Category Archives: Part 1-The Frame

Cropping and Extending

Select three of your own photographs, each of a different subject. Consider the ways that they could be cropped.

For this exercise I chose to use the cropping tool in the image-editing software to crop my images and to see if other potential photographs lie within them.

Bar Brel, 22mm, F/4, 1/80s, ISO 100

Freeman (2007) defines cropping as a way of reworking an image after it has been shot. It offers the option of delaying design decisions and to explore new ways of reworking the image.

As I noted in the previous exercise, many images often work well with either a horizontal frame or vertical frame. With this in mind, I cropped this photograph to alter the frame shape from vertical to horizontal.

The second floor of the building is lost in the crop. However, the graphic features that remain, the old blue door, railings, brickwork and windows, now become the focus of attention leading the viewer to notice smaller details such as the texture in the bricks, the moss on the wall and the dust on the ill-fitting door.

When working with the cropping tool in the past, I have considered it to be useful in removing unwanted elements from the frame rather than as an instrument that could encourage me to look at an image in a fresh ways.

Zürich Street, 32mm, F/14, 1/40s, ISO 100

While Präkel (2006) stresses the importance of composing in-camera, he also notes that the process of cropping can have advantages. He describes one such advantage as ‘tidying up’ an image. This minimal cropping removes ‘distracting or intrusive elements from the edges of the frame’. This is how I would describe the timid crop of this Zürich street scene. While this did ‘tidy up’ the image, it didn’t make me look at the image in a fresh way.

crop 1

In order to look at the image in a fresh way, I experimented with a range of crops, changing the dominant feature within the frame.

crop 2

This crop captured the activity within the street. It also changed the frame format from the 3:2 rectangle to a square (ish) format. As it eliminates the sky it does make the overall image look quite dark.

crop 3

Crop 3 shifts the emphasis from the street to the buildings above, drawing the eye to notice the flags, windows and shutters.

crop 4

In crop 4, only the lower half of the building and the customer are in the frame.

crop 5

Crop 5 is a severe crop, which zooms in on the flower shop. As it is only a fragment of the original image it is quite dark and many details are not visible.

Cropping this image reminded me of the sequence of composition exercise. It made me wish that rather than cropping to isolate the flower shop scene I had composed via the viewfinder. This could have allowed me more control to include more detail in the shadows and create an overall better photograph.

Cemetery, 30mm, F/4.5, ISO 100, 1/100s

Next, I decided to use the cropping tool to experiment with positioning an object within the frame. The original image, of a cemetery, is above. I chose to use the tall headstone as the dominant feature.

crop 1

This crop has eliminated most of the sky and over hanging branches. It has had the effect of ‘pushing’ the headstone up the frame. This crop now favours the cemetery as a focal point over the foliage above and in the background. The wall in the background has also moved from being centrally placed to a higher position creating a less static composition.

crop 2

In crop 2, I have placed the headstone centrally and at the base of the frame. Details in the foreground and to the left are lost while the background and sky are favoured. It is a very symmetrical and static composition.

crop 3

Crop 3 shows the headstone placed towards the left with some foreground and background in the shot. The vertical format along draws the eye upwards and behind the headstone to the sunny patch. Freeman (2007) notes that some off-centredness is usually desirable to set up a relationship between the subject and it’s surroundings. I think the slight off-centre position here works well and adds some dynamism to the image, which I found lacking in crop 2.

crop 4

This is my favourite crop of the 4. The position of the headstone to the left and the inclusion of the tree’s height and unusual shape to the right create dynamic balance within the image. When considering locations within the frame Präkel (2006) talks of how a subject ‘will lay claim to a part of the space around it’. I think this is shown here as the area directly in front of the headstone ‘belongs’ to the headstone and is also the direction in which the headstone ‘looks’.

This exercise was useful not only in terms of using cropping as a tool but also for applying aspects I have learnt about the frame, such as positioning an object within the frame, working with vertical and horizontal frames and also a sequence of composition.

While I found interesting alternative images within the photographs during the cropping process I do think it would have been more satisfying to compose those shots in-camera. As someone new to photography this would have also given me valuable practice in considering which setting on my camera would give best results when taking each shot.

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA

Vertical and horizontal frames.

Vertical and horizontal frames

The camera that I work with has a 3:2 frame.  Freeman notes that this format is overwhelmingly used to take photographs in a horizontal frame. The reasons for this include-

  • Ergonomics SLR’s are designed to be used for horizontal pictures, and holding them on their sides for vertical shots is not as comfortable.
  • Binocular vision Human vision means we see horizontally and perceive a horizontal picture format as normal.
  • 3:2 ratio The 3:2 proportions are often perceived to be too elongated for comfortable portrait composition.

Freeman cautions however that ‘natural’ horizontal framing can also be unremarkable. This next exercise is designed to make me consider the potential advantages in shooting vertically.

Exercise– Using settings and subjects of your choosing, take 20 photographs in a vertical format. Lay out the processed results and consider if the project restrictions encouraged you to search for tall things? Also, note if there was a tendency to place the position of the main weight of the subject low in the frame.                                                            Continue the project by shooting a horizontal version of every vertical composition and consider which version is most successful.

I undertook this exercise whilst traveling thus didn’t have the opportunity to revisit the subjects for the horizontal format photographs. I instead took first a vertical photograph and then next a horizontal version of the same subject. I completed the 20 photographs before starting the process of comparing the different frames.


arches vertical

Archways, Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca  ISO 100, f/4.2, 26mm, 1/3200s

In ‘Composition’, 2006, Präkel discusses the vertical format and notes it tends to emphasise any vertical line or plane within the image. This seems to be what makes this photograph works well in the vertical version as the height of the columns ‘fit’ the frame.

arches horizontal

Archways 2, Hassan II Mosque, Casabanca ISO 100, f/4, 24mm, 1/3200s

This horizontal composition of the same scene also works well. The emphasis is now on the length of the frame and the eye is encouraged to follow the pillars and rhythm of the arches along from left to right.


Two versions of the same flower display. I consider the vertically shot image to fit more comfortably. Perhaps, due to the fact that the flowers stems mirror the vertical format. The slight blurring in distance adds a sense of depth to the photograph. The horizontal composition is ordinary and predictable.

Flowers 2, 48mm, F/10, 1.20s, ISO 100

Flowers 2, 48mm, F/10, 1.20s, ISO 100

flowers vertical

Flowers 2, 48mm, F/10, 1.20s, ISO 100

The vertical picture of the statue is static and somewhat unremarkable. There is very little contextual information. However, by placing the vertical statue to one side of a horizontal frame it has become of more interest. The eye is encouraged to move across the frame in search for what the statue may be seeking out.

Statue 1, 38mm, F/8, 1/160s, ISO100

Statue 2

Statue 2,  ISO 100, 38mm, f/8, 1/160s

Sign post

The vertical format used in Campsie Glen 1 has emphasised the diagonal of the hill in the background making it appear steeper, as noted by Präkel (2008).  The slight off-centredness allows some space to the left, the direction the sign is pointing towards.  In this version the signpost is the main subject. However, somewhat unsurprisingly, the signpost becomes of less importance in the horizontal version, with the main point of attention being the sweeping landscape.

sign post vertical

Sign post, ISO 100, 38mm, f/4, 1/640s

Signpost, ISO 100, 28mm,  f/4, 1/800s

Signpost, ISO 100, 28mm, f/4, 1/800s

Boats on Lake Zürich

My natural inclination here would be to have mirrored the horizon line of the lake, as in the second shot, and to have taken this photograph horizontally. However, I’m pleasantly surprised at the result of the vertical composition. I think it is the way that the vertical format emphasises the plane of the masts and posts that make this successful.

Boats on Lake Zurich 1, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100

Boats on Lake Zürich 2, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 100


Vertically this is a static composition. The height of the building here makes it a good fit for the vertical frame, although there is quite a bit of ’empty’ sky space above.  Although still a fairly static composition, I feel the horizontal frame works better as it shows the landscaped garden, which surrounds the building.  It also highlights the curve of the path, encouraging the eye to travel along it.

shoenstatt vert_edited-1

Schoenstatt, ISO 100, 43mm, f/4.5, 1/640s

shoenstatt hor

Schoenstatt, ISO 100, 28mm, f/4, 1/1000s

Kibble Palace

This building is a long and wide structure as can be seen in Kibble Palace 1 below. This would have made me instinctively opt for a horizontal frame. I altered my position and narrowed the point of focus to work within the vertical frame. This shows details on the glass house frame, which were not visible in the first version.

botanics horizontal

Kibble Palace 1, Botanic Gardens, Glasgow ISO 100, 29mm, f/4.5 1/1600 s

Kibble Palace, side view

Kibble Place 2, Botanic Gardens, Glasgow ISO 100, 30mm, f4.5 1/320s

View across Lake Como

Both of these shots were taken from the same spot with the horizon point placed around the midway point in the frame. Freeman (2007) discusses ‘aerial perspective’ and how it increases the sense of depth within an image. This is evident in both versions of this scene, as the atmospheric haze has reduced the contrast in the distant parts of the hills. Of the two images, I personally prefer the vertical version. The framing is tighter and has removed the distracting building to the right. The eye is encouraged to move vertically across the lake and hills towards the early morning sky.

View across Lake Como 1, 18mm, F/11, 1/160s, ISO 100

View across Lake Como 2, 18mm, F/11, 1/200s, ISO 100


The subject here has strong vertical and horizontal features, which are complemented by both frame formats.  However, I do think the second image may have worked better if I had made the framing tighter to omit the gatepost, which brings the viewer’s eye to a rather abrupt full stop at the edge of the image.

Balustrade 1, 18mm, F/4, 1/40s, ISO 100

Balustrade 2, 18mm, F/4, 1/40s, ISO 100


On comparing this pair of images I’m really not sure which one I prefer. The off-centered position of the stall in the vertical version leaves the bears looking off into an empty space, which for me gives the image a sad and lonely effect. Perhaps had I closed in to focus on the bears their vertical stature would have been a better fit to the frame.  The horizontal image seems a bit busy with the small toys hanging inside the stall. Perhaps choosing a single focal point may have created a more pleasing outcome.


Funfair 1, 40mm, F/18, 1/20s, ISO 100


Funfair 2, 18mm, F/18, 1/13s, ISO 100


Argeno, ISO 100, 34mm, f/10, 1/100s

Argeno, ISO 100, 34mm, f/10, 1/100s

Argeno, ISO 100, 34m, f/10, 1/100s

Argeno, ISO 100, 32m, f/10, 1/100s

Different frame orientation has resulted in quite a marked difference in these images. In the vertical version the eye is drawn along the gentle curve of the riverbed and buildings and climbs to take in the steep diagonal of the hill in the distance. There is a sense of depth and height to the photograph with the houses becoming smaller and fewer. The expanse of trees and greenery add a sense of remoteness.

The horizontal version omits the hill in the background but incorporates buildings to the right.  Although only one person is walking in the street the homes, shop and post box all suggest a village setting.


The horizontal format shows the length of the corniche, but includes a lot of sky area, which adds very little interest to the image. There was a wall directly in front of where I was standing which prevented me from positioning the horizon line higher. I find the vertical format here more pleasing. I adjusted my position a few degrees to the right and this allowed me to capture more of the sea and the perceived movement of the waves. While the building are too far in the distance for any detail to be captured, the glimpse of the lighthouse adds a little interest.

corniche vertical

Corniche, Casablanca, ISO 100, 55mm, F/11, 1/400s

corniche vertical

Corniche, Casablanca, ISO 100, 55mm, f/11, 1/400s


Again, I like both the vertical and horizontal versions of this shot.  They both have a sense of depth due to the atmospheric haze, which has reduced the contrast in some areas of the mountains. The vertical frame seems to stress the height of the Alps, while the horizontal shows their extensive length.

Morschach, Switzerland 1, 55mm, F/8, 1/320s, ISO 100

Morschach, Switzerland 2, 55mm, F/8, 1/320s, ISO 100

Lake Zürich

The vertical image here seems to work best as it accentuates the line of the tree trunks and is well-balanced. The horizontal image is weighted heavily to the right with little of interest to the left.

Lake Zürich 1, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

Lake Zürich 2, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

Metal Railings

 I think this pair of photographs shows how the vertical format can make diagonals looks steeper and therefore more dramatic.  The framing in ‘Metal railings 1’ is tighter, focusing almost entirely on the railings. There is a sense of depth as the railings get smaller and blurrier. The framing in the horizontal version includes plants and parked cars on the street, which I find a little distracting.

west end railings vertical

Metal railings, ISO 100, 35mm, f/5, 1/80s

metal railing 4

Metal railings, ISO 100, 35mm, f/5.1, 1/60s


 These photographs are taken from slightly different positions. This and the different frames have shown the church in quite different ways. The vertical style has shown the church’s position beside a little harbor while the horizontal style shows the church as part of a small village with hills in the background. I think both these frames work quite well for the subject and a preference would be dependent on what context the photographer wanted to show.

Torno, Lake Como 1, 18mm, F/9, 1/125s, ISO 100

Torno, Lake Como 2, 55mm, F/10, 1.160s, ISO 100

River Limmat

The vertical version in this set of photographs works well as the eye is drawn diagonally across the image.  Placing the bridge lower in the frame has helped sub-divide the frame to correspond closely the Golden Section (Freeman, 2007). In the horizontal composition the bridge has been positioned centrally which is a little conventional.

River Limmat, Zurich 1, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

River Limmat 2, 55mm, F/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 100

I’ve already noted that the vertical format tends to stress diagonals within an image. However, the wide-angle lens used and close-up position these photographs were taken from has created strong diagonals here in both vertical and horizontal images. The vertical works well with the tower filling the height of frame and contrasting well with the sky. I, however, prefer the horizontal format as it captures the building as a whole, whilst still contrasting boldly.

Queen Margaret Drive

Queen Margaret Drive 1, 18mm, F/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 100

Queen Margaret Drive 2, 18mm, F/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 100

Moltrasio and High on Moltrasio

Both frame formats seem to work for these photographs. The vertical shots emphasise the steep diagonals of the hills, while the horizontal shots have widened the vistas creating more stable, but equally pleasing images.

Moltrasio 1, 35mm, F/10, 1/124s, ISO 100

Moltrasio, 35mm, F/10, 1/125s, ISO 100

High on Motrasio 1, 24mm, F/18, 1/25s, ISO 100

Lake Como 2, 18mm, F/18, 1/25, ISO 100

I did seem to tend to place my subjects lower in the frame when shooting vertically, such as Shoenstatt, Signpost and Kibble Palace. Freeman, (2007) suggests this may be as it is common to use the bottom of the frame as a base, on which to rest things.  He also notes that when working with a 2:3 camera aspect ratio, as I am, the results can often leave the upper part of the picture under-used. An example of this would be the image of Schoenstatt in a vertical format.shoenstatt vert_edited-1

I have always considered some subjects to naturally lean towards a vertical format, such as buildings or a horizontal format such as a landscape. However, this task had helped me realise that the majority of subjects I selected for this, or any future exercise, could be shot successfully in either vertical or horizontal format.

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA


Positioning the horizon

View a scene through the camera viewfinder and consider the different positions in which you could arrange the horizon line in the frame.

This exercise required me to consider the ways in which the horizon could be used to divide the frame and to note the effect this may have on the photograph and the viewer.

Using my wide-angle lens, I took a short series of photographs looking across Lake Zürich. As it conformed comfortably to the landscape view I composed the photographs in a horizontal frame using far side of the lake as the horizon line.

For the first photograph I decided to place the horizon low in the frame.

Lake Zürich 1. 24mm, F5.6, 1/800s, ISO 100

This image shows rows of boats moored upon the lake. However, I found that my eye was quickly drawn up towards the cloud formations in the sky, which dominate 2/3 of the photograph.  The horizontal frame and low horizon both give a sense of stability to the image.

This viewpoint also included foliage which offers a frame to the image on 3 sides. At the time I composed this shot I felt as though this frame helped add depth to the image. I since, however, have read Präkel’s text on Composition which notes that while framing with overhanging tree branches is popular in landscape photography its execution is often not successful. He suggests that rather than have isolated branches hang into the frame it is better to show the tree trunk to which the branch is attached to one side of the frame with the overhanging branches to the top. This is something I could have tried here had I adjusted my position slightly.

Lake Zürich 2. 24mm, F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640s

The second photograph of the series shows the horizon line placed at approximately the mid-point of the image, dividing the frame into 2 distinct areas. This viewpoint gives equal importance to the lake and boats and to the sky. With the horizon placed at this point a large section of blue sky, which I felt added interest to the first image, is lost. This composition did not encourage me to ‘look’ at the whole photograph but merely to concentrate on the horizon details. The overall impression of this image could be considered to be safe and conventional.

Lake Zürich 3. 24mm, F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640s

In the third photograph the horizon line is placed higher in the frame giving priority to the foreground; the lake. This encouraged me to look across the lake from left and right and then also to look up and down, noticing the ripples on the water suggesting a little movement.  The sky area is smaller now and offers little graphic interest.

Lake Zürich 4. 24mm, F5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

In the fourth photograph the horizon is placed very high in the frame which adds more depth to the image. Again, I feel as though the eye is encouraged here to look both left to right and up and down within the image. The lake, in the foreground, has little detail to hold a viewer’s interest. The sky appears gray and unremarkable but this did encourage me to look a little longer at the hills and buildings in the distance, possibly in a search for colour or form.

While these four images were taken from the same viewpoint,  moving the horizon has changed the overall effect. I believe the strongest image is the Lake Zürich 1, despite the overhanging branch. This view shows the lake, while giving priority to the sky encouraging the viewer to look across the lake and up to the sky. The viewpoint didn’t have enough interest in the foreground to merit a high-placed horizon.

One practical problem I noticed during this exercise is my tendency to tilt the camera when taking photographs, which resulted in images of horizon lines on a slight diagonal. When discussing line in his Composition text, Präkel emphasises the need for careful alignment of the horizon line in order to create a stable image. He notes that some photographers use a bubble level to remedy this.

Dividing the Frame- Balance

From my already-taken photographs, choose a small selection and decide how the balance works in each.

At the heart of composition lies the concept of balance. Balance is when opposing forces are equalised, providing equilibrium and a sense of harmony.

In photography, balance can refer to any of the graphic elements in a photograph such as objects, points, lines, colours and backgrounds, and the way they are arranged so to find the visual “centre of gravity.”

Freeman defines two distinct types of balance; symmetrical and dynamic. Symmetrical balance is when the arrangement of forces is centred. Using a weighing scale analogy, this static balance can be illustrated by showing an object, or objects, sitting over the fulcrum, the point of balance, as below.

Screen Shot 2012-07-29 at 18.44.53

Dynamic balance concerns opposing and unequal weights and forces. Returning to the weighing scale, this could be demonstrated by a large object balanced by a small object, provided the smaller object is placed far enough away from the fulcrum.

Dynamic balance concerns opposing and unequal weights and forces. Returning to the weighing scale, this could be demonstrated by a large object balanced by a small object, provided the smaller object is placed far enough away from the fulcrum.

I will now decide how the balance works in a selection of my own photographs, and use the ‘weighing scale’ to illustrate this.

This image has the tower positioned centrally over the weighing scale’s fulcrum. This provides a simple example of symmetrical, or static, balance.

1. The Address Hotel, Dubai

This photograph also has symmetrical balance, with the seagull positioned in the middle of the shot. Here, the prominent colours also offer balance as the orange/yellow hues complement the blues.

2. Seagull on buoy.

Maximum symmetry occurs when an object or lines radiate around the frame’s centre giving symmetry on all axes, as is the case with the sunflower image below.

3. Sunflower

This photograph also demonstrates maximum symmetry as the lines of the petals extend around the centre. The pink of the petals is also balanced by the complementary green tones of the background.

4. Tiger Lily

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 15.47.46

This photograph shows a lodge which is occupying a large area in the right of the frame. There are several trees, but I consider the tall tree on the left, with the denser foliage to be the other dominant feature in this image. When placed on the weighing scale the opposing sizes and shapes of these objects provide dynamic balance.

5. Loch Lomond, Scotland

This image shows a residential tower offering reflective views of its immediate surroundings. The main elements of the image that struck me were the dominant diagonal lines, some of which are implied due to the short focal length used, 25mm efl, and close position. I used these lines to imagine a triangle which converged just beyond the frame edge.

6. Dubai Marina

On the weighing scale the base of triangle is stable over the fulcrum resulting in symmetrical balance. However, diagonal lines introduce dynamism into an image. They are considered active with a strong sense of direction (Freeman, p76). So while this image is symmetrically balanced, the diagonals provide dynamic tension and interest.

This image had more elements in the frame to consider than the other examples I have used. It approached it several ways before deciding on the balance to be dynamic. The hammock, tiered on top with the rowing boat and the land in the distance to provide an unstable stepping stone arrangement. The small glimpse of machinery on the far right of the frame balances this image dynamically.

7. Beach, Goa

On reflection this exercise was easier to carry out with simply composed photographs, containing fewer elements. When the number of elements increased the balance became less obvious. This was evident as I examined image 7 and considered if the hammock in the foreground was more distinct than the boat just beyond. Which is possibly a question that other viewers would ask too.

The weighing scale analogy I have used above demonstrates the ground rules for visual balance on a very basic level. Balance can bring harmony to an image, however it should be considered if harmony and balance is always advisable. If photographs were constantly balanced in composition there would be little for the viewer to search for. It is worth considering if asymmetric balance would engage the viewer’s interest further and on the whole provide a more interactive experience?

Focal Lengths and different viewpoints

Used from the same place, different lenses give different views. However, if you change your viewpoint as you change the lens, you can make a difference to the perspective. In this exercise I will demonstrate this.

I required a scene with enough space in front of it to allow a choice of viewpoint. The subject also required depth. I decided to photograph some golf carts, at a nearby golf course.

1. 300mm, F/5.6, ISO, 1/400s

Using my D5100 camera and a 70-300mm telephoto lens I set the lens to its longest focal length, 300mm. I composed the shot by filling the frame with the carts.

2. 18mm, F/3.5, ISO 100, 1/800s

Next, I changed my lens to a 18mm wide-angle. Looking through the camera viewfinder, I then walked forward to a point where the cart filled the frame and took a second photograph.

As you can see the resulting photographs vary significantly. The first photograph, taken at a 300mm focal length, shows the carts on their own. Other than the blurring grass in the background there are no clues as to the surroundings. The viewer is not made aware that the scene extends beyond the frame. The telephoto lens has influenced the perspective here so that both carts look to be of equal size despite being at different distances from the camera. This alongside the narrow angle of view has made the image clear and uncluttered. However, these elements make the image appear static and somewhat lacking in depth.

The second photograph was taken at 18mm. The wider angle shot shows the carts parked a few metres from each other. This distance is also noted by the differing size in the carts. The wide-angle perspective has made the diagonal curb appear at a wider angle, drawing the eye upward and across the image to the features in the left distance. There is a sense of depth to the image as the road and structures in the distance make the viewer aware that the scene extends beyond the frame.

Freeman, p100, Optics

Focal lengths and interchangeable lenses

The standard focal length gives a view that is, approximately, what you can see with your unaided eye.

A standard 35mm camera has an area exposed 36 x 24 mm. A 3:2 aspect ratio.

The Nikon D5100, has an exposed area of 23.6 x 15.6 mm, also a 3:2 aspect ratio. This means that the angle of view of a 35mm camera is approximately 1.5 x that of the Nikon D5100. Thus, the approximate focal length for D5100 lenses in 35mm format can be calculated by multiplying the focal length of the lens by 1.5 (the crop factor). I have two lenses for this camera, a wide-angle 18-55mm and a telephoto lens, 70-300mm. The standard 35mm  equivalent on the D5100 camera would be 50mm ÷ 1.5 = 33.3mm,  approximately 35mm.

I also, on occassion use my Panasonic Lumix FZ45. The sensor on this camera is 6.08 x 4.56 mm. It has an optical 24x and when this is set to a 4:3 aspect ratio the focal range of the lens is 4.5 mm to 108mm. Each zoom point is the equivalent of 4.5mm.  To calculate the 35mm equivalent I need to multiply this by 5.5. Which means this camera has a 35mm equivalent focal range of 25mm to 600mm. The standard focal length for the Lumix FZ45 would be 2x zoom, 9mm which is approximately 49.5mm on a 35mm equivalent.

The following exercise demonstrates the effect of changing lenses from one focal length to another. Simply, the amount of view that can be taken in.

This task required an open view, with some details in the middle distance. Hence I decided to visit a local golf club and selected  a view across the driving range, towards the New Dubai skyline. I set my D5100 camera with 18-55mm lens on the tripod. There were a few false starts here as the very bright, and hot, afternoon sun made the view was too bright for the camera to operate. Adjusting the camera settings did not help. Eventually I found an angle which seemed to satisfy both me and the camera and I focused on the buildings just above the palm trees.

1. 18mm or 27mm on 35mm equivalent, F5/6, ISO 100, 1/800s

A wide-angle view of the driving range.

2. 24mm or 36mm on 35mm equivalent, f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/800

The angle of view has closed in slightly. The water hut to the right is no longer visible. Sections of both, the golf stands in front and golf cart to the left are also gone.

3. 34mm or 51mm on 35mm equivalent, F?5.6, ISO 100, 1/1000s

This would be the standard focal length for the D5100, approximately 35mm.

4. 45mm or 67.5mm on 35mm equivalent, F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/800s

The towers in the distance now appear closer and share prominence in the frame with the driving range.

5. 55mm or 82.5mm on 35mm equivalent, F/5.6, ISO/100, 1/1000s

As the focal length increases the angle of view closes in. The towers, that were initially in the distance, now could arguably be the subject of the photograph.

6. 70mm or 105mm on 35mm equivalent, F/13, ISO 100, 1/125s

The longer focal length is magnifying the trees and buildings, making them appear closer.

7. 100mm or 150mm on 35mm equivalent, F/13, ISO 100, 1/125s

As the focal length on the telephoto lens continues to increase the angle of view closes in further around the camera focal point.

8. 135mm or 202.5mm on 35mm equivalent, F/20, ISO 100, 1/60s

9. 210mm or 315mm on 35mm equivalent, F/20, ISO 100, 1/50s

10. 300mm or 450mm equivalent, F/20, ISO 100, 1/50s

With a focal point of 300mm the angle of view is so narrow that only the treetops and a section of the towers are visible. It has made them appear closer. If you compare this image to image 1, taken with a 18mm focal point, you will notice that the centre of image 1 is identical to image 10, only smaller.

This was a useful, practical exercise as I am fairly new to the idea of interchangeable lenses, having previously relied on the zoom function on my camera to take me from wide-angle to telephoto angles.

Freeman notes that prior to digital photography the standard format of camera was the 35mm camera, with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Now, however, physical width of film is no longer a constraint. As the two cameras that I use have different aspect ratios I found calculating their focal lengths against a ’35mm standard’ useful. It was surprising to note that the Lumix’s telephoto zoom has the 35mm equivalent of a 600mm focal length.

A sequence of composition

The aim of this exercise was for me to think about the practical process of composing an image. The method involved keeping my eye to the camera viewfinder and recording the way I approach and shoot a subject from the point that I first see it, to the final best image.

The exercise ideally asked for a street setting, involving people, however due to the extreme outdoor temperatures at this time of year I decided upon a visit to a local indoor souk. While the souk had only a few visitors on this day, it’s passageways and stalls offered many interesting subjects. I shot 5 series of photographs; the subjects included mannequins, lanterns and a music store. I found looking through the camera’s viewfinder (almost) constantly began to feel more comfortable as I progressed.

Once home, I reviewed the photographs and decided that the most successful series was the last one I shot, probably due the practise previously. This last series was of a pottery stall I spotted at the far end of an arched passageway. I began using my 18-55mm lens to take some overall views.

18mm, f/3.5, 1/60s, ISO 800

18mm, f/3.5, 1/60s, ISO 800

At this spot I noticed first a bag stall on the right, then further back to the left, the pottery stall. Holding the camera vertically included the high, wooden beamed ceiling in the frame.

Taking a few steps to the right I shot the pottery stall diagonally across the length of the passageway. The stall appears distant so I decided to move closer, shooting the pottery stall alongside a neighbouring stall to try and illustrate the idea of a souk, or market lanes. I tried this from a few different angles.

18mm, F/3.5, ISO 800, 1/60s

18mm, F/3.5, ISO 800, 1/60s

22mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/80s

  I approach the pottery stall and take several shots of the stall as I walked around it.

22mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

24mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/125s

18mm, F/3.5, ISO 800, 1/100s

At this stage I became more aware of the plates and pots the stall was selling. In particular, the pottery on the top of the stall caught my eye as it was displayed in a way which showed the patterns. I decide to focus on these items.

32mm, f/4.8, ISO 800, 1/60s

18mm, F/3.5, ISO 800, 1/60s

With this shot I tried to use the wooden pillars to make a frame within a frame.

I then tried to capture the pottery at an angle which would include some of the surrounding details in the frame, such as carvings, pillars and lanterns.

35mm, F/5, ISO 800. 1/60s

28mm, F/4.5, ISO 800, 1/60s

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

The large pot on the right hand side caught my eye here, as it was more colourful than the others. I decided to focus further on this pot. In order to zoom in to an appropriate range I changed my lens to a 70-300mm.

I took several shots of this pot alongside a few other as follows.

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

I considered ways that I could isolate the pot and decided to focus only on the top of the pot and again where the pattern filled the frame.

300mm, F/5.6, ISO 800, 1/60s

300mm, F/5.6, ISO 800, 1/60s

In the photograph below I was attempting to show the pot (almost) on it’s own. I noticed how the colours and curves of the pot really stood out against the slightly blurred background of the wood features.

70mm, ISO 800mm, F/4, 1/60s

I decided to concentrate on this viewpoint, moving the camera to sharper angles to try and improve the framing.

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

I really liked the way this photograph emphases the colours and shape of the pot but also leads the eye back and across to the high, vaulted arches in the roof. However, overall I decided the photograph below, to be the final best image.

70mm, F/4, ISO 800, 1/80s

My reasons for this are that I like the way the position of the pot in the bottom left of the frame allows space also to show the beam in the top left hand corner of the image.  This beam, together with the shelf the pot is sitting on, provide a frame, of types, within the frame. I also like the light shining through the roof top windows as it allows some of the curved details in the beams to be suggested.

I can definitely see the benefits in carrying out this exercise as I fully appreciate that if I had not been so focused on looking through the viewfinder I would have missed some great shooting opportunities.  Other practical factors that I have realised are that I need more practise using my 70-300mm lens as I find the manual focusing tricky at present. I also found this lens made my camera feel heavy after a while, which also didn’t help with focus, so I should consider carrying my tripod with me for these occasions.

Object in different positions in the frame

For this exercise I had to select a clear subject set within a large even background. I was then to take a series of photographs in which I have placed the subject in different positions within the frame. The subject I chose was a large terracotta planter sitting in an outdoor paved lane. I shot the first photograph quickly and placed it centrally (almost) in the frame.

1. 55mm, f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/50s

I then took 4 further photographs with the planter in various positions within the frame.

3. 30mm, F/4.5, ISO 100, 1/200s
Planter positioned to the left side of frame.

4. 30mm, F/4.5, 1/200, ISO 100
Planter positioned to left in horizontal frame.

5. 30mm, F/4.5, ISO 100, 1/200s
Planter towards top right of frame.

I studied the 5 images to consider which version I consider to work best. My immediate thought were that I liked the first image the least. Perhaps because the terracotta planter seems to be blending in with the background. It also doesn’t tell the viewer about the location, it could be in a lane, on a patio or in numerous other places. I was not keen on image 2 for similar reasons.

Jumping to image 5, I thought placing the planter to the left and higher in the frame added some interest and the idea of depth to the photograph.

Image 3 and 4 show the planter to the left of the frame and in doing so reveal some of the nearby surroundings. Both of these images  appear to work well, particularly with an identical planter showing in the diagonal distance.

That said, I prefer image 3. The vertical frame helps to shows the planter in an area which suggests a lane or alley and a glimpse of the courtyard behind where this leads to.

In order of my preference;


3. 30mm, F/4.5, ISO 100, 1/200s
Planter positioned to the left side of frame.


4. 30mm, F/4.5, 1/200, ISO 100
Planter positioned to left in horizontal frame.


5. 46mm, F/5.3, ISO 100, 1/100s
Planter positioned toward top left hand corner


1. 55mm, F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/60s
Planter positioned slightly off centre.


Terracota planter

1. 55mm, F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/50s    Planter centrally placed

Fitting the frame to the subject -part 3

I will continue the cropping exercise from the previous post.

crop 3, left focus

crop 3

This crop draws the eye to the details in the lower part of the structure, such as the design filled arches.

With the second tower image I aimed to fill the camera frame.

tower 2

crop 1, narrow frame

crop 1

crop 2, top focus

crop 2

I like this crop as it positions the tower slightly left allowing the birds on the beams to become more of a focus.

Tower 4

With the fourth image of the tower I cropped it in four different ways as you can see below.

crop 1, long and narrow

crop 1

crop 2, vertical across tower tops

crop 2

crop 3, frame move in from left

crop 3

The wind tower was a better subject for this exercise than the palm tree as it resulted in more interesting crop options.

I enjoyed this exercise as it has encouraged me to look at subjects through the viewfinder in different positions in relation to their surroundings. It has also demonstrated to me that some off centredness can add interest and context to a photograph.

Fitting the frame to the subject part 2

I experimented with the software editing programme to create cropped images of the photographs taken previously. I began with the first palm tree.

tree 1

I tried out several crops including the three below.

crop 1, a tight frame around the tree

crop 1

crop 2, focus on the palm fronds

crop 2

crop 3, tree slightly off centre to left 

crop 3

Of these three crops I prefer crop 3. The base of the tree is closer to the bottom of the photograph and the off centre position draws the eye left to make you aware of the tree’s slight lean in that direction.

The fourth tree image I cropped was the tree situated on the sand with an empty beach to the left and the sea to the rear.

tree 4

Of the four tree images this was the one which offered me the most cropping options.

crop 1, narrowing the frame

crop 1

While the original image draws your eyes along the beach this narrower frame made me focus on the central part of the photograph and the distance across the water to the buildings in the rear.

For the second crop I decided to leave the tree out of the frame and focus on the beach area and buildings to the left.

crop 2

crop 2

While this image is not as sharply focussed as the tree was in the foreground it does have a hazy, summery postcard quality.

I then considered how to crop the wind tower.

tower 1

cropped to focus on the central tower and the tower to its right.

crop 1

In this crop I noticed the seemingly different heights between the towers.

crop 2, focus on the horizontal lines and beams at the tower tops

crop 2

The landscape frame emphasises here emphasises the horizontal beams at the tower tops.

I will continue this exercise in the next post.