stepping out of my comfort zone
this week i have been really challenged by Kat Sloma's 'a sense of place'.... trying to put more 'context' in my images. i tend to zoom in a lot and focus on the details of my subject matter, coaxing them out of their context to emphasize what interests or amazes me. on a photo walk through the city of Leiden i experimented with a different approach....
Here are two shots of a famous historical monument, the Koornbrug, a bridge across the Nieuwe Rijn, right in the middle of the city center. On both sides of the bridge are huge roofs with columns, originally built to protect the merchant's corn from the rain and wind. In the first shot i zoomed in on the ornaments, showing Leiden's city emblem and the date this part of the bridge was built.
The second shot was taken from a different angle, showing some of the roof tiles and parapets, a dark triangle of the other roof-ceiling (which i was standing under taking the shot) and part of the city-hall tower in the background.
While walking around i also took some shots of people. The one on the left focuses completely on the woman with the torn jeans holding her smartphone, the only contextual information is provided by the pavement, the tiny bit of red bike, the tree and the iron fence around it that she's seated on. Just enough to understand that this is an urban setting.
The second shot focuses more on the giant ice-cream and the green bordered blackboard leaning against it than on the people sitting behind it. Because of the narrow DoF the background is a bit blurry and does not add much context.
These two shots provide a lot more context. The one on the left now shows that the woman is not completely alone in a silent city, there are more people around and they are moving, while she is sitting still, contemplating her phone. There even is a pigeon at her feet!
In the other shot there is also a lot more to discover. The background is sharper and you can see a street with a car driving by and people walking about. The frame now includes a scooter and a bike and some clearly readable shop signs.
Here's another set of people shots. The left one focuses on the facial expressions and interaction of the girls and the color of their clothes. The only context is the water, a small bit of bike and an iron ring implying that you can moor a boat here.
The other shot is more about the red bike, with the girls in the background. It is obviously a street scene, showing just enough water to imply the street is along a canal.
Here are two shots with hardly any context. I zoomed in on the detail, leaving out most of the visual information that could lead to a 'sense of place'. The first shot contains wooden planks, metal frames and a worn and torn piece of cloth. It is almost abstract, monochrome, and deals mainly with lines, shapes, light and shadow. The second shot has a bit more context in the blurry background: stacks of chairs, bicycles, a canal, a street, a car and some shops. But the dominant feature is a bit of a riddle: a statue of a person, male or female? young or old? holding what exactly? This image is also about lines and shapes and about the texture of the statue.
Here are both places again, this time with context. The planks and frames in the first shot clearly belong to a row of (still?) empty market stalls, and the theme here is the repetition of lines and subject matter. The statue is of a cloth merchant and stands in the middle of a street with shops and bicycles, and the theme is the contrast between texture, color and material: the solid charcoal of the cloth merchant against the bright colored box on the bicycle at his feet.
These last two shots have the same subject: bicycles, but the (lack of) context tells a completely different story. Above shows the way people in Leiden park their bicycles, preferably against trees, and it conveys that some of our bicycles have wonderfully bright colors. It also shows the very Dutch 'habit' of throwing out the bucket of cleaning water after you've mopped the floor of your shop lol, but only people who know about this would notice it.
The second shot also shows how people in Leiden park their bicycles, not only against trees and lampposts but against anything that will support a bicycle, like a bridge railing..... It also shows more colored bicycles. By zooming out and allowing more context into the frame, this image becomes more effective.