Foggy view of The Mediterranean Garden with Cypress trees; San Francisco Botanical Garden

Over the years I have learned to see classic rectangles when I photograph a garden, rectangles in a 2 to 3 proportion.  This is the traditional “full frame” camera viewfinder, based on the 35mm film size which is 24 x 36 mm or 2 to 3, and I instinctively use this proportion when I look for photos.

However, it is too easy to get locked into one way of seeing when you compose images in the view finder, no matter what type of camera you have, as you work to fill up the entire frame into an effective composition. Remind yourself that every photo does not fit into a perfect rectangle, you can always crop later.

This is most easily understood when you think about a panorama, a really wide but narrow view. Today’s tip is planning a panorama. Find a wide view that you want to photograph and center the panoramic section in the center so that you can crop equal amounts from the top and bottom later. Framing the panorama this way helps reduce any wide angle lens distortion.

Before and After Slider

 

This view of San Francisco Botanical Garden on foggy morning is a much more interesting composition when it’s cropped as a panorama.  I wanted to show all four cypress trees in the Mediterranean Garden, but when I put on a wide enough lens, my full frame camera forced me to see the lawn or too much white sky, which draws the eye away from the garden.

The panorama crop is an easy fix.

Here is another shot from that foggy morning in the Botanic Garden.

Cypress tree dominating the Great Meadow lawn at San Francisco Botanical Garden on foggy day
Panorama of the Great Meadow lawn at San Francisco Botanical Garden

In this panorama I really wanted the iconic cypress tree at the head of the Great Meadow stand out. But to show its relative scale I need to back off far away, planning all along to make a panorama out of it.

Cypress tree dominating the Great Meadow lawn at San Francisco Botanical Garden on foggy day
Cypress tree dominating the Great Meadow lawn at San Francisco Botanical Garden

Note I kept the ‘meat’ of the photograph in the very center, a boring composition initially, but it prevents distortion.  In the final crop the horizon is almost at the bottom.

All it takes is some pre-visualization and a little planning.

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