Friday, June 11, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Rules......Duh, Yeah, We Do.

I look at today’s image and think of Paul Simon’s song Kodachrome. “They give us nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summer. Makes you think all the word’s a summer day, oh yeah.” We certainly have the greens of summer in today’s image. The fire hydrants around the area have recently been painted and I can’t remember them being more contrasty . The bright red and white standing in at the edge of a lush, green hill side was too much to walk past. One of the more interesting parts about this shot is that it’s about two hundred yards (meters) from my front door. It was a great day for photography a couple days ago and I decided to grab the camera and walk into town. The sun was playing peek-a-boo with some great fluffy clouds and the light was alternating between contrasty, cloudy bright and richly soft. All I had to do is wait a couple of minutes for the next cloud to come along and I had my choice which lighting condition I wanted. Actually, I wanted them all, so every time I found something to shoot it was just a case of shoot, shoot, shoot and then wait a little and back to shoot, shoot, shoot. A walk that typically takes less than an hour lasted more than two. The air was dry and the breeze was light. The changing light made for a great opportunity for photography. If you look at today’s image you can see what the light was like when the shot was taken. Look just under the lip of the flange, see the slight shadow? The full sun shots had a fairly heavy shadow. The ones under the maximum shadow of a cloud had none. Just as the sun fell behind the edge of the cloud there came this extremely soft light that gave plenty of detail and popped the colors. To find out about some of the decision process behind taken this shot, hit the “read more”.

“Most” of what I print goes into a 4 x 5, 8 x 10, 16 x 20 aspect ratio. If you look, you’ll see that all three are exactly the same ratio. Generally the size I use is 16 x 20. Since that’s not the “normal” aspect ratio of a digital sensor (or, in the “old days”, film) there is typically some cropping in each print I do. That’s fine, but the smaller side, about 95% of the time, is the full frame. I shoot with an eye toward the finished print being a 16 x 20. On today’s image I doubt if I cut twenty pixels from the horizontal dimension. After clicking the shutter thousands of times with the final print in mind it has become an automatic thing in my mind to frame the shot in such a way to give the maximum number of pixels to work with. Taking the shot from a greater distance and cropping would just reduce the amount of information I’d have to work with in finishing the image.

Placement is another factor. Looking at the image you can see that the vertical height of the hydrant follows the “rule of thirds”. The red bolt at the front cap falls at a nodal point of the same “rule of thirds”. I hear all sorts of people bash the “rules” of photography. But, they’re not there to hamstring people into making cookie cutter images. They come for the “old masters”, not of photography, but of the painting world. The Rembrandts. The Monets, the Van Goes, the Dalis and all the other icons of the art world. They used the same “rules” because of the power they represent. Just the same as we use the same lighting they did (ever hear of “Rembrandt Lighting”). The “suggested rules” are there to improve the impact of the images we produce.

Of course the rules can be broken effectively, but that’s the “exception” rather than the “rule”.


Levonne said...

Hi Tom,
There is that complimentary colors thing working in this picture also. Nice. I like the reference to the song. If you don't mind, have you been able to make a living with your photography at some period in your life?

Kathy Marciante Photography said...

Beautiful colors and composition Tom!