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 Nature Photography :: Essays :: Cropping


Tranquil Light

Some photographers believe in printing the entire negative as a statement that they composed and cropped "in camera". This may be a noble concept but I find that I don't always get the composition right at first or that an unseen object at the edge of the frame has the potential to ruin the photo.

Usually this is not the case, almost all of my images are printed full frame, however there are times when severe cropping is necessary to rescue an image.

The photo Tranquil Light is a good example. As can be seen from the full frame version below there was a lot more of the stream in the original photo.

What you may not be able to make out is the marks left by a length of 2 by 4 timber that was lying on the beach. After taking my first two negatives I noticed the offending human artifact and decided to remove it and re-shoot. I tippy-toed across the sand, grabbed the item and did the best I could to remove the marks left by both the wood and my boots. This is almost impossible to do as the slightest blemish, in what is otherwise perfectly smooth sand, attracts the viewer's eye like a magnet, especially when the blemishes have a spacing suspiciously akin to that of human footprints. This was probably enough reason to crop the image but there was more

I had misjudged the brightness range of the scene and therefore processed the negatives inappropriately (I had so many negs after this trip that I relaxed my rule of processing one neg and viewing it before processing the second). After several attempts at taming the upper part of this print I began to realise that I may not be able to create a quality print from this negative.

Taking the path of least resistance I reasoned that, if the top is too hard to print, then I wouldn't print it. I cropped the image and was pleased to find that not only did I have a print that was easier to make but, more importantly, I had a simpler and stronger image.

There are of course many creative reasons for cropping an image but I'll leave that discussion for another day. Meanwhile just remember that life is full of stuff-ups, and cropping is one of nature's ways to salvage things.

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