In this exercise the task is to take a number of photographs using the viewfinder grid. My camera divides the viewfinder into 9 sections and composition then takes place solely in one of the 9 sections, the other 8 being ignored. There are a number of challenges with this, the first being that this is a very small amount of viewfinder to compose within and reminds me of peering into the little glass viewfinder of a box brownie from the 1940s. Secondly, this exercise still requires the camera to be in automatic and the changes in framing lead inevitably to exposure challenges.
In The Art of Photography , Bruce Barnbaum says
“Camera placement is critical for bringing out the compositional elements. Sometimes a change of camera position by mere inches makes the difference between an ordinary and a great photograph.”
With this in mind, I took my first set of photographs with a standard lens (50mm equivalent) aimed at a reasonable flat subject roughly at eye height. The compositional element was the arched top of a door set in the stone and flint work of St Albans Abbey.
The metadata shows that I used the same lens for each of the nine images and repositioned the camera to frame the door top in each of the sections in my viewfinder grid. Exposures varied slightly the first 5 exposures being at f6.4, the latter 4 at f7.1, ISO constant at 200 and shutter speed close to 1/1600th.
And the metadata recorded for the group of images is here.
Reviewing the images, I can see obvious changes, regardless of height, between the first 2 images and the last where moving the point of the composition to the right reveals the edge of the building creating a sense of depth as the shadowed area and glimpse of sky reveals 3 dimensions.
The first two images of each row are 2 dimensional, it is only as I start to use the lower row of the grid that I am forced to point the camera upwards causing verticals to converge noticeably and in the final image, it almost feels like we are viewing a tower. But the standard field of view of the 50mm (equivalent) lens, and the reasonably close proximity of me and my camera to the subject limits the range of variance of the images.
Seeking Barnbaum’s “ordinary to great” through moving mere inches, I changed my approach.
This second set of images, also of St Albans Abbey were taken from further away and with a telephoto lens (85mm equivalent). I also chose to shoot all of the images pointing the camera upwards to differing degrees.
Now there is a bit more drama in the images – there are slight converging verticals but the use of a telephoto lens has reduced this. I am composing using the little cross and a small element of roof and sky. Now small camera movements are making significant changes to the composition moving along a row. Moving down the central section and lower section of the viewfinder is less successful though interesting, the final image, bottom right, because of the framing reflects the element that I am using throughout the images, there is just more sky so in this final image, I have ended up with the viewfinder section composition equating to the entire image composition. Before starting the exercise, I did not anticipate that this would happen.
It shows that I used the 85mm (equivalent) lens throughout. All the images were taken at f5.6 and ISO 200, with shutter speeds varying from 1/350th to 1/500th all chosen by the camera.
Finally I thought I would try one more attempt using a subject that was reached from street to sky, an an interim distance and with a wide angle lens. I used a 24mm (equivalent) lens for this series of images.
This time I anticipated a wider spectrum of images due to the wider field of view of the wide angle lens. I made an effort to keep camera movement to a minimum and move as little as possible to see just how different the different images would be.Whilst exposure is more challenging due to the contre-jour lighting, the images have ended up being significantly different to each other. The Odyssey is a restored art-deco cinema in St Albans and it loos flat against the backlit elements. The different viewpoints create interest visual tricks of geometry, particularly the last image which is really just about angles and lines, in contrast to image 2 or 3 which are bland sets of a pretty uninteresting building. This has been an exercise of discovery: before it, I wasn’t aware just how radically moving the camera can utterly transform the composition.
The metadata for this shot is below. The camera has selected ISO 200 as it was a bright day. The aperture is again consistent at f5.6 and the shutter speed varied from 1/350 to 1/1100 of a second, a wider range of shutter speeds. On this set, the exposure does not always look correct and I would probably not use fully automatic settings for these images given the choice.
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.28
- The Art of Photography, Bruce Barnbaum, pp. 42-43