Project: Cropping and Extending – Exercise – Cropping

Project: Cropping and extending

Exercise 9 : Cropping

Select three photographs, each of a different subject; crop them and describe the logic behind your choice.

Image 1

This is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence.  I took this photograph some time ago using a compact camera.

I quite liked the photograph but decided that the bridge could be shown to more advantage if it was brought more to the fore, with less sky and river.  I liked the silvery effect on the river though so wanted to retain some of it.  Here is my plan of the crop:

This the cropped version:-

It doesn’t look too different but I do think that the bridge now has more focus and prominence.  I have also still retained the reflections of the buildings in the river.

Image 2

I took this photograph in Split, Croatia last year.

What happened was that I wanted to take a photograph of the dog and its owner.  However, just as I was composing the tablecloth seller suddenly appeared in front of me.  I half turned and this was the result.  In some respects it is quite a whimsical image I think.  It could be cropped in a variety of ways.  This is the cropping outline:-

I cropped it into two images.  I was going to do another crop just of the dog but decided that might degrade the photograph too much.

Crop 1a

I think it has cropped quite well given the circumstances.  The lady is a bit too far over the left for my liking but I couldn’t do anything about that.  I lightened the area around the dog slightly to draw the eye.  He’s quite perky looking isn’t he?

Crop 1b

The crop has made the tablecloth seller more prominent.  I’m thinking she is now too dominant in the image somehow,  although she is balanced to some extent by the dog and the cushions.

Image 3

I was in a local churchyard just after Armistice Day last year.  I thought the red rose was a very poignant touch and wondered who had put it there. The way the memorial is placed gave it a busy road background so I bent down to take the photograph.  I actually felt it was disrespectful somehow to cut off all the names on the memorial and made an inner apology to any relatives there might be.  I even wondered if I’d cut off the name of the person for whom the rose was left.

I was discussing the photograph afterwards with my husband, whilst I was editing it, and he said he thought I should crop off even more to highlight the poignancy of the rose.  I resisted at the time because I didn’t want to cut even more names away.  However, I decided I would try it now for the purposes of the exercise.  Here is the cropping outline:-

and here is the final version:-

I’m not sure about this one.  I think it works less well than the other two crops.  I was just thinking that the fact that there are so few names could make it seem as if it was a grave rather than a memorial (although, of course, there are still several different names).  Yes – thinking about it again I think my original version was better because it makes it more obvious that this is a memorial.


It’s obviously much better if one composes a photograph properly in the first place having thought carefully about intention.  However, this isn’t always possible, e.g. the lady with the tablecloth. In that case I’ve enjoyed making the two images from one.

24th March 2011

Project: Frame shapes and sizes – Vertical and horizontal frames

Exercise 8 : Vertical and horizontal frames

Photograph the same scene twice –  once in horizontal and once in vertical format – and do this for 20 scenes.  The exercise brief suggests a fairly compact location and I chose to visit Wisley Gardens, Surrey,  which is one of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens.  I visited there for some of the earlier exercises.

Michael Freeman reminds us that the shape of the viewfinder frame and LCD screen, “has a huge influence on the form that the image takes”, (p. 12 M. Freeman, 2007). Digital SLRs are made to be used for horizontal pictures, therefore, turning them on their side is not as comfortable.  Additionally, a horizontal frame approximates our natural view of the world. The exercise brief actually asks us to photograph each scene in vertical format first and then, after processing these images to return and photograph the same scene in horizontal format.  I have to confess that I took all the photographs at the same time, and, on the whole use horizontal format first. In my own defence, I actually do, nowadays, pause to decide whether to use horizontal or vertical format so a fair proportion of my photographs are vertical.  On this occasion, though, I think that knowing that I would be using both formats, I unconsciously used horizontal format first because it is a more natural way to hold the camera.

I followed an instruction to take each set of photographs from the same focal length.  I think this was my internal instruction because I now don’t see that written anywhere in the brief.  I certainly used different focal lengths throughout, but there are only two sets where I actually changed the focal length between shots and I will note this where it applies.

I composed the vertical shot here to accentuate the height of the roof and the tree.

The vertical format accentuates the height of the ‘steeple’ in comparison with the building next door.

Here, I used a focal length of 70mm  standing 5.5m away for the arch itself, but a focal length of 15mm from 2.3m away to capture the whole of the doorway.

I chose to capture the lamp post against the sky for the horizontal frame, but the vertical frame gives another impression of height when the lamp post is contrasted with the treetop.

Again, the vertical format gives more impression of the height of the tree.

I was taken by the more sinister aspect of Pan when viewed close-up and crouching down in front of him.  The horizontal frame was taken at 21mm and I was 0.7m away.  I stepped back for the vertical shot (3.4m away) and used a focal length of 32mm, which allowed for the height of the statue.  I put these two on Flickr and comments were made about the difference between the shots. I have done some more work on the close-up as wall could be seen behind Pan’s left hand.  A suggestion was made that I could crop this out but,instead I cloned in leaves instead of wall and allowed Pan some space to play his pipes!

Vertical format here gives more space to show the height of the steps, whereas the horizontal format emphasises the steps in the foreground.

I unconsciously chose vertical format first here to give more impression of height.  My sense of tidiness actually whispered that I should change the photographs around on the page but I left it to show how I had, on the whole, naturally used a horizontal frame.

Horizontal format works better here I think because it shows more of the width of the greenhouse.

Horizontal format allowed me to show more of the context within which the gardener works.

Horizontal format shows more greenery whereas vertical brings in more of the windows at the back (highlights blown because of the grey light outside.  Normally I would crop but I left this in to keep the vertical format.  In fact, normally I would frame a shot like this to exclude the light outside if I thought it would be a problem.

This is one where I unconsciously chose vertical format first because it better suits the waterfall.


It did seem quite time-consuming and cumbersome to choose and then process 40 photographs just for an exercise.  However, it has really shown me how I do have a tendency to naturally frame shots in horizontal format. It’s also been interesting for me to see the different effects.

17th March 2011

Project: Dividing the frame – Positioning the horizon

Project:  Dividing the frame

Exercise 7: Positioning the horizon

This is Newlands Corner, which is part of the North Downs in Surrey.  There is a steep slope here (well at least for Surrey) which gives a good view of the meeting between horizon and sky.  I took the following before Christmas last year (2010) on a day that had a cold and foggy beginning.  The fog was just beginning to clear.

I decided to visit Newlands Corner again for the current exercise that requires 6 images where the horizon line is arranged in different positions in the frame.  The following photographs were taken at the end of January this year (2011) on a bright day.  I used a 76mm lens at f11 for all 6. It’s taken me quite a while to get to writing this up because I became engrossed in producing the images for Assignment 1.

No. 1

I was attracted towards this view initially because of the people sitting on a bench at the top of the slope.  There is just enough room here between horizon and sky to allow for the people.  A lot of dry grass in the foreground but it is broken up slightly by the shadow from the tree. The slant of the slope also looks quite steep (which it is).

No. 2

Moving the horizon down makes the slope look less steep now.  To me it looks less interesting than no.1 where I liked the effect of the people perched on top of the horizon. I’ve measured it with a ruler and the horizon meets the sky at the 2/3rd point.

No. 3

This seems quite flat to me now and not interesting at all.  The line of the grass is at the halfway point.

No. 4

There is an introduction of more interest from now being able to see the branches of the tree which form a pattern against the blue of the sky. The line of the grass has now moved down to the 1/3rd point.

No. 5

For me, the tree  and the blue sky are now becoming more dominant as a point of interest.

No. 6

All sky and tree now. This could have been quite pleasing if there had been more branches to contrast with the sky.


I think when I was just beginning to use a camera I would have produced an image similar to No. 3 because I remember I always wanted to centre everything in an image. Now it seems the least interesting for this particular scene. I have to confess as well that I don’t think I normally take the horizon into consideration.  I look at a scene decide I like it and then compose the image.  I did that with the view I began with – captured at the end of last year and also with the following when the fog had almost dispersed.

14th March 2011

Project: Dividing the frame – Balance

Exercise 6: Balance

“Balance is the resolution of tension, opposing forces that are matched

to provide equilibrium and a sense of harmony”

M. Freeman, 2007, p. 40

This links with the gestalt Law of Simplicity – the mind prefers symmetry and balance.  However, Freeman makes the point that providing equilibrium isn’t necessarily the job of art or photography (p. 41). The challenge is to show how much tension or harmony to create. Another comment he makes is that symmetry is not necessarily satisfying,  is not particularly common in views that a photographer is likely to come across and, therefore, it can be appealing if used occasionally (and I would add – creatively).

Another aspect to consider is that symmetry has to be absolutely precise otherwise the balance of the photograph is upset. On the other hand, an unbalanced composition creates visual tension and is more dynamic and, therefore, can be more interesting.  It makes the eye and brain work harder.  The challenge is to provide just enough tension and, to me as a viewer, that depends whether I find the subject interesting or perhaps unusual enough to work at it.  Oddly enough, and I don’t really know why, as I’m writing this I keep thinking of how we arrange objects on windowsills or tables.  My husband and I have occasional skirmishes where I make one arrangement, which he then changes slightly to another.  We also disagree at times on how a photograph should be cropped if that seems necessary.  This is where individual process comes in.

At first, when contemplating this exercise, I was tempted to look for photographs which would meet the balance of two unequal objects; maximum symmetry or symmetry about one axis.  I decided not to do this but to choose photographs where I hadn’t thought they were ‘good enough’ to put on Flickr for whatever reason.  I thought there would be more learning in this for me, at the risk of feeling even more de-skilled. I drew the lines on the photographs and then scanned them in which has changed the colour somewhat.

No. 1

To me this is a grouping of unequal objects where they are balanced because the larger set on the right is closer to the centre and the smaller set is nearer the edge of the frame on the left.  As a photograph it would have worked much better if the post had not been there because it intrudes into the eye and, now I see, looks as it it’s getting in the way of the boat in the foreground.

No. 2

Lines are radiating here (but to slightly left of centre) and I see triangles.  There is also a contrast between tones – the darker tones of the rocks and paving; green grass, green foliage on trees and pale roof, and then slight colour in the people on the top left, with lighter foliage.    I’d be interested to see what effect moving the axis to the centre would create – less heavy rock but I don’t know what is on the left.  I’m going back there next week and will try to remember to have a look and take a different photograph.

No. 3

I see a division into unequal thirds.  The swans and ducks take up a larger portion of the image.  The prow of the boat intrudes rather than balances.

No. 4

There are triangles here radiating from the top of the arch. The wings; head; breastplate, and knees of the bird woman also form triangles. The breasts of the other two statues and the orb between them balance these. However, the birdwoman is the dominant shape because her wings give more width, as do her pigtails.

This photograph is pleasing to my eyes, as was the sculpture which is over the doors of one of the large buildings in the City.  I think it’s to do with the androgynous aspect of the birdwoman, (who looks more like a squaw bird), with a plump-lipped pout and  the flattened cones on her breastplate simulating breasts, against bony knees (and the orb between her legs?), which look masculine. Contrasting with this are the two classical, and definitely female sculptures on either side.   When I think of it that way it’s like an almost asymmetrical balance between male and female. I wish I could remember now what the building was so that I can find out more about the sculpture. *

No. 5

There are more elements in this photograph, which make it more complicated. I think the gangway and the cruiser are more dominant and extend beyond the centre of the frame , backed by the distant form of the Houses of Parliament. They are balanced by the  landing stage with the height of the millennium wheel in the distance.

No. 6

Here there are two blocks of unequal objects.  The trees on the right, with spreading branches, take up most  (around two-thirds) of the frame. Their dominance is softened by the light shrubs in the right foreground; the more feathery aspect of the branches of the lower tree, and also the downwards slope of the treetops.

I then looked at the photographs on page 38 of the Workbook.  To my eyes, in  ‘On Sussex Downs’, Frederick Evans has achieved balance through the tones between the sky and the path which breaks up the heaviness of the land mass.  In ‘Farmyard, Thuman, Colorado, 1969’, Robert Adams has composed the photograph so that  the lines of the telegraph pole lead the eye both down  and along.  The telegraph pole provides a point just left of centre which links the tree and outbuilding together. The eye can wander between all the elements without tension – at least mine can – and it looks restful.  Cecil Beaton’s photograph of ‘Quintin Hogg, QC’ (and what a character he was!) is simple in composition and achieves balance between the two unequal elements of man at desk and bowler.  The door handles and catch also provide a balancing aspect.  I have a sense that if they weren’t there this photograph would be less visually pleasing.


There are many different aspects of composition, which contribute towards balance or asymmetry.  Sometimes I can look at a photograph and know it isn’t quite right somehow and completing this exercise has helped me to distinguish some of the reasons why.

4th March 2011

* ps – Re Image 4 and the sculptures. Corinna of Hairy Goat Ltd informed me that  the sculpture is in Lombard Street and the building used to house an insurance company.  The statues represent the risks from fire and sea so that the statues on each side actually hold symbols such as a flaming torch and a caduceus- common symbols on buildings housing insurance companies.  Corinna described the middle statue as a harpy (winged woman).   This helped me to do a bit more searching.  It’s at 2, Lombard Street which used to be the Royal Insurance Building and the sculptor was Francis W. Doyle-Jones. The statue in the middle has also been described as a semi sphinx, with wings, representing the uncertainty of the future.  I lean more towards ‘harpy’ because they were said to appear out of nowhere and grasp you with their talons.

I know this is nothing really to do with the exercise but It gives me a sense of completion – the Gestalt law of Closure.

Focal lengths and different viewpoints

Exercise 5: Focal lengths and different viewpoints

This involved finding a subject (with some depth) with enough space in front to allow a choice of viewpoint from near to far.  Two shots to be taken – one each with zoom at shortest and longest settings – and results compared. Read the rest of this entry »

Project: Focal Lengths

Project: Focal lengths

Exercise: Focal lengths

The purpose of this exercise was to see what effect is gained by changing lenses from one focal length to another as opposed to physically moving further away or nearer to the subject.

I took this series of  shots on a morning out by the Wey Canal in Pyrford near Woking  which is not too far away from where I live. For this particular exercise I decided to use John Donne’s summer house as a subject. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking through the Viewfinder – A sequence of composition

Exercise: A sequence of Composition (Workbook p. 28)

The aim of this exercise was to help me to think about the practical process of composing an image by recording the way I approach and shoot a subject.  In this instance I had to record all the moments that were ‘almost right’ and to use the camera viewfinder as a way of checking out possible pictures.


Newlands Corner, Surrey is a popular area for walkers and their dogs and also bikers who gather there especially on a Sunday to meet/greet and compare their motorbikes.  I thought this would be a good place to carry out several of the exercises and the photographs for this particular exercise were taken on our way back up the hill and our car. Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise 2: Objects in different positions in the frame

Project: Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise : Object in different positions in the frame

Aims of the exercise:-

  • Find a subject which is very clear and set within a large, even background.
  • Take a series of photographs in which the subject is placed in different positions in the frame.
  • Lay the prints out in order of preference evaluating which version appears to work the most comfortably

Setting up

I had a very kind offer from my husband (hereinafter known as JB) that he could stand amongst the heather on the Common, holding an umbrella with his back to me.  I appreciated that and thought I would hold it in reserve.  However, I don’t know why but I had a yearning to photograph a horse.  Read the rest of this entry »

TAOP Part One: Looking through the viewfinder:Fitting the frame to the subject

Project: Looking through the viewfinder

25.1.11 Exercise : Fitting the frame to the subject (p.25).

The aims of the exercise were:-

  1. Find a subject that is clear in appearance, compact in shape and accessible from close to and from a distance.
  2. Get into a position to see the entire subject in the viewfinder and photograph as I normally would –without taking too much time to consider the composition.
  3. Take more care over the second picture, moving in and around to make the subject fit the frame as tightly as possible – right up to the edges if I could, but not beyond.
  4. Close in so that I can see none of the edges of the subject and photograph just a part of it.
  5. Move right back until the subject occupies only a small part of the frame and do my best to make a composition that stresses the surroundings. If the subject is easy to move consider placing it more effectively within its surroundings.
  6. Compare with the Workbook examples.
  7. Use either frames or the cropping tool and crop the picture using alternative possibilities.

Setting up

It was a dull, damp day but I wanted to get on with the exercises.  The easy way would have been to find something in the garden, but I wanted to be out and about with my camera. The day was pretty dark and I wanted something colourful.  A red postbox came into mind first but then I thought of the local playground which could be a good place if it was empty (I didn’t want parents rushing up to me and asking why I was photographing their children as this is a very sensitive issue nowadays).  I was in luck because there was only one young dad with his daughter and I waited until they had left.  Read the rest of this entry »