The key to this exercise was to place the subject in different positions within the frame and to consider the visual impact of each positioning. The first image was taken just as I normally would have done if I had just come across the scene .. a cunningly placed birdwatcher in a field!! The second image was taken with the subject placed dead centrally and then I took photographs with the subject slightly off centre and at the edge of the frame.
For the first shot taken ‘naturally’, I placed the subject on the top left third of the image. I liked this positioning as it suited the direction that the birdwatchers binoculars were pointing, gave her some room to look into and I also felt that the curve of the tractor wheelings in the emerging wheat seedlings added something to the image as they appeared to converge in the direction in which she was looking.
The second shot was the image with the subject in the dead centre and ‘punctures’ the scene with the surroundings spread equally in all directions around the subject. Michael Freeman (2007) in “The Photographer’s Eye” alludes to the subject placement on many occasions and describes the central positioning variably as “very predictable”, “boring” and “dull” and “having no dynamic tension”. He contests that placing the subject away from the middle of the image places the subject more in context. From my images in this exercise I would agree entirely that with the single point subject, central placement is a poor choice. Here is the image.
My next image was taken with the subject close to the edge of the frame, which Freeman describes as “markedly eccentric, needing some justification”. My justification for the edge placement below is that it takes advantage of the fact that the birdwatcher is looking through binoculars and therefore observing something at distance, and the image as taken shows the greatest distance over which to look within the confines of this particular shot.
The final image is “slightly off centre” and makes an interesting contrast with the “dead centre” approach. I was surprised at just how much of a difference that the former positioning made to the dynamic quality of the image in this instance, although with my bird photography I would certainly never entertain placing the subject centrally, always allowing the subject to look or fly into the image.
My order of preference of the images would be a) my original framing, b) slightly left of centre, c) left edge and d) centrally placed. I felt that all the images worked other than the central positioning, which was the one that had no reason to be there!
Technical details : Canon 5D MkII + 70-200mm L IS f/2.8 lens
200mm : 1/500sec : f/5.6 : ISO200