Learning log (Part one) – The Frame

Project: Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject

For this exercise it was suggested that students use some imagination in choosing a subject –not the usual car, person, handbag etc. So I chose an object in the garden. A stone ram’s head.

f5 100th

This first photograph was a “normal” shot without giving much thought to the composition.


f5.6 160th 2     f5.6 250th     f5.6 150th

This was my attempt to fit the subject as tightly as possible to the frame. I found it quite difficult. I tilted the camera and crouched down to get different levels, but did not succeed in getting the height and width into the frame. I note the nose seems to be prominent particularly in the photo on the right. On reflection I realise I was too close to the subject and that (recalling what I learned on my day course) that I can move my feet! Moving closer to the ram’s head a give a better view-point and then zoom in if necessary to fill the frame.

f5.6 160th                  f5.3 250th

The purpose of the above two shots was to close in and photograph just a part of the subject. When looking at the full size print I really like these. The detail of the features – markings in the stone and the moss add depth, character and age to the subject. I have not quite got it right though; in the first photo I could have lowered the camera slightly to get more of the nose and mouth, but then the impact may be lost. A better outcome with the second photo would have been to place the subject a little further over to the right of the frame.

Ram in landscape 1        Ram in landscape 2          Ram in landscape 3

I then experimented by cropping the photo to get different perspectives. The first one I thought would make a good bookmark! I feel the fairy ornament in this one gives balance to the image. The middle photo places the ram’s head in a different position in the frame; I’m not sure whether I should have cropped away the bluebells as the eye drifts between the two subjects. The final shot puts the subject in the first third of the frame – just!

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

Following on from the previous exercise I now have a better understanding of the impact of position in the frame.

Sheep in field: Firstly, I took a quick photograph of the subject without giving too much thought to the composition.

first shot

I then placed the sheep in different positions in the frame and have shown them in my order of preference.

off centre

This photo feels right to me. I like the position of the sheep in the frame; it is easy on the eye and appears well-balanced in relation to its environment. For a better composition I could have placed the sheep a little further down the frame to put it in the forefront of the image.


The central positioning of the subject in this shot breaks the “Golden Section” rule, but I think it draws the eye naturally to the subject and places it in contrast to the background. It displays a fun element too.


This is the shot I am least comfortable with. The sheep looks lost and overwhelmed by the surroundings. It does not invite the viewer to linger. There is also the rough ground to the bottom right of the photo; this tends to be a distraction. If the sheep was just off centre or slightly higher in the frame – juxtaposed, to create balance, I think it would have been a more acceptable photograph.

Project: Focal lengths

The angle of view. A comparison of how we see with the naked eye (peripheral) versus the lens of my camera. Then, I needed to note how my zoom lens has the ability to change the view i.e. wide-angle and telephoto.

Exercise: Focal lengths (using a zoom lens)

Steamer, Ullswater Lake

This exercise shows how by varying the focal length the view changes dramatically when the shots are taken from the same spot. I have a zoom lens range of 18mm- 105mm.

f20 50th wide angle

f20 50th wide-angle

042 f14 80th mid

f14 80th mid-point

f6.3 250th telephoto

f6.3 250th telephoto

I would like to have got a closer image of the steamer but my lens was at its limit. Clearly this image shows magnification of the subject, making the boat appear much closer and larger than the naked eye can see. Again due to the limitations of my zoom lens, in the wide-angle view, my eyes could see a much wider panorama than I was able to capture in the viewfinder/frame. The steamer also appears much smaller in the frame.


Project: Dividing the frame

Exercise: Balance

Here the course notes suggested I chose some of my previously taken photographs and looked at how they were balanced. I then drew a little sketch using the “weighing scale” interpretation.

P1030650      c

Sydney Opera House: At the time I thought this was an interesting angle – and still do. However, for the purpose of balance I now see that if I had moved further over to the left to take the shot the left “sail” would be closer to the centre of the image and therefore less weighted to the left. There is also more to focus on to the left of the frame (the people), this leaves the right side somewhat lost (as far as balance is concerned).

DSCN1582    e

Sri Lanka “stilt fishermen”: This image is evenly balanced across the weighing scale. There is also a fisherman either side of centre adding to the balance.

balance c - Copy     b

Bedale Park: This skate boarding shot has solid objects to the left, centre and right, giving perfect balance. The heavy tree branch also adds weight to the top of the shot – maybe a little too much.

OCA 052      f

The tree is central and therefore balanced in the frame and I feel that the sapling in the foreground acts as an anchor adding depth to the shot. Having done more reading on the subject of balance, I now know I could have walked around the subject to look for a better angle.

P1020521 - Copy    d

Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand: While this image creates a static balance, it also creates a sense of partial unresolved duality; the eye struggles to rest on any one feature of the photo.

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

Here I am demonstrating the effect of placing the horizon in different positions in the frame, starting with the horizon at the top of the frame and working downwards.

DSC_0471    DSC_0472    DSC_0473                                                                 DSC_0474    DSC_0475


My preference is for number 2. This image gives depth – three dimensional. It draws the eye out towards the horizon where there are interesting colours and shapes to view. Not too much sky but good detail of the crop in the field.

The first image shows heavy foreground colour. This removes the main focus from the horizon. It could be a good shot to promote agricultural farming and whatever crops they are growing.

Photos 3 and 5 are in my opinion the least appealing – 3 is static and central and 5 doesn’t tell the viewer anything. If there had been a dramatic or interesting cloud formation it would take on a different effect altogether.

Project: Frame shapes and sizes

Exercise: Vertical and horizontal frames

This exercise shows how photographs normally taken in a horizontal format – the natural way, can be just as effective and even give a totally different perspective when taken vertically. The exercise suggests taking twenty of each, which I did, but I have not included them all here, rather just selected the ones that demonstrate the results best.

3 vertical        3 horizontal

For this shot one would normally hold the camera in a vertical position due to the height of the spire and, as the course manual states, the main weight of the subject is in the lower section of the frame. I think this shot portrays the Golden Section – by chance (or by eye) not planned!

I actually prefer the horizontal shot as it shows some additional shapes and adds structure to the image – more of the church is visible – length as well as height. Some evidence of an attempt to apply the Golden Section here too.

5 vertical      5 horizon

When I took this vertical shot it did not feel natural as the view (to the naked eye) was a panoramic one. However, I really like this aspect as it leads the eye down the road into the valley, good depth. I actually find the horizontal image boring by comparison.

Below is one of those images that shout out to be in vertical format, indeed I fell into the trap of automatically taking the shot this way. The horizontal shot taken from the same position (I did have to zoom out to get the whole clock in the frame) does not have the same appeal. The building it hangs from detracts from the subject.

6 vertical     6 horizon

Above is one of those subjects that shout out to be in vertical format, indeed I fell into the trap of automatically taking the shot this way. The horizontal shot taken from the same position (I did have to zoom out to get the whole clock in the frame) does not have the same appeal. The building it hangs from detracts from the subject.

7 vertical     7 horizon

Here is a good example of when vertical works best. This banner hung high on the front of a department store looked impressive when viewed with the human eye. I noted someone else taking pictures of it holding the camera horizontally, possibly due to the building being long rather than high. I think the vertical format is the strongest with nothing surrounding it to weaken the impact of the banner and its theme.

Project: Cropping and extending

Exercise: Cropping

Here I have selected three of my own photographs taken prior to the course that I feel would benefit from cropping. I have demonstrated the procedure by displaying the images as follows; a) before b) showing the crop area c) after the crop.

1 heart     2 heart show crop

3 heart cropped

The cropping process here has brought the “heart” to the fore of the frame and the image is now looking better composed. Previously the image showed too much of the shrubbery and dwarfed the main feature.

4 clock         5 clock show crop         6 clock cropped

The Leyland clock photograph was taken quickly due to heavy rain and many people about. In cropping I needed to lose the McDonald’s sign creeping in on the left of the shot and consider the balance of the final image.

7 MGR       8 MGR show crop

9 MGR cropped

The result of this cropping has removed a lot of the excess ground space surrounding the subject and cropped away distractions to the right (green plastic oil tank, satellite dish). The crop has produced better composition and is now balanced with the barn in the background.