“A good photograph is knowing where to stand,” by Ansel Adams.
Knowing where to Stand!
…This idea of moving your feet, to stand in the best place to take a photograph, is priceless advice from Ansel Adams.
Many photographers may not even consider this advice while photographing: The action of moving your feet to a new location, even a few inches left or right, is often overlooked.
I know that if I am feeling rushed, I will take minimal shots of a single subject – sometimes only one shot, hoping that it turned out good enough. However, what if you want, or need BETTER than ‘good enough’. I do not want to settle for good enough.
Zoom lenses are convenient all-round choices for photographers who want convenience and focal length options in a single lens. Nevertheless, a zoom lens mainly makes your subject appear closer or further away, thus changing the straight-line-perspective and depth of field.
- What if the issue with the first photograph of a subject you take is because something is in the way of your subject, maybe even just covered by some object, a little bit?
Would a different focal length lens, or another type of lens (i.e., a zoom lens instead of a prime lens) help in this situation?
If some obstacle is blocking your main subject, a zoom lens will not correct that kind of problem (in the majority of cases) if you remain in the same spot and at the same height.
If your subject is blocked, you have no choice but to move your location…move your feet…stand in a better location.
The sad thing is if you do not notice the compositional error when you are creating photographs on site. You will likely go home with a photograph that you thought was good and composed well, but sadly, you discover something blocking your main subject. Even if the composition is off by a little, it can reduce the effectiveness of the image by a huge amount.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with zoom lenses – I use them too – they are nifty and useful. However, NO lens can capture a subject fully, if the subject is partially obstructed. The camera can not see around corners, or around objects. It is best then, to move yourself to a better location and attempt more shots. If you move yourself to a spot that gives you a clear view of your subject, you can use whatever lens your heart desires. You have solved the obstruction problem by knowing where to stand.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been using my 24mm lens A LOT. On my camera, using this lens (which is an older SIGMA LENS), I could use auto exposure, but I prefer going fully manual mode. The lens is also manual focus on my camera. This manual focus “limitation” I have discovered, is a great “limitation”, and in fact, I no longer feel that it is a limitation for me because I have to really contemplate the nature of things I want to photograph and this is a good thing.
Working so much in all manual mode, and manually focusing on subjects forces me to think and consider more about my photography: When I am out walking along the street with my camera, I am working out exposure and composition possibilities in my head, even when I am not creating photographs. There are so many photographic considerations I am thinking about:
- Where is the best place to stand to get the shot I envision?
- What perspective and angle do I want? I must be thinking how to tilt the camera to get the subjects in the frame.
- With the sun at that angle, what f-stop and shutter speed will be best for the exposure I need to, for example, emphasize shadows, or to boost the detail in the shadows, or to darken highlights, and still get the depth of field I need?
- Am I communicating a meaningful message, or feeling, or emotion, or reaction, in the photographs I create?
- How do I set all the components of the scene in the frame?
- How many components do I want to include in the frame?
- Do I want stop-action or blur effect in the photograph?
- How much information do I want to place in the frame?
- Have I considered the space around the subject?
- Are there any distractions or obstructions that will ruin the photograph?
- Where should I place the focus, and is the depth of field calculated properly to get either shallow or deep depth of field?
- Did I properly check the camera monitor during the first edit to see if there are any subjects that need a re-shoot?
- And…there are more, I am sure.
Yes, knowing where to stand is great advice: It can help you create better photographs. In opposition to that, standing in the wrong spot can create disastrous resulting images.
And don’t forget, in so many cases, you can move your feet 360-degrees around a subject and take photos from every possible location. Sure, this is not possible always, but if it is, give it a try.
Below are two photo examples: The first image is an example of ‘being in the wrong position’, and the second photo is the one taken after moving to a much better location. The first photo has the Buddha statue and the monk in the frame, but the front portion of the Buddha face is cut off slightly, because of a decorative wood carving that is attached to the pillar (on the left). Luckily, I reviewed the camera’s monitor and noticed the mistake. I promptly moved a few inches to the right so that the statue and the monk were both still in the frame. I adjusted the angle of the camera to get the pillar on the right out of the frame, and to get the entire statue in the frame as well, and avoided any obstructions.
Standing Buddha with partial face blocked by pillar design. I discovered the mistake after viewing the images on the camera monitor during a first edit. I knew at that point that I needed to move my feet to correct the composition and angle errors.
[ All Photographs are the Copyright 2013 Nawfal Johnson Nur ~ All Rights Reserved.]
The Standing Buddha and Monk both composed nicely in the frame and by simply moving my feet to a better location, I was able to correct the compositional errors that I spotted only AFTER viewing the first shot on the camera monitor. It is usually a good idea to check your results from time-to-time while you are still at the site or location. If you wait to do your first edits on the computer, at home, it will already be too late to take another photograph of the subject. At least if you are still at the location, and you see that you have composition or exposure errors, you can do something about it – perhaps simply “moving your feet” will solve your composition problems, and save you headaches because you got better and more useful photographs. All Photographs are the Copyright 2013 Nawfal Johnson Nur ~ All Rights Reserved.
Moving your feet is Free, and takes little effort, and it can really solve major, (and minor
) composition and framing errors.
With all of that said…
I do not like to judge or comment negatively about others SPOP (Standard Photography Operating Procedures) – it is not my place to do that, and that brings to mind another Ansel quote:
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams.
There is no more damaging thing than to crush someone’s creative spirit by whatever negative ways that can, indeed, crush it (e.g., careless and harmful words, careless and harmful actions, etc.)
Perhaps, the method of simply moving your feet to a new location will be useful for you too. I know, this moving feet thing seems and sounds so simple, and it is, really. However, at times, we forget to do the simple things, which in many situations, creates better results. When we are rushed, we take a snap and go on to the next subject without fully considering the subject from different angles and perspectives.
The bottom-line in all of this is really a “Time-Issue.” I find that spending more time on a subject produces more results; and often, more time invested in a subject creates better results. Creating images of a subject, from many locations, gives more choices, and it may prove to offer you better choices.