4 Ways To Divide Your Images’ Frames Expressively

Dividing The Frame

The four most important lines of any image are the ones that are often least recognized consciously – the frame.  Second only to these are the lines that divide the frame, creating frames within the frame. Becoming more aware of how the frame can be used and how it can be divided will help you make more successful compositions.

There are many ways the frame can be divided. You can divide the frame horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; in each case the layers included define the virtual space presented. Different areas in an image can be divided differently. You can divide the frame (or a frame within the frame) multiple times; the more times the frame is divided the more packed and dynamic it becomes, progressively growing more design-oriented and finally being reduced to pure texture. Each operation has significant consequences.

One of the most significant results of dividing the frame is the creation of specific proportions. (The combination of the individual aspect ratios of each element creates a new unified aspect ratio.) Much has been made of the ‘rule of thirds’. Dividing the frame into three parts (left/center/right or up/middle/down) is a simple and often useful strategy for making images more directed, by prioritizing one element over another, and dynamic, through imbalance. Too little has been made of other ratios. What of fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths, or eighths? No musician would be content to only divide an octave into halves and thirds. Every proportion produces particular effects, which are further modified by placement (high/low or left/right) and content. Rather than a rule to be adhered to, proportion is a force to be explored expressively.

When it comes to controlling the division of the frame in your images, you have more options available to you than you might think. You can crop, distort, retouch, or composite.

Before and after cropping

Crop

Cropping, either through placing the frame during exposure or by eliminating framed information during post-processing, which changes the aspect ratio, has been the most traditional way of dividing the frame.

Before and after distortion


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Make The Time You Need To Develop Depth

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Revelation XXXV

In 1996 I completed a series of new images – Revelation. Impossible symmetries drawn forth from desert landscapes, they were unlike anything I’d seen before. Looking at these images, day after day, was like having a dream that never faded. They reminded me of the artifacts I liked so much from the sacred traditions of many primal cultures – totem poles, figurines, costumes, masks, and paintings – not just from the cultures I was exposed to as a boy growing up in New Mexico. The series was good and stood on its own, but I knew then that I still had much more work I wanted to do.
The series has been ongoing for more than twenty years. The series was on my mind when I first went to Antarctica in 2005; I started shooting deliberately for it on a return voyage in 2007; material slowly accumulated in subsequent voyages in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015; and then in 2016 it all came together. It wasn’t so much that the material I had gathered that year was just right, what really made the difference was the special point I had come to in my life and work.
These more recent images have an added quality, not solely because they were drawn from a different location, but also because of the passage of time and all the things that happened during it.
In part, this comes from sleeping on it; the subconscious offers many rich and fertile territories.
In part, this is the result of a significant amount of conscious thought; studying craft and composition were only the beginnings for preparing this ground; related reading and viewing enriched me further; having more special experiences with land planted more seeds; digging into my deepest thoughts and feelings about the subject and my approach helped me cultivate them.
In part, this work waited so long is that there was other work to do, including a harvest of related bodies of work (Inhalation and Exhalation). Making that work influenced this work.
In part, this is the result of my inner state now; contrary to what some have suggested, I’ve found this isn’t something to overcome no matter what the current conditions but rather something to be nurtured. These images would have been different if I finished them earlier – because I was different.
While one needs to guard against procrastination, one also needs to guard against rushing through experiences and not developing the necessary depth to fully engage them and do your best work. To reach its full potential, a great wine needs time, neither too little nor too much.
So when is the best time to move forward? This is a question that is best approached with awareness and deep contemplation. Though there are repeatable patterns and common tendencies, there is no one definitive answer to this question for all situations. I’ve found some work gets produced very quickly, sometimes a whole series is made in one shoot, while some work gets produced very slowly, over decades. Ultimately, you have to go with your gut. This doesn’t rule out the possibility and potential benefits of a great deal of research and forethought before you do. The two working in concert together often yield the most powerful combination. However, the single most important ingredient is, not mere spontaneity, which can be short lived, but a true effervescence of spirit, and it’s particularly important to pay attention to this quality if it can be sustained over longer periods of time. You need to be alive to your work to make it come alive.
In our increasingly fast-paced societies, there is a tremendous pressure to produce more and produce it more quickly. This can create a pace that is unsustainable for most creatives, at least when it comes to releasing work with real depth. However well-crafted or clever, there often seems to be something missing in the final results. Good fully developed work takes time … because much like creating deeper relationships with people, it takes time to develop a deeper relationship with your work and your self. Make that time. Savor it. It can make all the difference in the world.
Questions
How many ways can you enrich yourself before you move forward?
At what point does preparation become procrastination?
What signs suggest that this is or isn’t the time?
Find out more about this image here.
View more related images here.
Read more of The Stories Behind The Images here.

Make A Plan- The Story Behind The Photograph

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Procession II, Cushing, Maine, 1999

It took a clear set of plans to make this image – Procession II. First, I had to know what kinds of images I wanted to make, prioritizing some over others. Second, I had to figure out the elements needed for a general composition. Third, I had to identify the specific final composition I wanted to make. Fourth, I had to identify locations I could find these subjects in, travel to them, and make exposures at the right time. Fifth, I needed to photograph one stone from multiple angles in a light comparable with the overall scene. Sixth, I needed to plan the location, shape, and quality of the shadows that needed rendering during compositing. It all came together, after a lot of planning. Without a plan it would have involved a lot more trial and error requiring more time and resources and even then it’s quite likely that I may never have arrived here without a clear vision for where I wanted to go and why I wanted to do it.

There are other kinds of planning that are needed to succeed both professionally and personally. Whether you’re engaged in your creative life professionally or simply as a vehicle for personal growth (an important distinction to make), I recommend you make a creative plan. If you do this, you too will find both your productivity and fulfillment will increase, in a way that’s meaningful to you.
Set a mission (why you’re doing it), goals (what outcomes you want), projects (the big things you do)(set goals for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, and end of life) and actions (the small steps you take to getting your projects done)(detail your 1 year next actions list) for your creative life.
Align your creative mission with your life’s mission. Most people need at least two missions; one for their life in general (which includes many things – health, family, finances, etc) and one for a specific area, like their career or creative life, which may or many not be the same. Make sure that your missions share something in common – something other than yourself. The more you can align them, the more likely you are to achieve them, increase your productivity, and be more fulfilled.
A plan is a work in progress. The best plans are flexible and can be modified. If I don’t learn something new from a process, often something that shifts my perspective significantly enough to start doing something better than before, then I feel I haven’t truly excelled at what I’m doing. I expect to improve my plans. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t waste time making plans. It does mean I can waste time making plans that are too detailed or too speculative. In addition to learning when and how to plan, it’s also important to learn when to stop planning. But do plan. Planning not to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t make plans, life just happens and you may not make the time for the things that matter most. Make that time.
Questions
How can planning help strengthen your creative efforts?
At what stages and in how many ways can you encourage the evolution of those plans?
When is it better to abandon an old plan for a new one?
What are the positive and negative effects of having no plan at all?
Find out more about this image here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Photographs here.