Wednesday, September 5, 2012

High Yield Crop

Once the location of a photographic shot has been chosen (the center of perspective), and the direction and orientation of the camera has been selected (the center of the perception), there is yet one more significant geometric choice of editing to be made. After choosing the place from which to observe and also the direction to look toward, there is still most of the universe to see. The action of what has come to be called cropping a shot will further limit the scope of the view to the final image (this is another segment of the "what?" editing dimension).

There are actually two components to the crop. The first occurs in the camera. The selection of the lens focal length is actually a cropping action. The longer the focal length (this tends toward telescopic or "telephoto") the narrower the camera's field of view, and thus, the smaller the piece of the universe that the camera can see. As the focal length is shortened, the wider the camera's field of view becomes, and the larger the piece of the universe it can see.

crop A,
© 2012, Bill Brockmeier
crop B,
© 2012, Bill Brockmeier
Once a photograph has been recorded by a camera, there is a final cropping action that can yet take place. Before or during the printing, or otherwise displaying of the final photographic image, the frame can be further cropped. Although the field of view of the image can no longer be made wider it can be made smaller and the orientation even rotated somewhat.

The two photographs I have shown here demonstrate the dramatic difference a slight crop at printing can make in an image. Both images were derived from the same original full panoramic photograph, and both have exactly the same size and aspect ratio (height to width ratio). The first crop (on the left here) reveals more of the immediate objects at hand near the original observer, including the floor on which one would be standing. This gives an immediate connection with what the environment was like in the location, and puts the viewer of the photograph back at the scene.

The second crop (on the right) tends to extract the viewer of the photograph from the original location and brings more of a thoughtful, abstract quality to the image. The overall effect of the image is to cause the viewer to raise their vision upward, from the little light below to the more celestial bluish light that illuminates the upper portion of the image. The objects in the image are now all unconnected to the floor upon which the viewer would be standing and moves the viewer's thoughts from down here below to up above. While the depth of the former image was very much locked within the original location, the depth of the latter image is definitely moved beyond the simple physical reality of the original space. This second crop, although derived from exactly the same image as the first becomes an entirely different photograph.

These cropping edits at both ends of the photographic process cannot alter the geometric relationships between objects within the view, but its main function is to select or limit which features reside in the image. The narrower the image is cropped, the more the image reveals the details and subtleties of the remaining objects. The wider the image's view (the less it is cropped), the more the objects are shown in relationship to their surroundings.

Cropping is also a way of eliminating distracting or irrelevant features from the image. The more that objects are cropped from view, the less the remainder is connected to its environment, and the more abstract it tends to become.  The less that is left in an image, the less distractions there are, and the more opportunity there is for the viewer to think on what remains– and to think on what is not visible to the eye.

Next stop in editing— the Time Zone. 

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