CIRCLING IN

Vir­tual cir­cles are un­com­mon, but among the most sat­is­fy­ing shapes to cap­ture

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

Cir­cu­lar shapes in pho­tog­ra­phy are pow­er­ful and rare – at least, vir­tual cir­cles are. They’re strong be­cause they en­close and pull things to­gether, wrap­ping them up into a vis­ual pack­age that cen­tres the eye. How­ever, they’re not easy to find be­cause, un­like other shapes such as tri­an­gles and rec­tan­gles, they are con­tin­u­ous and need a sense of com­plete­ness to work ef­fec­tively. They’re also a very good demon­stra­tion of why dif­fi­cult is good in com­po­si­tion. There’s lit­tle point in pho­tograph­ing a clock face and then ad­mir­ing it for be­ing round. Shapes work best in pho­tog­ra­phy when they’re the least ex­pected and the most de­pen­dent on the in­di­vid­ual pho­tog­ra­pher find­ing them or sug­gest­ing them.

Over­head shots of­ten have the po­ten­tial for shapes of one kind or an­other, sim­ply be­cause they of­fer a flat, plan view. In this case, the over­head view­point was pos­si­ble be­cause the two men were scoop­ing up tea leaves that had been dry­ing all day in the sun, right below a three-story build­ing. While shoot­ing from ground level was also use­ful, the less com­mon view from over­head was ap­peal­ing be­cause it gave some dif­fer­ent graph­ics, and I was look­ing for va­ri­ety in shoot­ing a story on tea. Nev­er­the­less, the idea of hav­ing an in­te­grated shape didn’t im­me­di­ately oc­cur, as the first frame of the strip of three shots (above) shows. This was the be­gin­ning of what ended up as a se­quence of 43 shots.

Com­plet­ing the cir­cle

Pulling back with the zoom in­cluded the en­tire pile of leaves, and as the ac­tiv­ity con­tin­ued I re­al­ized, by the time of the se­cond frame here, that the lean­ing for­ward by the man with the shovel, to­gether with his shadow, was mak­ing a sort of oval, which made me pay more at­ten­tion to the pos­si­bil­ity of a shape. I was, by this point, tim­ing my shots for when the wooden shovel was fully ex­tended. As the pile of leaves got smaller and rounder, and as he moved in closer, his shadow, curved at the top, started to com­plete a cir­cle, and was aided by the eye­lines of the two men fac­ing in­ward (and of the shadow, which, in ef­fect, be­came a third per­son from up high).

There were many tiny vari­a­tions be­cause of the ac­tion, and fi­nally I waited un­til the shadow made the clos­est con­nec­tion with the now al­most-round pile of leaves. Crop­ping of­ten does more harm than good to a pic­ture, but in this case I planned it for square so as to heighten the sense of the cir­cle, and also to crop out the dis­tract­ing up­per curve of the white plas­tic sheet.

Shapes work best in pho­tog­ra­phy when they’re the least ex­pected

Left: The sheet above and the shadow below cre­ates a weak oval… Right: How­ever, the four semi­cir­cu­lar shapes over­whelm the oval to cre­ate a vir­tual cir­cle, and the in­ward­point­ing eye­lines act like spokes to re­in­force the sense of the cir­cle

Shad­ows and shapes com­bine to con­tain the ac­tion of scoop­ing tea leaves into an ap­prox­i­mate cir­cle, but only grad­u­ally, over the course of the scoop­ing, did a sense of struc­ture ap­pear — first as an oval and fi­nally a cir­cle

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