“Ever had a strong reaction to a photograph?” That’s the question Kat asks in the final lesson in our Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination class. Well, that’s an easy one: of course I have! But the followup question is not so easy: can I explain why I had that reaction?
I don’t like this lesson very much. I’d much rather just look at a photograph and feel whether I like it or not. But Kat believes that if we learn to explain why we do or do not like a photograph, it will help us to improve our own photography.
And although trying to find concrete reasons for gut reactions is not my strong suit, I knew as soon as I read the lesson that she was right. I think this is going to be one of the most valuable skills I can have in my arsenal, and one whose usefulness is not limited to photography. Now all I have to do is figure it out.
The first part of the assignment was to find several photos we liked (not our own) and describe them: horizontal or vertical format, type of lens, point of view, depth of field, type and direction of light, lines and shapes, warm vs. cool colors, etc. Then we were to choose two of our own photographs — one we like and one we don’t — and analyze them in the same way.
Kat suggested that comparing images from the same photo shoot might be helpful, so that’s what I did. Here is my first photo:
When I first saw this old fence post with its loop of barbed wire, I saw it as a vertical subject which would therefore fit well into a vertical format. I took several shots of it that way, but it doesn’t really do much for me. I think it’s kind of ho-hum, and it doesn’t capture the feeling I had when I saw it.
Then I turned the camera horizontally to see what I could see:
Immediately I liked that much better. I like the contrast of the horizontal frame with the vertical post, and also that more of the clouds on the left and the mountain on the right were included. It feels better balanced that way to me. I like the rhythm of the curved stick and curved wire leading to the circle of wire on the post that then trails off diagonally toward the lower right of the frame. Streaks of light in the cloudy sky echo the curved diagonal line of the grass and mountain horizon. I also see an implied triangular shape from the lower left corner to the top of the post and down the wire to the lower right corner.
This kind of analysis does not come naturally to me. I’m an Intuitive-Feeling type in the Myers-Briggs personality type system, not a Thinking-Judging type. (This exercise reminds me of the analyses we had to do in high school literature class. I just wanted to get lost in the story, not pick it apart for symbolism. ) So all that in the paragraph above? I don’t really know if that makes the horizontal version a better image or not. I just know it feels better to me.
Clearly I need to keep working on this one until I can integrate it into my photography tool kit.