Exercise: Cropping

An exercise in cropping. For this exercise I dipped into my library of photos (well the last 18 months worth as anything prior is snaps!!).

This photo was taken just off the main square in old town Marrakesh. I liked the repetition of the phone shelters although they were in constant use so I couldn’t get a people free shot.

I reviewed the whole shot and considered my original intention (repeating telephone shelters) and looked at where a crop could restore what I intended.

The cropped shot then, when I applied the crop I found the lone figure walking up still in frame. I liked this, it seemed to add a bit of story to the shot without taking away from the telephones. Overall then, closer to the original intention but with perhaps a bit more ‘story’ to it?

A distant shot of the windmill at Pitstone (windmills a popular subject for me). Although I liked the framing, the shot looked like potential material for a crop.

I played about with various options, considered cropping the top and bottom away but I liked the balance of land to sky, nearly 50/50 so decided to retain that.

The finished crop then, I kept the path to the windmill to give a leading line from the bottom left hand corner. I considered cropping more from the right hand side but this just seemed to work and the windmill was less ‘lost’ in the shot overall without losing the feeling of breadth.

Ah, Boris’s bikes. Plenty of opportunity for repeating patterns although this was on a shadowy street on a sunny winter day in London.

I experimented with various crops for this shot, what did it offer. I decided there were two elements worthy of consideration. The obvious repeating pattern of the aligned bikes was best represented by the rear wheel mudguards, made all the more easy because all the bikes have the same wheel size. However there was a different photo in the varying heights of the saddles, in many ways in sharp contrast to the first potential crop whilst benefiting from the saddles being the same size, colour and construction.

Saddles crop first then, conceptually I liked this but the overexposed sky and building in the top right corner were a distraction. I’d probably try to shot this if (when!) I’m in London again.

This crop whilst perhaps more obvious, is my preferred shot. Interestingly it brings to life the one bike that hasn’t been put away properly (top centre) bring the shot a bit of unexpected variation.

A really interesting exercise then, these were three photos I’d kind of filed away as nothng special but with a crop, there was something else there I had missed on first inspection. Its also made me think about some of my framing and opportunities to frame differently in the future.

Exercise: Vertical and horizontal frames

This was an interesting exercise pushing the photographer (me) to break out of the natural inclination to take photos with the camera always with a horizontal frame. The setting for this assignment was Worthing using the pier as my central theme on a short and cold January afternoon and early evening.

The first pairing, a classic British seaside resort shelter. In the vertical frame I’ve placed the subject quite central using the frame to obscure as much clutter from the shot as possible. the downside is the shelter is hardly frame filling. The horizontal frame allows the shelter to better fill the frame and so is my choice here.

The second pairing. As the tutorial suggested without really thinking about it I’ve put the ‘weight’ of the vertically framed shot towards the bottom half of the frame, very noticeable when compared to the horizontal framed shot. That said, because of the cloud details I prefer the vertically framed shot, helped by the fact it was easier to get a good exposure with a narrower frame!

In perhaps sharp contrast to the previous pairing, this time the vertical frame sees me pushing the obvious ‘foreground’ (the pier) towards the top of the frame. That said I did a similar thing in the horizontal frame. On reflection perhaps the foreground is actually the sun glinting off the water! I prefer the vertical frame again, largely because of that reflected sunshine taking centre stage.


In this pair of shots a subject that rather fits the vertical framing. As a consequence my initial preference was the vertical frame. On review, what makes the shot interesting are the reflections in the water the subject is sat in, as a result the horizontal frame is the better shot for me with a better balance of foreground and background.

Time to move onto the pier, not exactly bustling for a Saturday afternoon but it was January. The refreshment bar was doing brisk trade in tea! Both shots (wide angle lens) exhibit that typical pier/wide angle lens effect of pulling the viewer in. I actually found it quite difficult to select a preference but the horizontal frame wins me over as the rule of thirds wins out!!

So as the sun began to fall the light was changing virtually by the minute. Another shot emphasising the point that in vertical framing the natural tendency is to put the ‘weight’ of the shot in the bottom third of the frame. Without anything really strong to pull the viewer in I prefer the vertical frame as you get a better view of the dramatic clouds.

Mrs.A thought it was rude not to have an ice cream as we were at the seaside. Here again I’ve pushed the interest into the bottom of the vertical frame. As a result the horizontal shot has much better framing. There is enough going on the fill the width of the frame whereas the vertical frame has a lot of sky that isn’t adding much to the shot. Thanks to the model.

In this pair I like the content in both, both seem to have balance. Picking is tough, I think my choice is the vertical frame as the figures look like they are walking out into the shot and contained in the boundary of the vertical frame this is how my eye is drawn.

The pier then, with the light falling away the frame was already in shadow. Both shots benefit from cloud following a similar line to the pier. Assuming the shot is of the pier, the horizontal frame suits the subject allowing it to dominate the frame. The vertical frame again carries a disproportionate amount of sky to achieve a good balance to my eye.

With the light all but gone, I took to photographing the seafront features. The horizontal frame again is my choice here, just too much concrete in the vertical frame and in the horizontal frame I used the shelter to balance the hotel and the lights taking centre stage.

A fascinating exercise, perhaps the seaside isn’t the best location for testing the vertical frame in composition but some shots like the groyne certainly work better that way around. They key is to remember to try and frame both ways around as you might be pleasantly surprised. One thing that was certainly beneficial as well on this day was to in effect narrow the field of vision allowing easier exposure control on a day where a low bright sun was a constant challenge.

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

This was an exercise in dividing the frame into two or more distinct areas. A scene with a strong horizon was required and having selected a view I then shot a series of potential ways to frame the scene in a way to potentially capture the elements in a photograph.

This takes the framing to one extreme. With the horizon close to the top of the shot the texture in the recently harrowed ground dominates but on reflection, the shot doesn’t look balanced and the sky looks almost pointless (and over exposed). Probably would have been better with no sky at all.

By introducing more sky, a 1/4 sky and 3/4 field, balance feels better and the hedge starts to to draw you in. Lots of texture from the field which is one of the key points of interest. I like this shot because te texture of the field balances the simple sky.

Almost at the other extreme, lots of sky, probably 3/4. This looked great in the viewfinder because of the sky but actually doesn’t look as rich here, probably a bit over exposed in the top right. The impact of the lines in the field has been all but lost, the field just looks flat and the hedge doesn’t draw the viewer in as I hoped it would.

This is better, the field comes more into the frame, the hedge line starts to pull the viewer in again.

This is a 60/40 view in favour of the field. This for me is the most effective shot at capturing the field texture but the impact of the hedge is compromised by being chopped too far into the shot.

My favourite shot, I like the height of the hedge running the the full extent of the vertical axis, enough of the field to get the lines and texture all then offset by the clear sky. The frame is nearly 50/50. All the elements are in place, field, sky and the hedge which along with the lines in the field, pulls the viewer in almost like an arrow.

Another fascinating exercise, without moving position, changing lens or even focal length the framing of the shot can be changed dramatically and the impact of each element changed significantly, most noticeable for me was the impact on the hedge.

Exercise: Balance

This exercise was all about understanding balance. I’ve used 6 of my most popular (!) photos and tried to assess the balance in each shot, looking for the dominant features and how that is balanced by other elements of the shot.

This shot, taken at Ivinghoe Beacon, uses strong lines to pull the viewer in from the base of the shot. The furrows are sharply in focus but with a shallow depth of field, the strong lines are softened as the photo rapidly falls into increasingly softer focus. There is also a clear line almost halfway up the shot running horizontally which aids the balance of the shot.

Something completely different. In this shot (Brill Windmill), the windmill dominates the right hand side of the photo but the balance comes from the family sat on the bench with plenty of clear sky above them. Its a scale thing, the space and simplicity of the left hand side of the photo balancing the apparent mass of the windmill.

In Burnham Beeches, a shot taken straight into the sun using the contrast between light and shadow to balance on the horizontal line splitting the photo,

A shot I found much harder initially to see the balance in. I think the simplicity of the green leaf is in contrast to the detail of the insect captured in this macro shot.

This shot, taken at the Kop Hill hillclimb in October 2011 has the dominant motorbike and rider crisply in focus set against the blurred background giving the sense of speed. The black and white conversion creates strong contrast between light and shade but actually its the central placement of the foreground object that creates the balance in this shot.

Millennium Bridge, December 2011. A long exposure shot, there are strong lines created by the bridge, these would dominate were it not for the strongly lit St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Although the horizontal ‘sky line’ is splitting the photo 2/3 to 1/3, this is the line of balance separating the bridge from the rest I think. I’m not 100% sure in this shot like the insect shot earlier.

This was a fascinating exercise and really made me think about my photos. Some I scanned through were extremely obvious, others much tougher to identify, perhaps because although I like them they don’t exhibit great balance. Its certainly true the simpler the shot, the easier it was to see the balance.

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

This exercise, as the title implies was all about placing the subject matter in different places in the frame. The photos are of Brill Windmill in Buckinghamshire.

In this first shot the subject is basically central in both the horizontal and vertical panes. The subject is the complete focus of the eye dominating the frame.

In the second frame I’ve shortened the focal length pushing the subject toward the top right corner of the frame. This gives the subject a more distant feeling in the shot, brings foliage into the frame (left hand side) and gives a greater sense of the journey to the subject. This is my least favourite shot as the surroundings (especially given the weather/lighting) were not interesting and I’d rather see more of the windmill.

The third shot a a tighter framing sees the subject moved to left off centre. The subject can bed into its surroundings more easily whilst remaining the focus of the photo. Losing the foliage to the left gets rid of the distraction of it. My favourite of the four shots.

This final shot places the subject far right. This gives the sense of the windmill almost looking out over the view it faces. From this viewpoint that isn’t a greatly interesting view so although I like the idea of this shot and the extra space framing the windmill in this way has given, I prefer the simplicity of shot 3.

All photos were shot on a Tamron 10-24mm wide angle lens at F8.0.

Exercise: Focal Lengths and different viewpoints

This was a simple exercise in understanding potential impacts of using different lenses to view the same scene but change the perspective by moving myself. In the pair of photos below of Brill Windmill in Buckinghamshire, the first was shot on at a 70mm focal length using a zoom lens, the second at 16mm on a wide angle lens.

Whilst I tried to frame the shots so they contained the same image, the perspective has changed quite noticeably. In the wide angle shot the bench is noticeably bigger although the windmill looks pretty close to the same size, the zoom lens has made the scene look similar but actually compressed it. The result is the wide angle shot does feel like you’re closer to the bench but not the windmill. Also its noticeable that in the wide angle shot the bench and windmill are either side of the frame but in the zoom shot, despite the windmill appearing the same size, there is space to make it more central as the bench is so much smaller.

This was an interesting lesson for me in using the zoom lens to effectively increase the content in frame. Equally, its a reminder that the wide angle lens allows you to simplify a scene if you get in close.

70mm focal length

16mm focal length