Photo Tip #4: Plan your Background – and Foreground…

February 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

It is a beautiful summer day. You and your family are on the vacation of a lifetime – or maybe just this year’s trip – but in any case, it is a journey and a time to create beautiful, exciting memories. I remember a trip to Florida (barely) when I was three years old, and Dad had his ever present camera slung around his neck. Ok, it was 1955. A long time ago.

Two of the photos stand out in my memory.

All four of us kids were on the pier at St Augustine when a flock of pelicans landed right in front of us. Imagine the joy and delight in the faces as we stood nose to beak with these magnificent creatures. The moment lasted only a second, but Dad had the presence of mind to take a photo.

Confident he had captured the photo that would define our wonderful time, he anxiously waited for the Kodachrome slides to return to share them with the family. Slide shows were what we did before video and color TV.

When the photo he waited for finally appeared, we all discovered to our great amusement (and Dad’s horror) that filling the entire right side of the frame was an enormous woman glaring at the camera. Dad is gone now, but I remember that slide show so very clearly, and it has caused me, ever since, to be very careful what I let through that little hole in front of the camera.

Another slide from that trip was of a playground we absolutely loved with a super tall corkscrew slide. We played in that wonderful playground for half a day, and once more some unexpected elements arrived in the photograph. As Dad faithfully caught the perfect image of my sister sliding down the curvy slide, he also caught an overflowing garbage can, figuring prominently in the background.

These are just stories from family history, illustrating that these issues aren’t anything new. As long as there have been photographs, there have been annoying intrusions into the images. In Ansel Adams’ day, photos were time consuming and difficult to take, so the elements of composition were paid great attention. As cameras began to be mass produced and media became less expensive, people became less cautious of the backgrounds and foregrounds. Another photograph could be taken.

Then 35mm came along, then Instamatics, 110 cameras and a mass of cheap plastic lensed excuses for cameras. And now digital images with their instant feedback and cell phones with billions and billions of absolutely horrible selfies….

It makes me yearn for someone, ANYONE who can pay attention to what is actually going through that hole in the front of the box we call a camera.

Is it you?

 


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