Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Making the Cut

Today I would like to look at the idea of "the crop".  How do you decide what to cut out and what should stay?   There are loads of wonderful articles out there via the internet or your local library which will help teach the "rules" for cropping, so I will not go over those here.  My intention for this blog is more to help give some understanding as to my particular methodology for creating an image. A number of the traditional "rules" are observed ....some are broken....but there is always A REASON for what I have done and why.

Recently, I was inspired by a friends' capture of a "big top tent". I loved the look of the undulating curves and peaks.  The picture was taken looking down the the length of the tent so as to capture several of the peaks across the top.  As well, I found it quite interesting that focusing only on the top details of the tent took nothing away from my imagination for what the remaining unseen portion of the tent looked like.  My brain understands there is a whole tent.  But as in real life, when we look at something dramatic, there tends to be one piece of the drama that captures our attention more than the whole.  Cropping helps to pull out this element and expand on it.

The show "Cavalia" is currently playing here in Denver in this remarkable and dramatic tent.  With the idea of the tent tops in mind,I went to shoot knowing I was looking to come away with a series of captures I could work with.  I wanted different configurations of peaks as well as different amounts of sky showing. 
This is one of the shots I came away with.

Now, I had already created one image of "tops" from another shot taken early one morning incorporating three of the tops of the tent.  I didn't want to duplicate that idea, so using this shot with the late afternoon sun, I looked for another way to express the beauty of the structure.  There are a number of things I liked happening in the image....the glow of light hitting the left sides of the two right tops.....the look of the flags on the two right tops....the soft glow of the canvas across the foreground.  However, the most important feature for me in the scene was the glow of the sun coming from behind the left side of the tent as a whole.  As much I hated the idea of losing those beautiful details happening on the right side of the scene, I wanted to focus on the MAIN drama.....the interaction of the tops of the structure and the time of day.....and that was clearly happening on the left side of the scene.

I still struggle at times when I'm cropping an image with..."but this part is so beautiful"....kind of thoughts.  But I have to force myself to go back to the question of what do I want to communicate most?  The pretty scene of light and canvas was not ultimately my goal.  The goal was more about expressing the dynamics between  the curves of the structure and the drama of the sky.  So, when I found my eye jumping back and forth between the things I like within the scene as a whole, it alerts me to understand at times....something is probably going to have to go.


  1. It's very interesting to read through how you made your decision and struggled with it. I have a really tough time cropping something interesting out of a photo, and I'm not sure I can always verbalize as well as you have what exactly it is that I'm trying to express when I am looking for a crop. It's often just a feeling for a composition. Your original is a wonderful photo and I'm so glad to see it, but your final image is truly a work of art.

  2. I just found your blog on flicker! Your crop was a good choice!

    Stop by my blog at http://life-n-reflection.blogspot.com/


  3. hey John,
    Just want to say what a great blog you have. very informative and innovative. keep on shooting....bob merco