Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Healthy Crop of Birds (Pic of the Week)

Cedar WaxwingThe photos I post on this site are un-cropped, unless otherwise noted. All three of the images today are versions of the same picture I shot through my son’s bedroom window.

I’m a firm believer in saving time by composing the shot on the front end rather than later, and the purist in me is a bit obsessive about it. My first 20 years of learning photography, the only cropping I got was whatever the lab needed to make it fit the print size proportions, and that got frustrating at times.

To get the full frame as I shot it, and to avoid unwelcome adjustments to light and color made during printing, I started shooting my “serious” stuff strictly with slide film. Gone were the days of the lab staff (or the printing machine) deciding what I intended when I tripped the shutter. This helped me learn.

I abandoned slide film by buying a film scanner and shooting print film, then having it processed “negatives only.” That significantly cut costs but put all of the work back on me. It almost hurts me to type this, but I glad when I was able to put film and all its dust spots and scratches behind me.

Cedar Waxwing Vertical CropThe other side of that was that practicing photography was no longer limited to those willing to divert personal funds to film and processing costs. Contributing largely to that was giving a darkroom to those who never could have afforded one before digital, and after years of longing for the newspaper’s full darkroom in my intern days, I liked that benefit.

All one needed was that initial camera and software purchase — and time. It was even cheaper with free software like the Gimp.

The adjustments to light and dark, and to color, gave me little pause, but that cropping thing kept nagging me. The pros I worked with at the newspaper sometimes had to crop shots to fit the space available, but they were adamant about preserving the full frame whenever possible.

Lost of photos posted on personal websites were cropped and zoomed in the editing phase. I got a little validation knowing that those looked fine on the screen, but that the prints often suffered. As megapixel counts skyrocketed, however, one could produce a fairly nice print even after massive cropping.

“Print? What’s a print?”


100 Percent
Crop of 100 percent view

Yes, I know that the photographer still has to know composition in order to do a good job of cropping. For some reason it bothered me that so much of the skillset was shifting from what one does behind the camera to what one does at the computer screen.

Many would argue that I’m trying to apply photojournalistic standards to art, and I understand that point. If two photos look identical, then why should the viewer care whether or not one was cropped? For the photographer, it can mean the difference between owning a $300 lens or a $3,000 lens.

For the above I used a lens I bought used for $90.

Nikon D50
Nikon 200mm f/4 manual
1/1250 second
Manual Exposure

5 Responses to Healthy Crop of Birds (Pic of the Week)

  1. Yes, but just as “rules were made to be broken”, photos were made to be cropped some times. (not always, but in special cases)

    Sometimes, even with the $3000 lens, you still can’t get what you want due to lighting, distance or shaking… so cropping does come in handy and it shouldn’t be looked upon as a “shortcut”. (at least in my book)

    Either way, nice shot of the bird!

  2. I loves my cropping. Like you mentioned, I’m one of those guys with a nice camera but only one lens. I can’t zoom in very far, but I can crop in the editing phase. I have much more respect for those who can frame the shot exactly how they want on the fly. I accept that I am “cheating” in a sense when I turn to Gimp to fix my faulty framework. However, I don’t view myself primarily as a photo enthusiast…just a guy trying to mae a cool shot here or there.

    SO, hats off to those of you with skills. But leave me my crop.

    Also…I like all these shots. As a shot, the top one is by far the best….but the lower ones really show off the feathers and subtle details. They are worth images in themselves.

  3. I’m one who has never really understood the insistence in some people (like yourself, Mark) that it is somehow better (aesthetically? professionally? artistically?) to frame a shot at the time rather than crop it later. Your own inclusion of notes that certain pictures posted here on your site have been cropped almost seem like a guilty admission; as if not being up front about it would mean that you’re hiding something you did.

    From my perspective, the end result (in photography) is all that really matters. Heck, before digital touch-up had reached the level it has now, photographers would manually alter their negatives, or proofs with razors, pencils… whatever was need to achieve the look they wanted. If you want to consider it an art, then I don’t see how using the tools at hand to produce a desired effect can be looked down upon.

    Sure, your first (and probably most important) tool is how you initially frame a shot, but if that can be improved upon through other means, then full steam ahead, says me.

  4. I think it goes back to the journalism vs. art question. I got the full-frame idea hammered into my head by the pros at the newspaper, during my internship. I suppose a news picture of a political figure and those standing near him/her should not be altered, but a photo of an old red bicycle taken for nostalgia’s sake can be man-handled (excuse me, person-handled) as much as the photog wants.

    I also balk at altering landscape and wildlife pictures too much. Not so much cropping on that one, though, as colors or other details. I want to see it as the photographer saw it. If I didn’t want to see that, then I would look at a painting.

  5. Here’s where I say, “In my day we didn’t have all those fancy-shmancy computer tools to edit our photos. We were stuck with what we got with the camera, and we liked it!”


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