When I shot digital, I tried my best not to crop an image. Cropping meant throwing away precious pixels that would be necessary for large prints. I correlated cropping an image with correcting for a mistake made at the moment of exposure. I had pride in the knowledge that my images were printed exactly as they were shot. The downside to this is that all my images looked the same with a 2:3 aspect ratio. In retrospect, I don’t find that aspect ratio to be very flattering. I am now quite content with a 4:5 aspect ratio. On the other end of the spectrum, I am also very fond of 6:17 panoramic images.
When I switched to large format film, I continued with the non cropping mantra.
In the past few days, I have found myself rethinking this notion. With large format, I am no longer limited by resolution. I can achieve the largest possible print sizes even with a significant crop.
A 6×17 camera shoots images that are measured 6 by 17 centimeters. This format has been made famous in recent years by Peter Lik, and other famous photographers who choose to shoot panoramic images.
When converted to inches, 6×17 transparencies measure roughly 2.36 inches by 6.7 inches. The film is certainly large, but still small compared to large format. On a trip to Yellowstone, I shot the following photo with my 8×10 camera. From left to right, it represents nearly 10 inches of film. If I ever wanted to print this image large, I could make it into a mural – literally.
Lets face it panoramic images are like a breath of fresh air. They can fit on nearly any wall, and will make a room look larger. My goal is to start focusing my attention on shooting more panoramic images with my 8×10 camera. I can fit two images on each sheet of film. If I were to capture an image that is 3.5 inches by 10 inches, it would give the same shape as a 6×17 camera.
Let’s take it a step further. In addition to cropping down the film to panoramic images, there are other interesting ways to present the images. Why not cut some of my images in 3 equal pieces, then present them as a triptych? Odd numbers are often times pleasing to the eye, and this technique has been used for centuries. When certain (very simple) images are cut into 3 parts and presented side by side, the viewing experience is enhanced.
While doing a Costco run today, it occurred to me that one of my images in particular might be well suited for a triptych. In June of 2009 during a trip to Coyote Buttes South, I photographed a very interesting stretch of sandstone. The bold colors attracted my attention.
I paid to have this image drum scanned ($$$) because I felt that it had potential. However, I have been sitting on the digital file because something about it just wasn’t clicking. Here is how that particular photo would look as a triptych. This could be printed 50 inches tall via high resolution lightjet printers without a problem. Canvas would also be a very good option.
When I was a graphic designer, I learned that height gives typography a wonderful sense of elegance. Another way to make type elegant is to increase the tracking (spacing between the letters). By dividing this image of stone into 3 tall images, then separating them, it gives a very elegant look that would fit very well on the wall of an upscale loft or home. Imagine the moment when the home owner explains to a house guest that the artwork on the wall is a photograph rather than a painting.
These are the ways that I need to start thinking in my preparation for ArtWalk in April. I am overjoyed that I have rediscovered this simple ability. I now have the power to crop my images and alter the feel of them after the fact. I’m definitely rethinking rectangles.