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Finding the Picture with Brooks Jensen

Finding What the Eye Wants to See

A very hot day in a rural village in China. Looking for some shelter from the sun, I walked into this stone shelter and immediately the straw hat and garment caught my eye. Without giving it much thought, I raised my camera and made this (boring) image. I distinctly remember trying to line up the the edges to be horizontal and to place the hat and garment (as a group) in the center. Like I do any many images like this one, I chimped to check to see if I had the depth of field I needed in the composition. Looking at it on the screen on my camera, I remember physically yawning. Not a good sign. I thought I might crop it to a panorama format image to get rid of the back wall and the closest foreground. (See below) Even that image failed to excite me — either in the field or when I looked at the image back home, cropped in Lightroom.

Here is the cropped version — better, but still boring.

I intuitively knew there was a picture here, but I also recognized I hadn't found it yet. I paused, took a long drink from my bottled water, and just looked. I was stumped. There just didn't seem to be a way to do anything else from this position.

I was just about to give up when I became aware that my eye kept coming back to the hat. That is, I became conscious that my eye kept coming back to the hat. Once I realized that, it was obvious that my first compositions gave equal importance to the hat and the garment, but my eye kept wanting to concentrate on the hat. Hmmm.....

Change the angle to get rid of the wall and the foreground; move closer to the hat and place the garment in the background; reduce the red saturation so the fabric is less of a distraction; maybe convert to a warm-tone b/w image (which won't change the color of the hat very much, but will eliminate the distracting red color from the garment); vignette the corners to draw the eye inward. This one took a while, but by "listening to my eye," I think I found a much better image.

Side comment: The importance of the garment in this image should not be overlooked. I could have just removed the garment before I took the picture and that would have completely solved the distracting red color — but left the hat all alone in the composition. The garment is important, but needed to be in a secondary role to the hat. Making this a monochromatic image solved the distraction problem without making the image too simple.

Tech data:

Panasonic G2 using a Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens at 33mm. ISO 500. f/5.4 at 1/60th sec.