If the background doesn’t work together with your main subject, you won’t have a good picture.~Mary Ellen Mark (Photo location: old wharf at Guimbal town, Iloilo province)
Book Excerpt: “When you’re outside taking pictures, all of your senses are working, taking in information and making you feel and respond in a certain, usually positive, way. Not only do you see the scene before you, you hear the wind in the trees, smell the sweet aromas of nature, feel the texture of the land and the breeze on your skin, and taste the air. But when you press the shutter, the camera only records what it sees and four out of the five senses that influence how you respond emotionally to the subject are lost…When you think about it, it’s little wonder that a two-dimensional, single-sense photograph might struggle to live up to the actual experience we had at the time of its taking. The real skill in photography that sets apart the great images from the snapshots is the ability to replace this missing/lost information using purely visual tools, to give the viewer a sense of what you felt by recording the image in such a way that it stimulates the imagination and stirs emotions…It is a skill that can be learned and the starting point is to get into the habit of seeing what your camera sees.”~Chris Weston May from his book Nature Photography
We’ve tackled previously the subject of filling the frame, or how to compose a shot with the subject filling up the four corners of the frame we call a viewfinder. To photograph is to exclude, as the great Susan Sontag once said. And to exclude is part of composition – that is, to include only the essential, the point of interest, and to exclude all the others in the frame that does not emphasize or relate to the main subject. The problem nowadays is that the “frame” comes in different sizes, the proper terminology is “aspect ratios.” How do you present your subject on a 4:3 (think of your old analog TV screen) aspect ratio from that of a cinematic 16:9 (think of your new HDTV screen). From 4:3 to 16:9 there will be lots of exclusions of the subjects and other elements that you will have to do. For example in the above photo of the boat presented in 16:9, I would have to do away with most of the right side of the image if I were to present it in a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio. In the first place, how many aspect ratios are there? To answer that, my mainstay editing program PhotoScape alone has 25 aspect ratio choices in its cropping menu, though mostly there are just 6 in common use on cameras today. But the point of this post is – aspect ratio affects your composition, or what you put inside that frame. Here is a VERY interesting article titled An Introduction to Aspect Ratios and Compositional Theory. The author, Malaysian-based photographer Ming Thein, explains that the aim of the article is to “focus on understanding the compositional impact of different aspect ratios, and more importantly, how to pick the right aspect ratio for a given subject.” As most people will probably just go by the native aspect ratio of their camera and not do anything about it, the author says this is “compositionally very, very sloppy.” Read the rest of this informative article and add another chapter in your growing library of photographic knowledge. Now when you shoot those fireworks this New Year, think if they can best be presented in 1:1, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 2.40:1. That many? Yes, and that’s just a few. Hehe. Happy aspect shooting!
Have a wonderful one – the last weekend of 2012!
Part of it has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive. At the core of this receptivity is a process that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore.~Henry Wessel (Photo location: Guimaras Island)
This is a scenic picture of a river’s mouth that opens up into a bay, lined with mangrove trees that help stem soil erosion. This is the last picture I have of this scenery which was taken two years ago. It is just 30 minutes from our place, outside of the city center. Last month, when I returned to this place it was no more. In its place now is a large petrochemical complex. The river with its mangrove forest just disappeared, eaten up and erased by an industrial plant. Situations like these rile me, and the feeling is a mixture of sadness, disappointment and utter frustration. I am no environmental warrior, but I don’t need to be one to know that this is totally wrong – big business taking precedence over nature, with the local city government in conspiracy with this dastardly act. Well, in the first place it was the city government that issued permits and the go signal, potentially earning big (in taxes and other fees) from these huge businesses. But to erase an entire river from the map and alter the natural features of the coastline just smacks of utter disrespect and apathy for nature. That is why nature gets back at us through soil erosion, flooding, landslides, rise in sea levels, global warming – ecological disasters brought about by man himself, because of commercial greed and selfishness. I may rant for the rest of my life but nothing will ever be the same, the river will not return. It has all but died, not from natural causes but by the wanton disregard of the human species. This picturesque scene is now vanished; ecology once again vanquished. And all I have now is this picture, a memory of beauty that once was. I bow my head in shame, we are not worthy caretakers of Mother Earth.