What you can find.

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by David A, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I posted the following shot in the street thread about 6 weeks ago. I was trying to see just what I could get shooting available light at night at ISO200 with the E-M5 and PL25mm. I wasn't worried about detail in the shadows and I wanted to preserve a strong sense of the scene as I saw it with some extreme highlights, some deep shadows and a lot in between. The shot was handheld at 1/25 sec at F/1.4 and I made no exposure adjustments in Lightroom. As far as exposure goes, this is straight as it came from the camera. I corrected the white balance, did a bit of highlight recovery, reduced contrast and did a little sharpening. Not much at all.


    I'm in the process of reading a couple of books, one on communication in photography and another on Lightroom, and decided to try an exercise from each in conjunction. The exercise from the book on communication was about trying shots in black and white as well as colour, and the exercise from the other book was about trying to get a few images out of the one shot by cropping. Digging into this photo I was surprised by just how much seemed to be going on, and isolating what I saw as major elements in the activity captured, I came up with 3 different images.

    The first is the central part. The girl in the coat seemed to me to be waiting for someone and I didn't see a connection with the male in the foreground but cropping seems to set up a different story with a triangle between the two of them and the couple on the right.


    The other 2 crops come from either side. One highlights the couple on the right in the shot above but in a different setting which highlighted the importance of context for me, while the other seems to highlight a single woman on the other side.



    Fascinating how much you can dig out of a single scene, and just how much the context in which you place an element, in this case the couple in the first 2 crops, can affect your perception of what's going on.

    A photograph may not lie but it can certainly encourage you to make up stories.
    • Like Like x 7
  2. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Interesting exercise.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    I think this is particularly true when you have a scene with lots of people like the original. It certainly holds true to an extent in landscape shots, but not to the same degree. A good exercise - I'll have to give it a try. :thumbup:
    • Like Like x 1
  4. peterbee

    peterbee Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 2, 2011
    Huddersfield, UK
    Peter Bartlett
    This is a really interesting exercise - Many thanks for sharing it with us. I often crop street images to improve the composition, but have never explored the idea of getting several images out of one file.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Interesting exercise!

    I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty of cropping the photo further. I think it accentuates the triangle formed by the three people in the center of the photo even more:
    • Like Like x 2
  6. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Ah, but that wasn't the triangle I was seeing. The triangle I saw was the girl in the light coloured coat, the man in the foreground, and the couple at the extreme right of that first crop who seemed to me to be right in the line of sight of the girl as if she were looking at them which set up a story type tension for me with her looking at the guy with the girl at right, he half turned away from her, and the guy in the foreground looking at her with interest/longing whatever. The triangle was defined by line of sight with the girl and the guy in the foreground for me, and there's a fair bit of physical distance between each of the points of that triangle which created a sense of emotional separation for me as well due to the tug between the 2 isolated people and the couple.

    The first of the books I mentioned is David DuChemin's "Photographically Speaking" and in it he talks a lot about the impact of what you exclude and what you include in the frame, and this exercise really crystallised that for me. The emotional mood/story or whatever that I get from the first crop is completely different from that of the second crop, even though both include the couple to the right of the first crop. Including them in the first crop tied them to the other 2 individuals for me, and made them part of the "story" of the other 2, while in the second crop they're simply a happy couple out for the evening. Completely different mood for me.

    And I have to say that I find myself quite surprised to be talking in terms of "story" having always thought that pictures don't tell stories. Going back to the full frame, I don't see a story, just a lot of people going about their business at a busy intersection in a pedestrian mall in the centre of town on a Friday night. I don't see much in the way of connections, probably because of the number of people, the sense of the size of the space and the fact that everyone is heading off in their own direction within that space. Cut the space down, cut out most of the people, focus in on a small number of people and that changes for me, and connections which I'm absolutely positive were not actually there start to form in that first crop for me, and the picture starts telling a story for me. That's a big surprise for me.

    I'm also not certain how I feel about the cropped images as images. On one level there's a fair bit I like in them but they weren't what I was shooting, the full frame was, and my preference is for it. While I like street photography, I'm not really a street photographer, I feel uncomfortable whenever I try shooting the street. The physical distance between the people in the full frame and me when I took the shot, plus the dark because I was standing in shadow, reduced that sense of uncomfortability for me and I really wasn't interested so much in shooting the street as with working on an idea I had about doing low ISO available light photography at night. The full frame worked out well for what I was trying to do which was really to test out some exposure ideas I had. The fact that the full frame worked as an image for me was a bonus. Now I've discovered a number of totally different offspring in it, and learnt something about cropping and the importance of what I include and exclude. 6 weeks after I took it, this shot is teaching me a whole pile of stuff I wasn't even considering when I took it.

    Another member here whose name I can't recall uses a signature quote from Dorothea Lange which states "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" and this exercise has certainly taught me the truth of that statement in a few more ways that I hadn't considered before.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    I am guessing that a similar photo taken in the valley mall would snap some slightly different interactions. I must try that and see what is captured.
  8. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I am guessing that your guess would be right :) 
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