Either I’m a purist, or I’m just lazy, but I dislike cropping my photographs. It’s irrational—many great photographs were cropped ruthlessly for better effect. And in fact when I did my series of photographs of author Marcus Baram for his book‘s dustjacket, I very carefully cropped final versions (not the scans you saw) according to the diagonal method[REF]. And when I shoot for my wife’s yoga studio, I crop for whatever the end purpose is. But usually I prefer to get the framing right at the time of the shot.

Alternative frames to the standard 2×3 in 35mm present new challenges and lots of fun. Just as Instagram killed the tyranny of the portrait-oriented photo on the iPhone, shooting with anything other than 35mm full frame (or 6×9 medium format) forces us to see differently and ultimately tell stories differently, if that’s what we’re doing.

The Ricoh GR1 is a point-and-shoot camera that has a “panorama” mode which is just a 24mm view with horizontal masks across the top and bottom. Some people choose to remove or otherwise thwart the masks for a true 24mm full-frame view, but I keep mine intact. It’s not a great camera, and it’s nowhere near its older sibling the GR1. Like the GR1, the LCD is prone to go bad at this age, but unlike the GR1, the lens, especially at 24mm, allows for heavy vignetting at the corners. I know some photographers see this as an “effect,” but it’s a flaw that can be frustrating. That said, if you’re shooting this camera, you’re not shooting it as a “poor person’s Leica.”


(I’m truly sorry if the image is taller than your screen resolution. It drives me crazy when other people do that.)

As with many point-and-shoots, framing is a little challenging due to the viewfinder’s position–i.e., it’s not the lens. So a shot like this would be better executed with an SLR. Shooting this with a Hasselblad and a 40mm lens, then cropping, would probably yield a more compelling photo. But the narrow effect is interesting. Cutting off the namesake’s name isn’t.


Here, I learn that I could have enhanced the story, a boy marveling at the size of a tree, by framing the child more toward the left edge of the frame and letting the wide angle focal length do its trick of making the tree’s size more dramatic. That would have distorted the boy however, one problem with working with very wide focal lengths.


In this photo, the excessive amount of space on either side might detract from the photo. The elevator and plastic bags on the right don’t say anything, and the bit of bike doesn’t either. But stepping forward (or cropping) to remove those extraneous elements wouldn’t necessarily make for a better photo.


Or maybe it would.


Perhaps it’s just a mediocre photo that is waiting for a different moment to take it (or skip it altogether).

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This is a more effective use of the portrait format and a small aperture: the man confronted by the clock tower in the distance. On the left is the full frame. I first cropped it to the version on the right to eliminate a bit of unnecessary stuff on the sides. Then I realized the overall photo looks even better with a bit more of a crop below, letting the building’s roof line bisect the image more explicitly:


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See the vignetting? There’s not much interesting about this photo. It’s an artifact I walk past a lot, a few blocks from my home. I think it’s the texture that gets me. The reason I took it as a panorama was to draw attention to the expanse of stucco on either side of this thing. The little bit of text under then bottom nail says “BOT” perhaps for “bottom.” If I got under it more with a larger aperture lens, blurring out the background, or top, it could appear to be a strange landscape; a decrepit, abandoned industrial site.

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Hello distortion!

Morning Glory is an impressive plant. I’m not a botanist, and I’m not an expert, and I didn’t look it up on Wikipedia before writing this. I know Morning Glory as the scourge of our community garden (which happens to be next door to where this photograph was taken). It mercilessly entwines itself around other plants, supplanting them by choking them to death in tight spirals of its own stem. Its leaves can change shape to resemble the plant it’s strangling, making it difficult to differentiate and purge. But like many other vines, it’s quite beautiful, and when I’m ripping it off the front fence and gates of our garden, onlookers bemoan the loss of the wall of green. Yet it must be done if we are to have other plants. I cannot see what, if anything, this plant is trying to vanquish in this photograph. Perhaps it crawled up having received a bad signal and, finding nothing, is just hanging out waiting for something to grow.

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I like 99 cent store shop windows. A well-curated shop window can be a work of art–like the holiday windows up and down Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, at Christmastime. Or it can be a masterful seduction, compelling the viewer to step inside and open her pocketbook. Or it can be “look at all this stuff we have!” It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a small reproduction of Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ or a Dora The Explorer gift bag(?) or paper products to wipe your ktichen counters, nose, and rear end. Of course, a wide angle lens finds this irresistible, because we can cram more into the frame. More. MORE!

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This photograph was taken with the on-camera flash, a tool that I’m not usually comfortable with. I love what it does for me here, though, which is take an all-white (and poorly lit) area and paint some lines on it with shadow. I like this one.

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The panoramic aspect ratio intensifies the effect of a long line of anything. The odd juxtaposition of waiting shopping carts against the Brooklyn Bridge on a pedestrian sidewalk might have been better captured in color, or with a figure in the foreground wearing a jacket that contrasts more with the carts. “Patience, David. Wait for the moment.”

As interesting and constricting as this format can be, I’m more prone to use the “normal” 30mm focal length on this camera.

Cropping? It depends on my mood on the day you ask me. When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was slightly against, just for process’s sake: i.e. enjoy the process, including framing it right when you get the shot. Now that I’ve read it through again, and looked at the final photos, I’m more relaxed about it. It’s the punch at the end that matters, and whether the viewer feels it.


Ricoh GR1
Kodak Tri-X 400TX shot at @1250 (DX Hack)
Developed in Diafine – 3 minutes each in bath A and bath B
Water stop – 1 minute
Fixed in TF-5 for 3 minutes
Hang to dry for two hours