HeyJude is running a photo challenge during 2020 on her Travel Words blog designed to get us thinking about the techniques of taking pictures. You can find out the details and monthly topics here. January’s topic is Composition and Framing. These crops are inspired by some of Jude’s instructions – I’ve added them in italics, so you know the intention.
Clearly identify your subject. Not as easy as it might seem. The rose is my main interest, but the setting is worthy of attention too (around an oval opening on the curved outside fence of Diarmuid Gavin’s garden at RHS Harlow Carr), so I was slightly torn, wanting to give a glimpse of the inside.
It was an overcast summer evening. The curve of the wall and habit of the rose meant shooting into the light, creating a bright glare. The original picture has a few more inches of haze at the top, and bright light always draws the eye away from the subject. I’ve removed some of it with the effect that the crop is neither landscape, portrait or square. I like to keep the traditional proportions if I can, but throwing aside the rules and cropping any way the subject demands is often the difference between a poor picture and a decent one.
Move in closer to your subject, but not too close. While the flowers in the first picture were blobs, more of their character comes out here. These roses have a traditional form, with very loose petals, and a nodding habit which is good for a climbing rose – the roses look down on us as we look up. We get a good feel for the trailing habit of the rose – some of us might itch to tie up this year’s stems, emboldened because they are thornless. (It’s Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’, if you were wondering).
Get in closer still. This close up shot has the benefit of cropping out those distracting lines from the wooden fence in the picture above. Roses are so atmospheric. In dull, almost gloomy light, and with fading outer petals, the tumbling flowers each have a sigh within them, reminding me of the susurrus to come when they fall in a few weeks or days.
Simplify your image so the viewer focuses their attention. What do you want the viewer to focus on? A strolling through roses effect. What I wanted to do was to capture not the blooms, which are relatively easy, but the whole of the climbing rose in flower and its garden setting, which is more of a challenge. I was not satisfied with the opening shot but this one is better, even though the same constraints apply. I could have cropped out more of the overhead glare but only by slicing off the top of the rose, which would have lessened its glory and, weirdly, created a more claustrophobic effect.
I’ve largely ignored the oval opening – you can make it out, but it doesn’t distract the eye. The path leads the eye towards a second rose on the opposite wall, unusually painted a deep blue. Even a pale blue sky would have been the icing on the cake, but I remind myself that cake can still be tasty without icing.