid slivers of light, I advised you to avoid leaving an area of light and space on the edge of your frame that would pull the viewers eye away from the image. For this crop, I first corrected perspective so that the tree on the right was straight. This way, I could eliminate as little space as possible while cropping in to hide the sliver of light. It definitely helps with the space problem but it moves the sun too close to the edge of the frame. The rays of the sun now touch the edges, indeed pierce them and that is something we should try to avoid. If you go back and read the Holding the Sun in the Frame article from 2011, you will find that “generally” we can get away with putting the sun on the rule of 7th’s and stretch it (uncomfortably sometimes) to the rule of 9th’s. In the uncropped version, we are already near the rule of 10th’s.
A few days ago, I saw a Web Photographic Guru make the comment that when you have an evergreen tree on the edge of a frame you should turn it into a triangle. In the problem space, in the background, is an evergreen tree. The above crop cuts that tree in half — effectively cutting the light space in half. This image represents a compromise between our competing rules. It reduces the sliver of light space, attempts to leave as much room for the sun as possible and bisects the evergreen tree. Is it the best crop? It should be for we "”balanced” all the competing rules.
Looking at the there crops, which do you like better?
I can tell you that I like the first crop better and here’s why. the dark element of the tree and its shadow gives us a “framing element” to better hold our sun in the edge of the frame. With this dark-edge element, we can bend the rule that says keep the sun inside the rule of 7th’s. Crop two is just biting into the edge too much and all in all, there has to be some space for the sun’s rays. Crop three strikes a nice balance but how many of you knew (or cared) about bisecting that distant evergreen?
If you look at the three images, the compromise crop and its reduced sliver of light is the most distracting. That is the thing about slivers of light and space — the more slivery they are, the more distracting they become. The image works better with space for the sun. A big part of that is that the sun, being the brightest element and immediately adjacent to the sliver, overpowers that space. It is harder for the sun to overpower a thin sliver than a big space.
Ultimately, in this case when rules collide, the more powerful subject always beats the less powerful distraction. The solution here is to minimize the impact of the space by increasing its presence in the frame and thus lessening its distractive qualities.
Rikk Flohr © 2012
Greetings Holy Crop! fans,
I’ve just returned from teaching my Badlands Winter Workshop at Badlands National Park. The Queen of the Crop and I took 8 photographers around the park chasing sunrise, sunset and all the critters in between. Of course, in the non-shooting hours we taught image editing techniques with composition and cropping figuring heavily into our curriculum.
The shot above is from one of our afternoon drives. This old car sits on a hilltop near the park and makes for a tempting target for driver’s by. I thought this might make an interesting image to discuss briefly the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Fifths.
To begin, I ask myself: “Of what is this a picture?” In other words, what is the star-the subject. It is a picture of…
The answer: “A Car”
The car is the star. It should occupy the most important part of the frame. I have overlaid a rule of thirds grid to show that we have placed the focal point of the car, in this case where the missing driver’s face would be, at the lower right rule of thirds. The car is facing into the frame and the space is left in front of the car to satisfy the rule of space. The car isn’t moving so the rule of motion isn’t as important. In this shot, the car is a face looking semi-hard left. It needs space into which to stare.
Secondary to the car is the sky-particularly the sun. The sun is fairly small in frame but the extremely bright area is fairly large. Even though we discussed sun placement in a previous article as being stretchable to the rule of sevenths, here a rule of fifths is an appropriate placement. Keeping the sun near the upper left rule of fifths gives us ample space to hold the sun in the picture.
The sky is awesome in this image. We need just enough land to ground the car and contain it in the frame. Keeping the horizon near the rule of fifths lets the sky dominate the remainder of the picture. A rule of thirds placement would have left too much foreground and lessened the sky’s impact. The rule of fifths grid overlaid here shows clearly the rule of space choices. There is twice as much space in front of the car as behind. There is four times as much sky as ground.
Playing the rule of thirds against the rule of fifths is a good way to start your composition both in-camera and in post production.
Rikk Flohr © 2011
In the previous article, I discussed how much ground was needed to keep people comfortably in-frame. This was the image used.
I promised to return and discuss how much (in my very opinionated opinion) sky was necessary in which to comfortably hold the sun. I looked at the image above and decided the cloud partially obscuring the sun made the question, well, clouded. I decided to approach the topic with a new image taken moments before on the very same Costa Rican beach. Here the sun is less encumbered by clouds and makes for a better discussion.
Here is the uncropped version of the sunset on the Pacific coast. The sun is shown where I framed it in-camera. As you can see the sun has ample space in which to roam. I chose this framing because it approximated the left-hand rule of thirds and left the sun seemingly sinking into the horizon by placing it slightly below the top rule of thirds. More on that decision in the future. Today, we are here to decide how much space is necessary to hold the sun.
Moving the sun to the upper left power point of the rule of thirds by cropping off the right hand side and top yields this image. The sun has plenty of room in which to roam and is not pressed for space in the slightest.
In this image we have placed the sun at the upper left rule of fifth’s position. It seems a little higher in the sky. No? Less like sunset. Yes? The room on the left is still ample and nothing appears crowded. It appears, in this image at least, that fifths will hold the sun. Perhaps were the sun larger in frame, it wouldn’t but at this size it is just fine.
Now we have moved the sun to the upper rule of sevenths. 1/7 of the way from the top and left. Are we starting to feel tight yet? The thing that saves us here is the halo of the sun is contained within the frame, giving us the illusion of adequate space. The long bright reflection of the sun across the water is really crowing the edge.
Coming out to the upper left rule of ninths we are really seeing the sun slip off the stage. The balance of the picture has tipped and we look off-kilter. To this point the varied crops don’t really offend our sensibilities but now we clearly know something is wrong. At the 7th’s position we were questionable. A tweak to the 9th’s position and we know we have gone over the edge.
Rule of Space says that we must have enough space for an object to exist within to avoid offending our sensibilities. For a sun this relative size in the frame, the Rule of Fifths applies. It may not be the best crop but it pushes the limit of where we can position that sun. Combine that with reasonable grounding for the rock and we have found relative boundaries within which to work.
Ultimately my final crop (Not Yet Shown) didn’t end up on any vertical rule and only coincidentally fell on the second horizontal rule of fifth. We cropped to strengthen the image-even though we didn’t’ follow the strict rule.
This not-yet-shown image will return in another discussion soon.
Rikk Flohr © 2011