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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bending The Rules

A Third Reference • Polarizers Plus • Monitoring Your Monitor • Who Took My Pictures? • Oversaturation

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips

Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. Two white mute swans glide into the image as Lepp previsualized it. The composition places the subjects on a vertical line of thirds—not a classic position of the "rule of thirds," but one that better tells the story of the birds' journey.

A Third Reference

Q I just purchased a grid-focusing screen for my Canon EOS 5D, and I have to wonder why the grid divides the screen into small sections that aren't consistent with the "rule of thirds." While the added lines are helpful in keeping my architectural photos straight (or, at the very least, straighter), they really aren't very useful for composition. I would think a grid based on the "rule of thirds" would be a fantastic tool for composition—making following compositional rules as well as deliberately breaking them all the more obvious.
M. Darby

A In most cases, grid-focusing screens are designed to intersect at the points where the camera focuses; that's one reason why they aren't interchangeable among manufacturers and specific camera models. The most common grid-line patterns on focusing screens are also useful, as you note, for alignment of architectural images, and for maintaining a straight horizon when using a wide-angle lens. If used to maximize and precisely position focus, the screens are, of course, also compositional aids.

While I appreciate the idea of facilitating composition with a nine-section grid that represents the "rule of thirds" (that is, placing the subject on one of the lines or at the intersection of two lines), I can't say I'd recommend it. Even beginning photographers don't need hard-and-fast lines to help them place their subjects off-center. The best way to learn powerful photographic composition is to carefully study the great photographs and think about what message is conveyed by how the subject is placed within the frame, either at the time of capture or by cropping in postprocessing. A photograph needs balance and a story. I find that when many new photographers diligently apply the rule of thirds, their images become unbalanced, with two-thirds of the photograph lacking any reason for being.

Nonetheless, the grid/focusing screen you imagine is available for many DSLRs from KatzEye Optics (www.katzeyeoptics.com). They have a variety of focusing screens to which grids and cropping guides can be added, including the "rule of thirds."

Polarizers Plus

Q I read the March OP article on polarizers with great interest. I recently returned from Hawaii, where I experimented with a high-end polarizer on my D7000/Nikon 18-200mm setup. I got the deep-blue sky and the eye-popping, well-defined clouds, but everything else in the shots (flowers, gardens, etc.) came out dull and flat and had to have saturation and other adjustments in postproduction. Any thoughts?
K. Hodges

A The reason polarizers are desirable for use on foliage is that they remove reflections that mask the color, resulting in a more saturated appearance. But polarizers only work well when the sun is positioned at approximately 90 degrees to the subject. I'm surmising that the foliage you photographed wasn't positioned optimally for the polarizing effect or didn't have any reflective surfaces. Sometimes the polarizer works on everything in the scene, and sometimes you have to do some postprocessing to even out the effects.
My partial solution to this is the Singh-Ray Color Combo polarizing filter (www.singh-ray.com/colorcombo.html), which includes a modest warming effect and a slight color intensifier. So even if the polarizer alone doesn't render the desired effect on every area of the scene, the warming and intensification of color will improve the overall appearance straight out of the camera. The Singh-Ray Color Combo filter also has the advantage of being one full ƒ-stop faster than other polarizers, allowing either more depth of field or a faster shutter speed while still maintaining excellent color and clarity.


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