Exercise – Fitting the Frame to the Subject

The introduction is over, we’ve ‘become familiar with (y)our camera’ and it’s time to ‘begin working on the more interesting parts of photography’ starting with four distinct parts studying composition. Each of those parts is made up of various projects which will begin to appear in the menu on the right of the screen as I work through them. This first exercise, ‘Fitting the Frame to the Subject’ encourages us to experiment with how much space a subject takes up in the frame of the viewfinder.

We are encouraged to  keep notes of subjects and settings that we can call upon for exercises such as this one. I’m lucky enough to ride through a deer park each day on my way to, and home from work. I realise that it is one of the best commutes possible and enjoy the seasons changing, day by day. I feel the first chill of autumn and warmth of spring. I feel the rain on my skin and the wind in my face. I never sit in traffic or someone else’s smell. It is a beautiful place and full of photographic opportunities. There are many ancient oaks, the remains of a manor house that was birthplace and home of Lady Jane Grey, the 9 day queen and herds of red and fallow deer. A number of the trees in the park are wonderfully positioned and extremely photogenic. If you follow this blog, you’ll get to know a few of them I expect.

So for this exercise, I thought that one of these trees might make a good subject and so I nipped back after work. I also decided to use my Fuji x100 with its fixed, 35mm equivalent lens. I figured that this would get to the point of the exercise, rather than allowing my to stand in one spot and zoom in and out. Also, although it a digital compact, it has a proper viewfinder which again I felt this exercise needed.

Our instruction was to take 4 pictures:

ISO 800, 23mm, f6.4, 1/340s

The first was to show the entire subject in the viewfinder. We were told to ‘photograph it as you normally would – without taking too much time with the composition’. Well, excuse me! The way I normally would, would be to consider the composition. The instruction felt a little contrived and I had to ‘unlearn’ everything I had in the last few years, put the subject slap-bang in the middle of the frame and fire away. This pictures was taken as I walked from the main path through the park towards the tree with little consideration for the background. I’d usually look to isolate it a little.

ISO 200, 23mm, f2, 1/800s
ISO 200, 23mm, f2, 1/800s

Next up, we had to fill as much of the frame as possible with the subject, but without letting it stray beyond the edges. If the camera needed to be tilted to fit the subject more closely, then we were to do so. I don’t like this tilted shot at all. Horizons should be horizontal right? This pictures doesn’t really work in the context of the exercise either. There is still too much of the background showing and competing with the subject for our attention.

ISO 800, 23mm, f2, 1/800s
ISO 800, 23mm, f2, 1/800s

I do like the third picture. This time, we had to be close enough that no edge was visible and the frame was entirely filled with the subject. I was looking directly up at the underside of the canopy of leaves and looking back, wish that I’d moved around the tree to get a more pleasing view of the twisted branches.

ISO 200, 23mm, f2, 1/1000s

The fourth and final picture was to show the subject in its surroundings and it was to take up a quarter or less of the frame. This is my favourite image of the set. We can see the tree , the ruin in the background and even what the weather was like – I got wet on the way back to the car. You may also have noticed that I left my camera at f2 for the last 3 pictures – not ideal.

While a couple of the pictures are satisfactory, I decided that the tree as a subject was not really what the exercise was looking for and so repeated the series on my way home.

OCA 2 1
ISO 1000, 23mm, f2, 1/60s

Again, the first image in the series breaks all of my usual good habits. The subject is in the centre of the picture and there is too much of the uninteresting foreground. It’s like looking at someone else’s picture of my van!

OCA 2 2
ISO 1250, 23mm, f2, 1/60s

I prefer this shot much more. Again, I tilted the camera to fill as much of the viewfinder as I could with the van. I maybe cheated a bit as the van itself reflects some of its surroundings, so even though it is tightly shot, we know that those trees behind the van are also behind me as I took the picture. But, unlike the second image of the first series, it forces the viewer to look at the subject – there is nothing else to hold our attention.

OCA 2 3
ISO 1250, 23mm, f2, 1/60s

Filling the viewfinder with the subject again, but getting even closer than before. In the first set the viewer could still tell that it was an oak tree, it was during the day and it wasn’t winter as there were leaves on the branches. This picture tells us much less about the subject. We’d guess it was a vehicle (assisted by the sticker) but little else.

OCA 2 4
ISO 1250, 23mm, f2, 1/60s

Finally, the subject in context once more. This image tells us much more than any of the 3 preceding it. We know now that it’s in a car park in a wood and that it’s probably autumn. We can have a decent guess abut which direction the van might leave in too.

From a practical point of view, I learned that it is a good idea to print the instructions for the exercise and take them with me when taking the pictures or at least make notes. I should not rely on my memory of what was asked. The fact that my subjects only take up 1/4 of the frame is more by luck than judgement.

This was an enjoyable exercise. Once I’ve printed the images and experimented with other crops, I’ll post them up. I’ve not read what is to come, but I’m sure we’ll be encouraged to do more of this (varying our viewpoint). I have certainly learned that by making changes to the amount of the frame that the subject fills, we can encourage the viewer to dwell on whatever it is that we want them to look at. Or, we can show the subject in context and tell more of a story.

I’m enjoying this!

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