Up close and personal

Discovery is always exciting, even if someone has already discovered what you’ve found. It’s the personal reaction to discovery that makes meaning and leaves a lasting impact, even if it’s not something ‘new’. Recently, I discovered how much better and more interesting photos can be if you get just a little closer and crop just a little more. Now, that’s not exactly a technique that will put me up there with Ansel Adams, and neither is it something that’s going to take the internet by storm because lots of people already know it. For me, though, it was an amazing revelation and it was thrilling to know that I finally truly understood what all those photography books were going on about.

Of course, some people will be wondering why I’m even excited enough about this to write a blog post. I’d compare it to visiting the Grand Canyon. You can look at all the photos you want, but until you go there for the first time and discover it for yourself, you’ll never have that amazing opening of mind and soul. Imagine the moment where you step reverentially and open-mouthed up to the canyon rim and stare into the endless gulfs of air and stone. What if someone had said to you right then, “Whatevs, it’s–like–totally been discovered before”? Would that really lessen your amazement? Personally, I would have just pushed them over the edge and continued my silent veneration.

Grand Canyon

So in the spirit of joyful discovery of the not-new, here is the story of how I finally understood the importance of getting up close and personal in photography.

I recently inherited a little plant after a house move. For ages this plant had been living in a beer glass stolen from a pub by some long-lost housemate. Now that I’m all mature and sophisticated and stuff, I decided to fancy it up a bit and use it as a centrepiece for my dining table. A friend was interested in what I’d done so I took a photo:

Overall, not very exciting, but the way the colours from the painting on the wall reflected in the right side of the tray caught my eye. I instantly knew there was an interesting photo there – I just had to get it. So I got a bit closer:

Zoom 2

That shot still wasn’t there so I changed angles and got a bit closer:

Zoom 3

That shot had the right shapes but it still wasn’t quite right. Thinking about it, I realised it was the colours that caught my attention, so I cropped as much of the blank silver out as I could and turned up the saturation and ended up with this:


What started out as a bland photo of a plant on a dining table ended up as a fascinating abstract with strong lines and a hint of animal print. Plus, I finally understand for myself the importance of taking the time to get right up close to capture the best image.

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