Taking pictures with the right side of your brain - part 1
I'm willing to bet if you had two equally-skilled photographers photograph the same scene at the same time, side-by-side, one with a camera with a conventional reflex (or LCD) viewing system and the other with a ground glass viewing system, the photographer using the camera with the ground glass viewing system will take a better-composed picture than the picture taken by the photographer using the reflex camera. And the reason the picture composed on the ground glass is better is because it was composed upside-down and backwards.
|Strong images often hide in plain sight, even at your local Metro Station. By scanning the landscape through a frame or your viewfinder, interesting images can be easily found among the details of your everyday world.|
Now odd as that may seem, it starts making sense if you understand the dynamics of how we actually see the world around us. In 1979, a book came out called 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain', by Betty Edwards. The premis of the book is that the brain consists of two distinctly different hemispheres, and if you can mentally separate the two, you can draw better. Although Ms. Edwards does not not specifically address photography, I think you can take better photographs, too.
The left hemisphere, or L-Mode as it's called in the book, is the objective, rational, and linear thinking part of the pair, and it handles the verbal, written, and number-crunching aspects of life. The right side, or R-Mode, is the subjective, intuitive side, and is the side that processes audio / visual content. And unlike the L-Mode, which sees the world as a segmented spreadsheet, the R-Mode sees the world as a changing flow of patterns and shapes.
As we go about our day we are constantly using both spheres. Balancing your checkbook is an example of left hemisphere activity. Conversely, composing a photograph or sketching a scene on paper, i.e. 'seeing', is more of a right hemisphere affair.
As you might imagine this very same yin-yang interplay can trip you up when you're trying to draw a landscape or photograph one because while your R-Mode is busy seeing things, the L-Mode is busy cluttering your radar screen with details that, exposure data aside, have little to do with composing a picture.
The trick, as well explained in Ms Edwards’ book, is to essentially dial down the objective information gathered by your brain’s left hemisphere and take better note of the subjective information being gathered by your right hemisphere. In other words, never mind who or what the subject is but rather how does the subject’s form-factor best fill the frame.
Now how all this ties into the dueling photographers scenario described in the opening paragraph is that when you view an image upside-down and backwards, it becomes abstracted. Instead of being somebody or something objectively recognizable, it abstracts your subject into shapes and forms, which allows you to view the image subjectively and in turn allow your visually oriented R-Mode to take over and compose a strong photograph.
Obviously, most of us don’t shoot with view cameras these days, but just because you’re ‘limited’ to a camera with a WYSIWYG reflex or LCD-based viewing system doesn’t mean you can’t learn to see better when composing photographs. Depending on how hard-wired your L-Mode / R-Mode circuitry is, it's actually not all that difficult to fine-tune your eyes, and a cardboard matt from a small picture frame is all you need to start the process.
The big challenge of framing a tightly composed photograph is to eliminate the visual clutter that invariably surrounds your subject. Some shooters have a knack for zeroing in on their subjects while others struggle. If you're part of the latter group, next time you set out on a photo jaunt take a small picture matte along with you. Just as mattes create neutral islands around framed photographs, isolating the image from any visual distractions that might surround it, by previewing a scene through a matte frame while moving it closer and further from your eyes gives you an opportunity to preview the potential image with varying degrees of isolation from its surroundings. If you don't have a matte handy, you can similarly make a set of 'Ls' with the thumb and index fingers of you right and left hands and invert them to form a four-fingere viewing frame.
Regardless of how you choose to open up your R-Mode, be it using a matte frame, a finger frame, or simply viewing through your camera, your goal is to find the meat of the picture, and frame the image's shapes and patterns in a visually strong composition. Get closer, zoom in tighter, shoot from a higher or lower angle, maybe show a bit more background information, or maybe not.
Want more visual tension? Try cropping the image tighter to the subject, or tilting the camera in order to introduce diagonal shapes and movement into the composition. If you you have time, try exploring your subject at various focal lengths, as some pictures work better when taken close up with a wider lens while some images work better seen through a longer focal length.
Conversely, if you want to lighten the atmosphere, or perhaps illustrate your subject in relationship to its surroundings, then allow for a bit more breathing room around your subject. You should also keep in mind while it's always best to shoot tight in the first place, there's no rule that says you can't crop into an existing picture after the fact if the result is a better-composed photograph.
|Christine by JP Zanotti|
from Car wreck
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more