Fitting the Frame to the Subject

The idea of this exercise was to experiment with seeing how much space the subject takes up of the frame. This would give me clear ideas of the relationship between the subject and the frame and the relevance of its size within it. I took a series of four photographs with the main subject being present in all of them to varying degrees as described in the brief. As usual these shots are straight out of the camera, to give me and the viewer a genuine feel for what I have taken at the time.

Merlion 1 – ISO200, f/9, 1/640, 20mm

I was instructed to take the first image in my ‘normal’ fashion without too much forethought. This seemed a strange thing thing to say as I have always considered that I put though thought in to pretty much every shot I take. However, in deliberately taking it in as ‘normal’ a fashion as possible I can see at least a few areas which I clearly don’t consider enough when taking a ‘normal’ shot. Composition – bottom right there is a rogue camera lens. I’m not keen on the half a very tall building far left. The horizon isn’t quite straight. All these would need cropping and straightening. So this is the ‘normal’ shot and I guess most tourists have one of these stashed away in their collection. The Merlion strikes quite an imposing figure at the head of the bay.
NB Before I arrived at the location to shoot this exercise I had in my minds-eye the idea that all of these shots would be in portrait owing to the nature of the subject but in fact when I arrived I realised that the water plume from the Merlion’s mouth completey changed my thinking about the composition. It would have looked totally wrong chopping the water off, as it is integral to the look of the monument.

Merlion 2 – ISO200, f/5.6, 1/2000, 40mm

The requisition of the second shot was to get in as tight to the subject as possible by any means without cutting any of the edges off. As you can see, I am in pretty tight to the subject. In order to do this I have switched from landscape to portrait to gain the maximum amount of subject within the frame. So tight in fact that I have succeeded in ‘touching’ the top of it’s head with my frame edge, hence possibly knocking out a couple of pixels of subject (although I can’t be sure). Not what was asked for. At the time I thought this was framed pretty well and could have sworn that there was at least a small space at the top of frame. However, as I only took one shot of this particular part of the exercise I have no back-up shot to show. Lesson learned!

Merlion 3 – ISO200, f/5.6, 1/1250, 55mm

Back in to landscape for this one. I was asked to photograph just a part of the structure. At the base of the Merlion there are a hundreds of blue and white tiles mimicking the ocean waves that it is rising from. With the sun high in the sky by this point, there was not much in the way of contrast to be had. However, the bright sunlight makes for some great colour reflecting off the tiles.

Merlion 4 – ISo200, f/11, 1/320, 16mm

In the final shot in the series, I had to show the subject taking up not more than 25% of the frame and stressing the surroundings. This time I have moved around the other side of the subject and taken it facing the CBD (Central Business District). This gives an entirely different impression of what we are seeing in comparison to the first three shots. Where as the previous images have sought to isolate the Merlion from it’s surroundings or show that it is on the bay, this shot brings it straight in to the city that it represents and is very much part of. It still imposes itself in the foreground, but now it is part of a much larger entity and I feel is somewhat more harmonious with this backdrop the the previous one in the first shot (Merlion 1).

Part two of the exercise was experiment with cropping on of the images of the series. I decided to crop the final photo (Merlion 4) as it had the most to offer in terms of cropping.

Crop 1

Crop 2

Crop 3

The ‘busy-ness’ of the image contrived to make the frame quite difficult to crop. With the amount of tall buildings standing behind the Merlion there were not many natural breaks in the scenery.

Crop number 1 leaves me feeling somewhat vertiginous as the buildings lean ominously in from the right hand side owing to me using a wide-angle lens. They have nothing to play off or equalise them as they do in the full image. In fact I had tried to take a portrait shot with the wide-angle lens but it left me with a disproportionate amount of sky (and also wasn’t in landscape which was my chosen format).

Crop number 2 is more pleasing. It is a lot squarer than the first and allows some other buildings to start leaning in on the frame. It has much more balance and still has part of the bay, which is crucial to the understanding of the photo.

Unlike the first two crops, crop 3 shows a small fraction of the bay and doesn’t include the water directly in front of the water flume. This leaves me feeling confused as to where the water flume is going and makes me feel uneasy about the composition. The fact that there is a small piece of water visible to the left bottom corner leaves more questions asked than answered. It also feels very unnaturally weighted to the right, especially with the lean and tallness of the buildings (in fact the buildings are of similar size throughout the image area but the perspective makes them apparently differ in height). It makes me realise that the original (Merlion 4) is also weighted in this way except that this crop accentuates it. These facts conspire to take my eye off the subject and worry more about the composition. I wonder if this is true of the viewer too (consciously or sub-consciously)?

All these shots were taken at the Merlion Park in Singapore.

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