Fi­nal Anal­y­sis

Roger Hicks con­sid­ers… ‘Palace gar­den and Cathe­dral, Chich­ester’, 2018, by Nigel Hayes

Amateur Photographer - - Final Analysis - Roger Hicks has been writ­ing about pho­tog­ra­phy since 1981 and has pub­lished more than three dozen books on the sub­ject, many in part­ner­ship with his wife Frances Schultz (visit his new web­site at www.rogerand­ Ev­ery week in this col­umn Roger de

Fish­eye lenses are ex­tremely se­duc­tive: who has not been fas­ci­nated by them? But all too of­ten they se­duce us into paths of un­righ­teous­ness: of poor com­po­si­tion, nov­elty at the ex­pense of all else, and some­times of du­bi­ous tech­ni­cal qual­ity as well. Full-frame fisheyes are bad enough, but cir­cu­lar-im­age fisheyes are worse. And yet, when I saw this pic­ture by Nigel Hayes, El_ Sid on the AP fo­rum (go there, and thence to his Flickr gallery), I was might­ily im­pressed. So was my wife Frances Schultz, but she was more suc­cinct: she just said, ‘Wow.’

Why, then, is it so suc­cess­ful? One rea­son, I sus­pect, is that it re­flects the not un­com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence of si­mul­ta­ne­ously see­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing both the near at hand and the far away: the far that we are go­ing to­wards or re­turn­ing from, and the near that en­velopes or even im­merses us. Com­po­si­tion­ally, this is al­ways hard to achieve, on any for­mat with any fo­cal length, but here the bal­ance is su­perb. We al­most fall into the scene as if it were a mi­cro­cosm, as if we could pass through the (domed) look­ing-glass or into a world within a pa­per­weight.

Im­por­tant el­e­ments

The cathe­dral and the flow­ers are the prin­ci­pal pic­ture el­e­ments, but there are at least two more: the peo­ple on the ex­treme left, and the bench and sun­lit tree trunk on the right. For that mat­ter, the or­ange bound­ary wall is im­por­tant. As so of­ten, I’ll sug­gest a sim­ple ex­per­i­ment. Cover up one or more el­e­ments with your thumb(s), and the pic­ture is weak­ened. You can’t pos­si­bly an­a­lyse ev­ery­thing con­sciously while you are shoot­ing, but if you have looked at enough good pic­tures for long enough, you see it on a semi-con­scious level.

Near and far are not the only con­trasts. An­other is be­tween the en­dur­ing and the tran­sient: the cen­turies-old cathe­dral and the flow­ers and fo­liage of spring. All will be very dif­fer­ent in win­ter. Now add the con­trasts of man-made, nat­u­ral, and the in­ter­play of the two. The straight lines of the cathe­dral and the bench; the nat­u­ral pro­fu­sion of the gar­den; and the fact that they are af­ter all more or less for­mal gar­dens, cre­ated and tamed by man. Then there are the con­trasts of colours, and their own pro­fu­sions and con­trasts: red against green, or­ange against green, warm-coloured stone against deep blue.

Ev­ery­where, too, there is more or less asym­me­try, some­what in the Ja­panese man­ner. In a cir­cu­lar fish­eye com­po­si­tion, all con­ven­tional bets are off: where are the thirds, the left-right bal­ances, the tonal masses? I’ve never seen enough good, round fish­eye pic­tures to an­a­lyse them prop­erly be­fore. But now, at least I have a ba­sis for com­par­i­son.

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