Aspect Ratio (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 1, 2017.

  1. I'm with Norman to an extent. I don't view aspect ratio as symbolic. I think it is awkwardly placed into a symbolic role or under a symbolic heading.

    I do, however, give aspect ratio an important role in how a photo will feel, questions of symbolism aside. I think of it as a baseline, probably not a great analogy, but maybe somewhat like I think of a matte or glossy finish to the paper a photo is printed on. It's an underpinning.

    To me, the crop suggestions on Norman's photo, which I would leave as Norman chooses, are only secondarily about aspect ratio. Obviously, any new crop not in the same ratio will necessarily change the aspect ratio. But I don't sense the crops are being suggested because of the change in aspect ratio as much as because of the changes to composition. Now, of course composition and aspect ratio affect each other and are related, but they're not the same things.
  2. Those are really interesting to look at, one with the other.

    They are substantially different, to my eye. The lower is much airier, even buoyant; and the woman reads completely different, to me. Also, that crossing bar in the top picture seems to be holding the picture together; in the lower, it seems to be holding the gap (alley) open — pushing the sides apart.
  3. This reminds me of the time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I didn't realize that my television was showing it at the wrong aspect ratio until I saw the sun, moon, planets, and HAL as ovals.
    Phil S likes this.
  4. Phil,
    First of all, I don't want to imply that still images have no relationship to moving images, but that one is distinct from the other.

    One thing having a relation to another thing doesn't mean the two things are the same or even close. We (I) acknowledge the relationship still photos often have to life, while recognizing their unique perspective and distinction from the real things they originate from. A still photo can depict a distinct moving world, but the notion of movement is dependent on imagination and perception. So, the aspect ratio can assist in that perception and make the picture 'lively'. Whereas in movies, I often tend to imagine myself in the middle of the action or living through the events in a more matter of fact way. Therefore, an aspect ratio thats more closed in (as opposed to widescreen which is my natural vision) takes away from that liveliness. I am not even sure whether everyone feels that way.
  5. I agree that was a blanket statement and not all movies work like that. But if not 'middle of action', as a spectator even, who is watching behind the 'fourth wall', the wide aspect ratio makes the actions more realistic to me. This doesn't happen to me while looking at still photos, where the notion of liveliness is not that dependent on the aspect ratio as it is in movies. For example, a still street shot in portrait mode doesn't feel claustrophobic to me, but a movie of the same scene shot in portrait mode does (like all the phone movies). Thats not to say I am only looking for action or realism in movies. I can enjoy a lot of other things in movies, like color palette, contrast, film grain, perspective, costume, sound, many of which are less dependent on aspect ratio.
  6. It's really amazing to me how different they are. I find it so interesting to "feel" my different reaction, one to the other of the two sizes. (Been sitting here roll/scrolling up and down for about ten minutes.)
  7. Arnheim may gild the lily in communicating his visual perception analyses, but the essence of what he says is I think valuable. None of it will make you a better photographer, unless you understand the contribution of framing (sometimes only minor, compared to other visual elements) and work with the qualities of that and the other compositional and emotive elements.

    Perhaps the more important characteristic is symmetry versus asymmetry. Some prefer the first, others (myself for one) the second. Beauty can only be seen, I believe, in the presence of mild or strong disequilibrium.
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Holy Cow! Just when I was thinking I'd heard it all!
  9. Bezsonnitza, tvoy vzor oonyl i strashen;
    lubov moya, otstoopnika prostee.
    Vladimir Nabokov
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Google will translate, but it isn't worth the effort. Obscurity -- the last defense!
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    And all the way back to late 3 rd century Persia -- Manichaeism! Who knew!
  12. I don't think beauty = balance, because if it did those two words would be synonyms . . . and they're not. These days, I'm thinking more and more in common and plain English. I think there's beauty in both imbalance and balance. Beauty is neither of those things but can be found in each of them.

    Much great art uses balance, so I don't think imbalance is required for beauty. Here are just a few of the many, many examples one could find of the beauty of symmetry and balance.





    Many of the works of M.C. Escher

    I, too, appreciate and often love imbalance and asymmetry. Thankfully, I don't feel I have to choose between balance and imbalance and I like it when artists put those two in tension or counterpoint.
  13. I try to compose when I'm shooting to the format presented in my camera viewfinder - either 2:3 or 6:7. That's a habit from my 35mm slide days. Today when I edit for a print or individual picture on the internet, I freely adjust the crop to what looks best to my eyes. A tweak here and there helps. The composition defines the crop.

    The exception is when I'm on vacation or at a party and plan to do a "slide show". Then, I'll keep all the pictures to one format, even 16:9 if I'm showing it on my HDTV. The consistent look really looks better for a slide show.

    I haven't tried a coffee table book yet. What are your thoughts with formatting/cropping pictures there?
  14. Alan, I recently did a book and it was great to have to crop certain photos in order to get them into the format I wanted. Mine is a landscape book and I did a combination of horizontal images, vertical images, and two-page spread images. I also included some square images. The two-page spread images bled off all sides of the page, so I had to crop them to the exact size of the book. Some pages were full bleeds of one image per page which meant cropping to a different ratio, of course. I wound up liking some of the crops better than the originals I had worked up. It forced me to take second looks at a lot of the photos and reorient my thinking about what they would feel like and how I could best trim them. You have many options. You can vary your sizes and shapes or keep them consistent. I was mostly consistent but there were several variations throughout, which help punctuate and energize the viewing experience. Be conscious of rhythm when you compose the book. People turn the pages and there is a definite rhythm that you can help create with your juxtapositions and with what happens on the turn of each page. I included just a couple of black and whites, but most of my photos were in color, for this book. Other books I might do would probably have a lot more black and white.
  15. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Fred, i'd like to see those images and how you laid them out. Maybe when the gallery is up and running again and bug free.

  16. I don't agree with that ... I think perfect balance is for seekers of Essence, where imbalance goes to the individual. To love imbalance is the opposite of indifference, to my mind. It's choosing to be attentive to, and to savor the meaning(s) of the particular:

    ... natural shapes are simplified toward elementary geometry when the more accurate shape is not known, left unobserved, or neglected as unimportant, or when it distracts from the essential. — Rudolph Arnheim
    A question from Arnheim:

    Why do the distortions of Joan Miró's figures look humorous while those of a Giacometti never do and those of Picasso only rarely do?​

    I'll withhold his answer. You can think about it for yourself.

  17. Can we call it 'tension' and agree?

    I realized after I posted my previous, that I should have specified that the 'balance' I was thinking of was 'symmetry.' Obviously balance isn't symmetry; Arnheim advocates relentlessly for balance — in total within the unified whole of a picture; contrived out of multiple imbalances — but not for symmetry. And I agree with him.
  18. NM
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017

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