Tools for Framing
Even though I finished the 365 Portraits project a few weeks ago, I've still been shooting a fair amount. Let's figure half and half between the 5D SLR and the Leica I got on the 31st (I really can't put it down. Ask anyone who's seen me in the last month, I've made them all try it).
The thing that I've noticed is that my photos from the two are different, and I mean this beyond the differences between film and digital, or canon versus leica, coated versus uncoated lenses. I do have a small hunch that it may have to do with the fact that eachphoto on film costs $, so I take more time with them, but I think there is more to it than that. I just frame things differently with each of them. And I'd go so far as to argue that I prefer the composition of my recent shots with the Leica.
It being a rangefinder, you can see AROUND the picture that you're taking. You can see how you're putting a frame around reality, and perhaps more importantly, you can see what you're leaving out.
For those who have never looked through one, here's what the viewfinder on a rangefinder looks like.. I've stolen this from the Leica site:
The white lines are called frame lines and show the edges of the picture that the attached lens is going to take. So if you attach a wide angle lens then the box takes up more of the view, longer lens then the box gets smaller.
Now, see how you can see around the image you're going to take? It makes you think about the composition that much more. If I was taking this shot I might say, "Ooo, I should pan up, have the buildings coming into the frame from nothing and get more of that super cool cloud in the shot" or maybe, "Ooo, that would look much better in vertically, I should turn the camera and get more of the sky", or maybe even "Screw the city, that cloud is f*cking cool!" Ok, so I've got a cloud thing.. we've all got our weaknesses. There are also composition options which involve that barge in the foreground, or maybe the trees on the left side. You get the point.
You could certainly just pan around on your SLR and see all these things too, but for some reason which I can't quite put my finger on, I don't. Or rather, I don't see them as easily.
That said, this also goes for all kinds of other cameras. I frame things differently on my Hasselblad too, and on my big 4x5 camera. It just amazes me how much the tool effects how you see the world. However I have started to notice a bit of cross pollonization happening, where my overall skill at seeing the picture has improved by moving from camera to camera, and format to format. Maybe it's like working out on different machines at the gym. Strength training for your photographic eye. Just a thought.