More on cropping

I know that this post is only a couple days after my last one but during the current 52Frames challenge “Fabric” the idea of a good crop applies. Here is the image that I submitted for this week’s challenge.

Scarves shot in studio, 60s @ f20

For this image I took two of my wife’s scarves. My first challenge was how to display the scarves in a way that would provide a good photo. After some digging around in the studio I decided that a studio light with a beauty dish would make a good hanger.

After I had them hung I had to decide the best way to light them. I decided to use the beauty dish light at the absolute lowest power output. Then to help light the front of the scarves I used another studio light with a 30 degree grid.

Because of the amount of light that was still being put out by the lights I had to go with a much higher f-stop. To get a tight shot on the fabric I used an 80-200mm lens at 100mm setting.

Ok, so by now you’re probably asking yourself “So what does all that have to do with cropping?”. Well during the post processing I decided that an 8″x10″ crop ratio gave me the area and detail that I wanted but the lines of the scarves were straight up and down. That is when I decided to rotate the image along with the crop.

With a bit of a vignette to help draw attention to the center of the image I’m very happy with the shot. Hope you found this article of use. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see in the future.

Cropping for effect

After last week’s challenge for 52Frames it got me thinking about how cropping can make or break a photo (in my humble opinion). I think most people, at least those not familiar with the art of photography, tend to think of image sizes in the most common sizes (4″x6″, 5″x7″, 8″x10″ and so on). I suspect that this is primarily driven by the availability at the local merchandise store of these common frame sizes.

Let’s start this discussion with a look at the original image that I submitted for the challenge.

Original image – uncrossed

The basic proportions of the image from the camera are 8″x12″. As you can see from this image the main subject, Pikes Peak, seems lost in-between the foreground prairie and the sky. Bearing in mind that the mountain is our primary subject let’s start looking at the more common crops.

Cropped to 6″x4″

In the image above we begin to bring more focus on our subject, however there still seems to be a disproportionate amount of foreground and sky to our subject.

Cropped to 7″x5″

In comparing the first crop to this one you can see that all we’ve done is add one inch to both the width and the height. This is obviously going the wrong direction for what we’re trying to achieve. Cropping to the next common size, 8″x10″, only makes the issue worse

Cropped to 10″x8″

For a sweeping landscape such as this I lean towards crops that are twice as wide as they are tall. For the final image I used a 20″x10″.

Cropped to 20″x10″

Here the subject has a very nice mix of foreground and sky compared to the subject. You’ll also notice that the mountains are not directly center in the image (think Rule of Thirds).

Final thoughts

As you can see the way that your crop your images can have a dramatic impact on the final image. One could say that maybe I should have used a longer lens. While that is true, the fact still remains that any cropping would have given the same effect.

When I first started in photography I was taught to crop the image in the view finder. Experience has taught me that this is not always the best practice. For as you see, if you crop in the view finder you’re likely to limit your options for cropping during post processing. Because of this and the fact that today’s cameras produce such high resolution images I shoot a bit wider. That said be careful not to lose focus on your main subject.

“America’s Mountain”

For this week’s challenge on the subject was nature. The added twist of this week’s challenge was that in order to be eligible for extra credit the photographer must use a tripod. With the unpredictable weather here in Colorado this challenge was going to be just that…a challenge.

Because of the extreme cold April has snow not Spring showers the flowers certainly aren’t blooming. So my next thought was to try my hand at astrophotography. Well, conditions certainly weren’t optimal for that either. We had a great deal of cloud cover and I really didn’t feel like freezing just to try this technique.

Later in the week during a trip down to Colorado Springs I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the snow-capped Pikes Peak, often referred to as “America’s mountain”. Even though I was over 30 miles away it’s grandeur made it appear as if I was right next to it. I decided that because I was running out of time that I would get up early and try to get sunrise shot.

The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning and it was all I could do to get out of bed. Thankfully I had prepared my equipment the night before. I had to travel about 20 minutes to the area that I planned to take the shot. With sunrise occurring at 6:00 a.m. I needed to be out of the house by no later than 5:30.

My initial thought was to stop where Russellville Rd meets Highway 83. The closer I got to the location I decided that going South on South Cherry Creek Rd would give me a better vantage point as it’s higher than the original spot. As it turns out my assumption was correct.

Overlooking the highway down below I had a perfect vantage point of Pikes Peak. It was shortly after the scheduled sunrise that the sun rose above the horizon and cast it’s rays across the fields and on the snowy peak of Pikes Peak. Here is the image that was submitted for the weekly challenge.

Giving up control

When it comes to photography, control is the nature of the game. From the initial creation of the photo to post processing and final print most photographers will tell you that they want to maintain every aspect of their work.

As I indicated in a post earlier this week I recently joined a challenge called 52Frames. This week’s challenge pushed participants to a new level of discomfort, letting someone else edit your photo submission. For this challenge I was a participant as well as an editor for other photographers.

For my photo I decided to photograph an abandoned farm house located near the town where I live. I ended up with three photos that I provided to be edited by a fellow 52Framer and high school classmate. The final images are shown here.

Shallow depth of field to focus on barbed wire fencing
Moody effect
Panoramic World

I was please with the final results, especially the third image. I think that it really took the dreary day and turned this photo into a very interesting image.


Well as for most everyone this pandemic has proven to be a challenge on many levels. We as a society were forced to limit our activities and large gatherings quickly became a thing of the past. This isolation not only directly impacted my ability to get out and do much photography, it severely impacted my desire to do any photography.

As the weather has been warming in Colorado it seemed to light the fire to begin doing more photography, but the big question “What to photograph?”. With restrictions still in place this has proven to be an even bigger issue.

The answer came from following one of my high school classmates on Facebook who had joined a weekly challenge called 52Frames. After looking at the website I’ll admit I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if it was something that I wanted to participate in.

After about a month of contemplation, I couldn’t stand the idea of my camera equipment just sitting storage so I decided to take the plunge and join the challenge starting in Week 15. The challenge was titled “Trapped” and the intent was for the photographer to capture the emotion of being isolated or trapped. How appropriate is that for the times we’re living in?

Creative ideas can be a challenge and this one certainly had me scratching my head as to what I’d shoot. So to start off this adventure the image of our dog Bandit popped in my head. He loves hanging out in my office while I work and looks out the window. I thought if I could capture that it would certainly fit the challenge. Here is the image I submitted for the weekly challenge.

While it’s not the easiest task to get him to go outside the look on his face makes it looks like he’s sad because he’s not in the yard.

So now it’s onto the next challenge, “Edited By Someone Else!“. The subject is pretty open so hopefully I’m come up with something interesting. Once I have the image I will provide it to another “Framer” (the term used for people participating in the challenges) to edit.

If you’re like me, at a loss on what to shoot, I highly encourage you to check out the site. After all everyone needs a nudge now and then.

Check back next week to see the challenge update.

I’ve been framed!!!

When it comes to photography there are so many techniques and tips to remember that it can be overwhelming at least initially. As with most things the more you practice these techniques the more they become second nature. Today I’d like to discuss using secondary subjects to “frame” your primary subject.

For this article I will be using some images that I took of an abandoned gold mine located near Victor, CO.

Uncropped image of mine

Looking at this image there are a few things that can easily be identified. First thing that pops out to me is the fact that it was shot straight on from a standing position. Even though the mine is clearly uphill from where I shot the photo, it’s clear that the camera is several feet above the ground.

Another thing that doesn’t really work for me on this image is the lack of depth-of-field (DOF). Without DOF the weeds in the foreground are distracting and take away some of the attention from the main subject. One saving grace is the fact that the road provides a bit of a leading line that helps draw attention to the mine.

So outside of cropping this photo and maybe some vignette, there’s not a lot that would make this photo one that I’d consider to be be interesting. So let’s take a look at shot of the same mine but “framed”.

Mine framed using door opening

There are various buildings located at the site. As I walked around I found one building that provided a unique view of the same mine. As you can see in the photo using the door opening I was able to “frame” the mine which provides a much more interesting look. While I was able to do some post-processing to help bring out some of the interior of the shack, I always wished that I had used a flash.

The next photo, while not the same mine, provides a perfect example of the benefit of a fill flash.

By using a fill flash for this photo there were a couple of benefits. Notice how the light helped to accentuate the wood of the door frame. Because it as situated close to the middle of the door frame it creates somewhat of a natural vignette. Another benefit of the the fill light is that it allows proper exposure in the shack as well as outside of the shack.

Admittedly, framing is not option for every shot, however it’s another tool to keep in your bag of tricks. It can take an ordinary shot and make it a nice shot.