Elements of the big picture

I’m sure you’ve all run across people who proudly proclaim “I’m a big picture person” when discussing how they approach an issue, as if disdaining any contact with actual details required to get something accomplished.  Don’t get me wrong, there are people who actually are best at the big picture and we need them in order to keep us thinking about an objective or plan or expected destination in life.  Still, sometimes the details can bring out aspects that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in a photograph.

ISO 100, 100mm, 1/50 sec., f/8, 9 image panoramic

ISO 100, 100mm, 1/50 sec., f/8, 9 image panoramic

I’m guessing this is a little too wide for this blog but I wanted to show it as a way to point out how you sometimes have to craft an image with what’s available.  There are no mountains in Nebraska so you have to see what the sun will provide in the landscape you’ve got.  This time of year the corn fields are bare so the contour plowing is visible, especially when you include some shadows for depth.  I caught a glimpse of this idea while driving home one day and set out that week to duplicate it.  The trick was finding a field with these berms curving away from the camera to set the foreground apart from the background, on a slope that would allow wide separation between them so the shadows of one wouldn’t hide the peak of another, and waiting for an angle where the setting sun would just cut across the tops of each berm leaving the area behind them in shadow.  The result is the alternating light and shadow curves.  I was fortunate the close-in foreground was plowed across the width of the scene, giving me a firm foundation for the image.  I cropped it close at the top (no clouds, not very interesting sky) and did some post-processing in black and white to make sure the tones were distributed the way I wanted.  And that was it.

I like how the very visible curves give a sense of depth to the image, drawing your eye from the close foreground into the background, and from side to side. sweeping from the left and going downhill to the right.  It’s the way you would view the scene were  you standing there and that’s my objective for shots like this.

The Plains have been compared to a sea of grass.  Standing in one of the remaining prairies in the area and watching the breeze ripple the tops of the grass to drive waves across the fields reminds you of being at sea.  What I like about this composition is the berms solidify that idea, freezing the moving waves to reveal their relentless travel in the face of the wind.


4 thoughts on “Elements of the big picture

    • I usually have to crop my panoramics because I make the images with the lens in a vertical orientation rather than horizontal. I have to make more images to cover the field I want but it gives me more information at the top and bottom of the final image. Since I’m usually just interested in the center part of the pano I end up cropping out uninteresting sky and foreground. You’re thinking well to try and get the final image in the camera but there are instances (like panoramics) where that’s not possible.

      Yeah, Robert Capa said – if your photographs aren’t good enough you’re not close enough. Moving to the right spot beats zooming and cropping.


    • The two pictures at the bottom of the entry were not made with the same lens so there’s no cropping involved there. I’d need way more pixels than my camera delivers in order to be able to enlarge the picture on the left to the quality of the one on the right! That being said, you’re right about cropping as little as possible – get the image you want in the camera first.

      Thanks for the compliment.


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